Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) will start the 2008 Formula One season from pole position while Finnish world champion Kimi Raikkonen was left in 15th position after a fuel pump problem on his Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton put his McLaren on pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Saturday while world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 15th after his Ferrari broke down.
The 23-year-old Briton lined up a perfect start to his second season in Formula One by beating Poland's Robert Kubica, in a BMW Sauber, by 0.155 of a second on a hot afternoon at Albert Park.
Finland's Heikki Kovalainen qualified third on his McLaren debut and swept champions Ferrari out of the top three. Brazilian Felipe Massa was fourth for the Italian team.
"To start the season, it couldn't be a better position for both of us," said Hamilton, with McLaren turning over a new leaf after the spying controversy that cost them $100 million and the 2007 constructors' title.
"It's going to be a very tough race tomorrow and we just have to do the best we can in managing our tyres and hope for the best."
Kubica, appearing on the front row for the first time, might have claimed pole but ran wide on turn 12. The driver controlled the slide brilliantly but lost the couple of tenths that would have put him in front of Hamilton.
"This is the new style," he said of the slide, referring to the absence of traction control and other so-called 'driver aids' this year. "I took quite a lot of risk which in the end didn't pay off because I lost more.
"But anyway I think it is a great achievement for whole team."
While Hamilton celebrated his seventh pole position from just 18 starts, a phenomenal tally that already puts him ahead of several champions, his main rival Raikkonen suffered.
The Finn, winner in Melbourne from pole position on his Ferrari debut last year, was eliminated after the first phase of qualifying when his car slowed with a fuel pump problem.
He would have been 16th but Toyota's ninth-placed German Timo Glock collected two five place penalties, one for an unscheduled gearbox change and the other for impeding a driver, and dropped to 19th.
"I got the impression that I was watching a replay of last year's qualifying, but an even worse version," said Ferrari's head of track activities Luca Baldisserri. A year ago, it was Massa who suffered the setback.
"However, we are competitive in terms of race pace and so we can be reasonably confident about tomorrow, even if Kimi clearly faces an uphill struggle."
Spain's double world champion Fernando Alonso, back with Renault after a turbulent year alongside Hamilton at McLaren, failed to reach the final 10-car shootout for pole and will line up 11th on the grid.
Germany's Nick Heidfeld showed BMW Sauber's strength with fifth place alongside Italian Jarno Trulli in the Toyota on the third row.
Behind them, Germany's Nico Rosberg qualified seventh for Williams with Briton David Coulthard eighth for Red Bull.
Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel shared the fifth row with Honda's Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
Red Bull's Mark Webber, the only Australian in Sunday's race, crashed out in the second session in a big disappointment for local fans.
"It was just a failure on the front right of the car, so it pitched me off," he said.
Italian Giancarlo Fisichella narrowly failed to take Force India through to the second phase of qualifying but ended up 16th after Glock's demotion.
At the back, struggling Super Aguri claimed a small victory when Japan's Takuma Sato out-qualified Renault's Brazilian rookie Nelson Piquet for 20th place.
Date created : 2008-03-16