Hamilton on pole as new qualifying flops

Sat Mar 19, 2016 4:11am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - World champion Lewis Hamilton took pole for Mercedes at Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Saturday but condemnation for the revamped qualifying format was almost as quick as the Briton's fastest lap.

The new system, based on progressive elimination during the three sessions rather than at the end of them, was intended to instill more excitement but instead proved a monumental flop at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit.

Rather than battle to the finish of each session, drivers posted early laps and then were content to return to their garages.

The last few minutes of both the second and final qualifying periods petered out with no drivers on track, sapping the entire process of suspense.

Hamilton, however, will be delighted by the work he did put in that allowed him to celebrate his 50th pole after posting a lap of one minute 25.351 seconds, with second-placed team mate Nico Rosberg nowhere near his time.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are third and fourth on the grid, having confined themselves to the garage after one flying lap apiece, not bothering to even attempt to catch Hamilton's time.

The top three qualifiers wasted little time in condemning the format as a "wrong" decision and bad for fans.

"We said at the beginning it wasn't the right way," three-time world champion Hamilton told reporters.   Continued...

Formula One -  Australia Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 19/03/16 - Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton after qualifying at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.   REUTERS/Jason Reed