Australian GP: Hamilton grabs 73rd pole position

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The four-time world champion knocked out his rivals with a time of 1 minute 21.164 seconds to claim his 73rd career pole.

March 24 (ANI): Four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton reeled off a stunning lap during qualification to clinch pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Saturday. But then Hamilton took over with a dominating lap of his own.

His pace underlines he will be the one to beat, and helped offset a spectacular crash of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas early in the final shootout.

"I'm so happy with that lap".

"I can assure you, we don't have a party mode", Hamilton said.

"I'm always driving for perfection and that was as close as I could get". "I use the same mode from Q2 to the end of Q3".

Runner-up past year, Hamilton also claimed pole in Melbourne for that race but Vettel had the last laugh when he won with a superior strategy.

"It was a pretty decent job".

"I think we generally learn from mistakes or scenarios like that so I'm hoping that we're better prepared for tomorrow and ultimately I guess, it's also how we manage the tyres at the start of the race", Hamilton said.

"It wasn't a straight-forward session with the rain this morning".

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"There's an very bad lot of work to be done to improve in all areas", Raikkonen said after assessing Ferrari's performance. "We'll have to see it in the next qualifying sessions".

"We were still very close to Ferrari, which is positive". It's not the easiest place to overtake but who knows. "Hopefully we'll get a good result out of it".

Bottas' crash brought out the red flag to halt Q1 after he ran wide on turn two and slammed into the wall, dislodging a wheel in the collision.

Meanwhile, the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo was fourth and fifth quickest respectively in the intense qualifying round.

"I thought (the grid penalty) was unjust".

"It closed up a little bit in FP2 in terms of the gap between us all, but that's exciting". It certainly is not the ideal start for the Finn, whose contract with the Silver Arrows runs out at the end of the 21-race season.

In another big surprise, Romain Grosjean showed good pace in his Haas vehicle, setting a fastest time of 1:24.648, just ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.

Bottas will start in 10th as he failed to set a time.

McLaren's Fernando Alonso was a major casualty in Q2, finishing 11th fastest and missing out to Renault's Nico Hulkenberg. Sergio Perez admitted Force India had a lot of work to do as he exited qualifying with team mate Esteban Ocon, as they ended up 13th and 15th respectively.

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc, Williams' Sergey Sirotkin and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly were the other drivers to be eliminated.