Hamilton proud of pole record

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole for Sunday's Australian GP (AP)

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole for Sunday's Australian GP (AP)

First published in National Sport News © by

Lewis Hamilton exclaimed his pride at equalling Nigel Mansell's pole record for a British driver following a dramatic opening qualifying session for Formula One's new era.

In wet conditions around Melbourne's Albert Park, that only added to the spectacle for the start of the new season dominated by the major regulations overhaul, Hamilton snatched pole at the death ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

For a few seconds it appeared as if Daniel Ricciardo, who replaced Mark Webber at Red Bull after being promoted from Toro Rosso, would clinch a sensational pole for his new team in front of his home crowd.

But as last man across the line, Hamilton timed his run to perfection to beat Ricciardo by three tenths of a second to claim the 32nd pole of his F1 career and haul himself alongside Mansell.

"He is one of the greatest British drivers we've had," said Hamilton of the 1992 world champion.

"To get as many poles as him is a great achievement which I owe to my teams, McLaren and Mercedes, and all the good people I've had around me."

For Hamilton, achieving such a feat was not only a battle against his rivals, but also the new rules and the weather conditions.

All the teams are still coming to terms with the switch from 2.4-litre V8 engines to 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged power units that feature two energy recovery systems.

The fact they were forced to run in the wet from towards the end of Q1 onwards provided yet another learning curve when many continue to struggle with their cars in the dry.

Even Hamilton suffered a technical glitch in Friday's first practice after just half a lap which ended his running inside five minutes.

But when it mattered most, Hamilton delivered, and he said: "That was a small hiccup in practice, not a scare.

"It was just unfortunate we missed the session, but we didn't need to take the car apart and we could go from there.

"Overall, it's been an interesting weekend, and today it was so much harder for everyone with the conditions.

"But I'm really happy, especially with the job the team did.

"These new cars are a lot harder to drive in the wet, and for me the first time I'd driven it in the wet, so it's great for the team what we've done."

For Ricciardo, it was almost a dream start, particularly with four-times champion and team-mate Sebastian Vettel failing to reach the top 10 for first time in 28 races since the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix.

Despite narrowly missing out, he was still beaming as he said: "It was thoroughly exciting, with the weather adding to the mix. It was a lot of fun.

"I don't know what Seb's problems are. We'll have to see what went wrong on his side.

"But for now I'm happy for me to be up here and for the team because a front-row start wasn't looking possible a few weeks ago."

Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg lines up third, followed by Kevin Magnussen who conjured a brilliant fourth on his F1 debut for McLaren.

As for the heavyweights, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen start fifth and 11th, the latter spoiling his return to the team by spinning into a wall at the end of Q2.

Either side of the Finn are Jenson Button in his McLaren in 10th and Vettel 12th, the trio all elevated a place courtesy of a five-place grid penalty for Williams' Valtteri Bottas who drops from 10th to 15th.

It is understood power-unit suppliers Renault and computer software problems contributed to Vettel's downfall.

The 26-year-old German said: "We don't have an explanation at this stage, but we definitely know there was something wrong and we are looking into it."

Marussia's Max Chilton, out-qualified 18-1 by team-mate Jules Bianchi last year, starts 17th with the Frenchman 18th.

Lotus' miserable form continued, with Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado 20th and 21st, aided by a grid penalty for Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez who lines up at the back.

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