Australian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton set a new track record – and then beat it again – as he took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix. The reigning world champion clocked a one minute 21.014-second lap in Q2 and went more than half a second faster to claim his 84th career pole and sixth consecutive at Albert Park. LIVE

He will start alongside team-mate Valtteri Bottas who went faster than Hamilton with his first flying lap in Q3 but was pipped by 0.112 seconds to complete a Mercedes lockout of the front row.

Hamilton had been top of every practice session going into Saturday’s qualification under blue skies in Melbourne and set a new track record with a tidy lap in the second qualifying session, surpassing it in the top 10 shootout.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified third, 0.704 seconds behind the five-time world champion, and will be joined on the second row by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who was 0.130 seconds further behind.

Lewis Hamilton produced a quick lap when he needed it in Australia CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc starts fifth ahead of Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, while British rookie Lando Norris clocked a lap of one minute 22.304 seconds and will start eighth.

Hamilton said: “I’m shaking, what a beautiful day and thank you to the crowd for a great atmosphere.

“The team had no idea during testing what we would be up against and they’ve worked so hard in the factory and here this weekend.

“The team have worked to perfection.”

There was to be no home luck for Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo who failed to make it out of Q2 by 0.038 seconds, while Verstappen’s team-mate Pierre Gasly was a shock exit in the first qualifying session and will start Sunday’s race in 18th, ahead of the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica.

…stay tuned for Oliver Brown’s full qualifying report and further analysis throughout the weekend and into next week. It is just the first qualifying session of the year but Mercedes look miles ahead of Ferrari. Vettel was 0.7s behind Hamilton and Leclerc was a whole second behind. It doesn’t take the brain of Britain to work out that is a lot of pace. Still, race pace is another thing.

Thanks for joining me today. I’ll be back at the crack of dawn tomorrow for the first grand prix of the season. That starts at 5.10am GMT. What will we learn in the next 24 hours?

Did Sainz have the pace to match Norris?

Are McLaren much-improved? Or is the midfield so hideously tight that very small errors and actions can have huge differences?

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