Lewis Hamilton pulled out an impressive final lap to snatch pole position from teammate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes dominated the Australian Grand Prix.
On the opening runs, it was Bottas who set the benchmark as Hamilton never recovered from a poor first sector. Bottas was nearly half a second clear, with Sebastian Vettel 0.2s further back and seemingly out of contention.
But on the final laps, Hamilton — first on track — nailed the first sector and kept that momentum to post a 1m20.486s and take pole position by 0.112s. Bottas failed to improve on his second attempt, with Vettel’s slightly quicker final lap leaving the Ferrari a surprising 0.7s adrift.
Max Verstappen’s strong final lap was enough to join Vettel on the second row, the Red Bull-Honda driver splitting the Ferraris as Charles Leclerc took fifth on his debut for the team. The Haas pair of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen impressed with sixth and seventh, although Magnussen is under investigation for being released in front of Sergio Perez in Q1.
That could lead to a penalty that would enhance an already hugely impressive debut for Lando Norris, with the McLaren rookie qualifying eighth for his grand prix debut. Norris was quick throughout and delivered when it mattered in Q3, beating Kimi Raikkonen and Perez who will line up on row five.
Home interest can be forgiven for waning slightly after Q2, with Daniel Ricciardo failing to advance. Both Renaults dropped out with Nico Hulkenberg 11th after a technical issue forced him to abort his final attempt, as 0.008s separated the new teammates.
Alexander Albon took 13th on his debut, also getting the better of his new teammate Daniil Kvyat, as Antonio Giovinazzi — who pulled out an excellent Q1 lap to advance in fourth place — split the two Toro Rossos.
The session got off to a dramatic start, with less than 0.2s covering Vettel in 11th to the car dropping out in 18th place. The bottom two were pretty much guaranteed to be Williams, and Robert Kubica didn’t help his cause by tapping the wall on the exit of Turn 10 and suffering a right rear puncture that ended his final attempt.
George Russell pulled out a solid lap to take 19th place, 1.3s adrift of 18th, and while it was no surprise to see a McLaren dropping out in Q1, the fact that it was Carlos Sainz was unexpected. Sainz had looked quicker than Norris for most of the weekend but an excellent lap from the rookie in the first part of qualifying meant it was the Spaniard who dropped out as the top 18 were separated by just a second.
Gasly was the shock elimination in the Red Bull, but given his lap time was just 0.144s slower than Verstappen in the same part of qualifying, in isolation it had been a solid performance and suggested a strategic error from Red Bull. Lance Stroll also dropped out in 16th place, 0.051s adrift of safety in an extremely competitive session.