Melbourne: World champion Lewis Hamilton scorched to his 50th career pole position at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday as Formula One’s new-look qualifying format fizzled out in an embarrassing anti-climax.
Hamilton picked up where he left off in the last championship season of 10 wins and 11 poles as he destroyed his rivals, including Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, to front the grid for Sunday’s season-opening race in Melbourne.
The three-time champion led almost throughout as he progressively improved his lap time over the three qualifying stages to clock a best time of one minute 23.837 seconds. “They were some sexy laps,” grinned Hamilton afterwards, lavishing praise on his team for their work on his Mercedes car.
He will start inside Rosberg on the grid with the Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen unable to match his blistering pace and both starting off the second row. But the new elimination qualifying format petered out with Vettel, Raikkonen and Rosberg not bothering to improve their times in the final minutes, bringing matters to a premature halt — to the consternation of the teams and fans. “I miss the old days of qualifying when you would go out and run and run and run,” Hamilton said.