Lewis Hamilton claimed the 32nd Formula 1 pole of his career when he topped the qualifying times for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
In a session affected by heavy showers, the Mercedes driver fought a tight battle in Q3 with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and team-mate Nico Rosberg who will line up second and third respectively. Ricciardo's stunning performance on his Red Bull debut and in front of his home crowd will have given the team much hope after a dismal pre-season and after world champion Sebastian Vettel failed to get past Q2.
In the dying seconds of Q3 it looked as though Australian Ricciardo, promoted from Toro Rosso to Red Bull at the end of last season to replace Mark Webber, had won pole but Hamilton was the last man across and pipped him by just three tenths of a second.
"To be on pole here today is a fantastic result for us," Hamilton said after the session, adding: "We were on the edge with the tyres and it was difficult to know which way to go at times. It's the first time I've driven the car on the limit in the wet, but it felt great and I'm so happy with the job the team has done."
Hamilton's 32nd pole puts him level with 1992 world champion, Nigel Mansell, and just one behind Jim Clark.
Vettel had mixed feelings after qualifying. Happy that the team had made "a big step forward" with the car, he was unhappy not have made it into the top 10.
"It’s going to be a long race tomorrow and reliability will be the most important thing to make it to the flag, but I think there will be lots of opportunities for us," he said.
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After initially taking 11th, Jenson Button will start 10th after Williams driver Valterri Bottas was demoted five places because of a gearbox penalty.
Frustrated with how qualifying had gone, the McLaren driver said: "I was pleased with my first run in Q2, the car felt pretty good too. I was quickest when I did my lap and I was in the top 10 until the end. But, unfortunately, I didn't get my final run on new tyres in because I was caught out by the yellow flags in Turn Three."
Meanwhile, his team-mate and F1 rookie, Kevin Magnussen, will start from fourth after a fantastic qualifying debut and as his boss, Eric Boullier noted, the Dane is "well placed to drive a memorable first grand prix tomorrow".
The third and final British driver on the grid will be Marussia's Max Chilton, now in his second season and who will start from a career-best position of 17th.
“I was really pleased with my lap on the opening run and felt that a few issues from FP3 had really come together," he said.
"Bar one small mistake it was a clean lap. There was more to come of course but I’m reasonably happy given all the factors that we’ve experienced. It would have been nice to improve as we were close to Q2 but the weather intervened."