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Mercedes' Hamilton takes pole at F1 Australian GP
Last Updated: 2015-03-14 23:12 | Xinhua
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Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton easily secured pole for Sunday's Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, as he and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg left all in their wake.

A faultless performance from Hamilton on Saturday left none in doubt he will be the driver to catch this year as the Briton recorded a scorching one minute, 26.327 seconds lap in the final qualifying session that was a comfortable 0.6 seconds ahead of second-placed Rosberg.

Daylight followed the lightning Silver Arrows with Brazil's Felipe Massa of Williams grabbing third on the grid, despite being almost 1.4 seconds shy of pole position. Ferrari's new man, Sebastian Vettel, will join Massa on the second row after his 1:27.757 was good enough for fourth.

Vettel's teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, and Williams' Valtteri Bottas were close behind while F1's youngest ever driver, Max Verstappen, took 12th place.

McLaren endured their worse result in its 52-year history with its new Honda engines continuing to leave it languishing at the back of the grid.

After the track temperature dropped and wind changed at the Albert Park course ahead of the late afternoon qualifying, Hamilton adapted best.

"I feel incredibly blessed to have this car. It's so much fun in qualifying," Hamilton told.

The two-time world champion, who won 11 of 19 races last year, said he hoped not to repeat last year's results, when he was forced to retire after also qualifying in pole position.

Rosberg, the only driver likely to threaten Hamilton's mission for back-to-back titles, said the large gap between the Mercedes pair's best laps would not mean he was without a chance of winning Sunday's race.

"It's not indicative of the pace. I couldn't get my laps during that final session," the German said. "I'm not worried about pace... on Friday, my pace in the long runs was very strong."

He said the changing conditions had made posting quick times difficult for him.

"It was difficult because the wind changed from the session in the morning," said Rosberg. "It has a big impact on the car (but) the balance was good."

Local hope Daniel Ricciardo, the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race last year, overcame reliability issues to scrape into 7th place with a time of 1:28.329.

His formerly fearsome team, Red Bull, was frustrated by engine manufacturer Renault's constant errors. Ricciardo had to change an engine after Friday practice and during practice on Saturday, as Ricciardo's teammate, Daniil Kvyat, struggled through throttle issues, the Australian was rolled back to the pits. Kvyat qualified 13th.

At Red Bull's sister team Toro Rosso, Verstappen missed Q3 by 0.14 seconds but his 20-year-old teammate, Carlos Sainz showed the racing pedigree of his father, two-time world rally champion Carlos Sr, to make the final session. Sainz clocked 1:28.510 to see the Spaniard qualify 8th.

Force India's Nico Hulkenburg and Sergio Perez posted similar times to those in morning practice and will start 14th and 15th respectively.

Sauber F1, which only learned it could legally race on Saturday morning when contracted driver Giedo van der Garde dropped his contempt of court action against the Swiss team, had mixed results.

Felipe Nasr narrowly missed the final qualifying session and will line up 11th on the grid, while Marcus Ericsson, whose time on track the weekend has been equally limited, could only manage 16th.

Honda's abhorrent return to F1 continued. McLaren's Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, who took 2nd and 3rd in last year's race when powered by Mercedes engines, were barely competitive now using Honda.

Button, 17th, was only fractionally within a second of the Q1 cut-off time and more than five seconds from Hamilton's pole-setting lap. Magnussen will start last on the 18-car grid.

Manor Marussia was unable to turn a wheel in Melbourne and its drivers, Spaniard Roberto Merhi and Briton Will Stevens, will not join the race on Sunday.

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