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Hamilton beats Vettel to Melbourne pole
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Hamilton beats Vettel to Melbourne pole

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Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, after edging Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by 0.2s, as Mercedes’ run of consecutive front rows came to an end, with newcomer Bottas qualifying third. 

Hamilton’s fastest time for Mercedes was a 1.22.188, which gave him a 0.268s advantage of Vettel, who split the two Mercedes cars, with team-mate Raikkonen finishing in fourth.

Story of the session 

Vandoorne in the McLaren was first to head onto track, but after an installation lap, returned to the pits.

Majority of the field took on the super-soft tyres for their first Q1 run, however Vettel and Raikkonen in the Ferrari took on super-soft tyres.

Alonso was first to set a time, which was a 1.27.745. However, the Spaniard was quickly pipped, as Ferrari’s Vettel soon went fastest with a 1.25.733 on the super-soft tyres. Bottas in the Mercedes went even faster than Vettel, setting a 1.24.514, as team-mate Hamilton went 0.021s slower.

Hamilton soon improved to a 1.24.191s to head the order on the ultra-soft tyre.

Raikkonen, who risked elimination on the super-soft tyres, took on the ultra-soft tyres to go second fastest, yet be it 0.2s off Hamilton’s lap.

Meanwhile, towards the bottom of the field, Stroll, who crashed in FP3, qualified in 19th, and only Palmer was slower.

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McLaren had a slightly improved form during qualifying, as Alonso progressed to the second leg of qualifying.

As Q1 came to an end, it was Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Vandoorne, Stroll and Palmer who all faced elimination.

As the light for Q2 went green, the two Mercedes were first to head out on the ultra-soft tyres.

Bottas was first to register a lap, who set a 1.23.215, and Hamilton was 0.036s slower than the Finn. The Ferrari drivers were next to register a lap, and it was Raikkonen who went faster than Vettel; Raikkonen was 0.161s off Bottas, whilst Vettel was a tenth further back.

Vettel soon registered another lap, and despite being fastest in the middle sector, was 0.168s off the pace, and in fourth place.

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As Q2 came to an end, Perez, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Ocon and Ericsson all faced elimination.

As Q3 got underway, raindrops hit the circuit, which sent all top teams straight onto the circuit on the ultra-soft tyres.

As the drivers finished their first qualifying lap, it was Hamilton who was on provisional pole with a 1.22.496, who had a 0.3s advantage of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with Bottas just 0.002s further back.

Following the top teams registering their fast laps, Ricciardo crashed into the wall during his first Q3 lap, which brought out the Red Flag and ended the home heroes session.

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As the track was cleared, Grosjean was first in the Haas to head back out. The Frenchman set a 1.24.074 in the Haas to go fifth, behind both Mercede’s and Ferrari’s.

As the top teams headed out, Hamilton went even faster to set a 1.22.188, which set him 0.268s clear of nearest rival Vettel.