Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the 2018 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix, while Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas crashed out of qualifying.

Hamilton crushed the field with his final hot lap of the day, breaking the all-time track record with a 1:21.164 to clinch a record seventh career pole in Australia. The Brit has only converted pole into a win once in Melbourne since his debut in 2007.

Kimi Raikkonen emerged as Hamilton’s nearest rival in P2, but both he and Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel were 0.6s behind the dominant World Champion.

Hamilton’s superiority did not shine through until after Bottas’ car was recovered from the track. The Finn lost control on the exit of Turn 2 and smashed into the barrier. Although Bottas has technically qualified in 10th place, he is now facing the prospect of starting from the pit lane, given the amount of damage to his Mercedes.

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Max Verstappen had to settle for P4, after admitting he made a mistake on his final Q3 run. Daniel Riccardo will drop from P5 to P8 because of the 3-place grid penalty he picked up in practice on Friday for speeding in red flag conditions.

Further back, Haas continued their brilliant form with both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean sailing through to the pole position shootout along with Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.

Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber were the teams who looked vulnerable heading into qualifying and that came to fruition in Q1; Brendon Hartley, Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc, Sergey Sirotkin and Pierre Gasly were all knocked out.

Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon were the five drivers missing out on the top 10 shoot-out after failing to make it out of Q2.

Hamilton said: “You would think that with the results we had these years it would feel the norm but it doesn’t. It’s so intense. I am so happy with that lap. I am always striving for perfection and that was as close as I can get.”

Vettel, expected to be Hamilton’s closest rival for the title again this year, said he was “happy” with his performance after struggling in Friday practice.

“It was really close,” he said. “Shame Lewis had quite a big gap at the end but I guess he did another pretty good lap.”

https://twitter.com/F1/status/977477684627304449

Cover image courtesy of Octane Photography.

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