Lewis Hamilton takes Australian Grand Prix pole position as Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas crashes
World champion takes his 73rd pole ahead of Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel
World champion Lewis Hamilton has begun his tilt for a fifth title in impressive fashion as he took pole position for Sunday's opening race of the new Formula One season, the Australian Grand Prix.
It was a mixed day, however, for his Mercedes-GP team as while the Briton took his 73rd pole pole with a lap of 1 minute, 21.164 seconds in Melbourne, his teammate Valtteri Bottas crashed out heavily and is likely to start from the rear of the field.
Hamilton was 0.664 seconds faster than Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, with the Finn's teammate Sebastian Vettel third quickest.
Hamilton said in his post-qualifying interview: You would think it had become the norm with all the success we've had these last years, but it's still just as intense.
My heart is racing. I'm always striving for perfection and that was as close as I could get today."
Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull Racing, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo one place back, though he will start eighth due to a three-place grid penalty for speeding under red flag conditions in practice.
This means the Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean will start on the third row in fifth and sith.
Bottas, who had been third fastest in the second part of qualifying, crashed on his first lap in the top-10 shoot-out on the exit of Turn 2.
He qualified in 10th place as a result, but could start from the back if a new gearbox or engine is needed once his damaged car has been examined by the Mercedes engineers.
Further back, McLaren's first race with Renault engines saw them 11th and 12th on the grid through Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Force India, who were fourth in the 2017 constructors' championship had expected a tough start to 2018 as a number of modifications and updates are yet to be done to their car.
That was backed up in qualifying as Sergio Perez was only 13th fastest, with teammate Esteban Ocon two places further down the grid.
Sunday's race begins at 9.10am UAE time.
Updated: March 24, 2018 03:50 PM