Formula One

QUALIFYING: Hamilton beats Bottas to Australia pole as Mercedes dominate

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Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have struck the first major blow in 2019, Hamilton taking pole for the Australian Grand Prix from team mate Valtteri Bottas, a full 0.7s up from the third-placed Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton clocked the lap record of Albert Park with a 1m 20.486s to snatch the initiative away from Bottas and record his sixth consecutive pole at the circuit, and a record-equalling eighth at the Australian Grand Prix.

With many having believed that Mercedes and Ferrari were nip-and-tuck going into the session, it was a tough showing for the Scuderia, with Vettel’s team mate Charles Leclerc ending up P5 for the team having been pipped by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the death.

Romain Grosjean was a strong sixth, the Frenchman within 0.4s of Leclerc’s time and one place ahead of his team mate Kevin Magnussen as Haas capitalised on their strong pre-season showing.

McLaren rookie Lando Norris was another star of Saturday, making it through to Q3 in his first ever F1 qualifying session – in contrast to his team mate Carlos Sainz, who dropped out in Q1 – and winding up P8 in his MCL34.

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez completed the top 10.

Local favourite Daniel Ricciardo was unable to make it into Q3 on his first quali outing for Renault, finishing up in P12, one place down on his team mate Nico Hulkenberg, while Pierre Gasly had a terrible start to his Red Bull career proper, failing to make it out of Q1 in his RB15.

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