Hamilton on pole, Vettel out of the top 10

Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:04am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton captured pole position for Mercedes for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in a thrilling finish to a rain-hit qualifying session on Saturday, while Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel failed to make the top 10.

Hamilton saved the best for last with his final lap of a gloomy session after Australian Daniel Ricciardo had stormed to the top of the timesheets only seconds earlier on his first race weekend for champions Red Bull.

The 29-year-old Briton's time of one minute 44.231 seconds on a greasy Albert Park track was just over three-tenths of a second faster than Ricciardo, who upstaged team mate Vettel to the delight of the home fans.

Quadruple champion Vettel, winner of the last nine races of 2013, was only 13th fastest and was frustrated by a crash late in the final session by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen which brought out the yellow flags and forced drivers to ease their pace.

"Today made it so much harder with the conditions, but I'm really happy with the job the team did," said Hamilton, whose 32nd second pole equaled Nigel Mansell's British record. "These cars are much harder driving in the wet."

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg will start third on the grid alongside McLaren's 21-year-old Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen, who underlined his talent with a poised drive in trying conditions.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso qualified fifth with Jean-Eric Vergne sixth fastest for Toro Rosso.

It was the first time Vettel had failed to make the final round of qualifying since he started 11th on the grid in Belgium in 2012, before battling through the field to finish the race second.   Continued...

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (R) celebrates taking pole position with Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia (C) and Mercedes Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Germany, who qualified second and third respectively, after the qualifying session for the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 15, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray