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HAMILTON MAINTAINS PACE AT ALBERT PARK

Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position at Albert Park for the sixth time – and the fourth time in a row – after a dominant performance.

The British hero carried on his stellar Practice form in Qualifying by clocking a time of 1:22.188s, 0.26s clear of the second-fastest driver. That looked like being his new Mercedes-Benz teammate Valtteri Bottas, until Sebastian Vettel snatched the other front row grid spot in the final seconds of the session.

Bottas was “disappointed” to have the Ferrari split the silver cars, but held out countryman Kimi Raikkonen by more than half a second in the battle for third.

Max Verstappen qualified fifth fastest, by far the better of the Red Bull drivers. Locals would have been disappointed to see Daniel Ricciardo spear off into a wall after six minutes of the session. Ricciardo immediately apologised to his team for the rare mistake, and will start from 10th in Sunday’s race.

Sixth place has been taken by Romain Grosjean. In spite of a locked brake on his fastest lap the Frenchman was delighted by the speed in the Ferrari-powered Haas, the team looking to repeat its on-debut performance from a year ago by finishing in the points.

Felipe Massa (Williams), Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rossos) and Ricciardo round out the top 10.

Nico Hulkenburg threatened to make it into Q3 on his debut for Renault but had to settle for P12, just behind Sergio Perez’s Force India. Fernando Alonso was 13th in the McLaren-Honda, having an engine problem that also appeared to effect teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian will start from 18th place.

One of the better performances came from Antonio Giovinazzi. After a late call-up to replace Pascal Wehrlein, the Sauber stand-in was 16th and first of the drivers to miss Q2, after looking likely to out-qualify teammate Marcus Ericsson for much of the session.