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Hamilton snatches pole position for Australian Grand Prix

AFP  |  Melbourne 

Mercedes' world champion picked up where he left off last year to reassert his authority and snatch a record-extending eighth pole position at the season-opening on Saturday.

The Briton clocked a fastest lap of one minute 20.486 to narrowly pip team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with Ferrari's third, but well off the pace on 1:21.190.

Red Bull's was fourth and newcomer fifth. The 34-year-old is the pole master in Melbourne, claiming it eight times and every year since 2014, although he has only twice, in 2008 and 2015, won a race at Albert Park.

He knocked out his rivals with a blistering lap at the death to claim an 84th career grid-leading time in his 230th race.

"I'm shaking, it was so close out there," said Hamilton.

"Coming from testing we had no idea where we would be, but the guys in the factory have been working so hard towards this weekend.

"Valtteri did an exceptional job, it was so close."

Hamilton, bidding for a sixth world title to move within one of Michael Schumacher's record seven, topped all three free practice sessions before making it four-out-of-four during qualifying.

His dominance in qualifying in is unsurpassed with Ayrton Senna, on six poles, the next in line.

Hamilton complained after pre-season testing in that was much quicker, but it appears to have been mind games with business as usual resumed this week.

and Hamilton have been dominant in in recent years, winning the drivers' and constructors' titles five years in a row and -- and Vettel -- are desperate to catch up.

While the German won in last year and backed it up with victory at the next race in Bahrain, Hamilton roared back to sweep 11 of the remaining 19 Grand Prix to comfortably be crowned champion.

All Vettel's world titles came at Red Bull, from 2010-2013, while Ferrari haven't won a constructors crown since 2008 and no at the Italian outfit has tasted championship success since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.

Hamilton topped Q2 in 1:21:014 from Bottas and Verstappen, with Vettel running into the gravel at Turn 12, kicking up dirt and dust and telling his team on the radio that the "floor, front wing" would need to be checked.

was a big casualty in Q2, finishing 12th in his first outing for new team after moving from His team-mate also missed the cut, as did pair and

Leclerc topped Q1 with 1:22:017 ahead of Hamilton and Bottas.

newcomer was among those who failed to get out of Q1 along with McLaren's and Racing Point's

Robert Kubica, who clipped the wall and sustained a puncture in his Williams, was last.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, March 16 2019. 15:00 IST