Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole position for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix following a dominant display in Saturday qualifying.
The current world champion’s lap of 1.23.529 in Q3 was the quickest lap ever recorded at the Albert Park circuit and a full 0.778s clear of Lewis Hamilton in second.
The Red Bull and McLaren front row is mirrored on row two as Mark Webber lines up third and Jenson Button fourth.
Ferrari’s pre-season pace was not evident with Fernando Alonso unable to better fifth and Felipe Massa eighth, despite a spin.
Vitaly Petrov qualified an impressive sixth for Renault, eleven places higher than teammate Nick Heidfeld. Nico Rosberg managed seventh for Mercedes whilst Kamui Kobayashi and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi rounded out the top ten.
Michael Schumacher struggled throughout and qualified eleventh whilst there were encouraging debut displays from Sauber’s Sergio Perez and Force India’s Paul di Resta who line-up thirteenth and fourteenth respectively.
Vettel, who took 10 pole positions in 2010, was fastest in all three qualifying sessions and looked comfortable on both prime and option Pirelli tyres.
He said: “We have done the first step and I think starting the season this way is like we wanted and it is just a good sign for all of us in the team. Today couldn’t have gone any better.”
However the German was conscious of last year’s race when he crashed out with brake failure.
“Obviously last year half way through we had to retire but I am quite confident. We hardly suffered any reliability issues over the winter.”
Hamilton, lining up alongside Vettel on the front row, said he was “absolutely thrilled” with the team’s performance after a difficult winter.
After scathing criticism of the new McLaren from Martin Brundle earlier in the month, the team have produced a raft of new parts which seem to have propelled the team up the grid.
And the 26 year-old Brit was full of praise for his engineers. He said: “The guys back at the factory have done an unbelievable job. A massive step this weekend and the car feels fantastic. It’s a great foundation to build on.”
The delight of Vettel and Hamilton was in stark contrast to a subdued Mark Webber who was comprehensively outperformed by his teammate in front of his home crowd.
“I am disappointed with my performance today”, he said. “I am mystified by the gap to Seb [Vettel]. It’s a bit frustrating of course but credit to the team; the guys have done an incredible job.”
The 58-lap season curtain-raiser starts on Sunday at 7am (BST).