Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, started the 2013 season at the front of the grid after claiming pole position in the rain-delayed qualifying for today's Australian Grand Prix.
Australian Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel takes pole position at damp Melbourne qualifying
MELBOURNE // The Australian Grand Prix will mark the start of a new Formula One season later today, yet the same familiar face and finger will start on pole position.
Following torrential rain yesterday, the second two parts of qualifying were suspended for 18 hours resulting in qualifying taking place on race day morning for only the third time in 10 years.
Vettel, who secured his 37th pole and celebrated with his trademark raised index finger, led teammate Mark Webber by 0.42 seconds as Red Bull snared a front-row lockout. Lewis Hamilton proved third quickest on his first inaugural outing with Mercedes-GP.
"Definitely not easy in these conditions," Vettel said. "I had two good runs, one on inters and one on dries. The car felt very good, similar to Friday. It is pretty difficult to find the limit in these conditions, but I was happy with the lap.
"As soon as I got confirmation that it was enough I pulled in to save the tyres."
Webber, competing in his home grand prix, is hoping to improve on the fourth-place finish he achieved last season.
"It was a great result from the team, it was very tricky in those [slippery] conditions and also very easy to make errors," he said. "We survived the small bullets yesterday and also got through today's session with not far off the maximum we could get. In the end, it was a good quali and we're now in the position to have a good afternoon."
Hamilton had endured an unremarkable start to life at Mercedes during the opening 20 minutes of qualifying yesterday before the suspension, but the team look to have improved overnight and in drier conditions the 2008 world champion appears a genuine contender.
"What an incredible job the team has done to come from last year where they were struggling a lot," Hamilton said. "I said yesterday it was a blessing that they had moved [qualifying] to today, and it really was."
Vettel won in Melbourne in 2011 before finishing second behind Jenson Button last year. Button will start from 10th today though after his McLaren-Mercedes marque endured a dismal start to 2013.
Hamilton's decision to swap McLaren from Mercedes now looks a shrewd move after his replacement, Sergio Perez, failed to qualify for Q3, finishing P15 on his maiden qualifying outing for the Woking-based team.
Final Qualifying top 10
1: Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull - Renault 1:27.407;
2: Mark Webber (Aust) Red Bull - Renault 1:27.827;
3: Lewis Hamilton (Brit) Mercedes 1:28.087;
4: Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:28.490;
5: Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1:28.493;
6: Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:28.523;
7: Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus - Renault 1:28.738;
8: Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus - Renault 1:29.013;
9: Paul Di Resta (Brit) Force India - Mercedes 1:29.305;
10. Jenson Button (Brit) McLaren 1:30.357