The McLaren drivers and beaming returnee Romain Grosjean on Saturday looked to have knocked Red Bull from its dominant perch.

The McLaren drivers and beaming returnee Romain Grosjean on Saturday looked to have knocked Red Bull from its dominant perch.

"McLaren had an upgrade at the last test and it's performed here at Albert Park," said former team driver and BBC commentator David Coulthard.

Lewis Hamilton beat his teammate Jenson Button to pole in Melbourne, but just a few tenths behind is the reigning GP2 champion Grosjean.

Frenchman Grosjean's teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a dire return qualifying performance by missing the Q1 cut, describing the session as "shit" according to the German press.

In total contrast, Grosjean was beaming: "A few people believed in me through the toughest time and I'm back -- almost at the top!"

The surprises continued beyond the top three: Mercedes' Michael Schumacher is fourth, and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel sixth.

"We are aware we need to improve," said Mark Webber, who qualified the sister Red Bull in fifth as both RB8 cars had KERS issues.

In much bigger strife is fabled Ferrari, with neither F2012 making it through to Q3.

Fernando Alonso threw his red car into the gravel and Felipe Massa is a disastrous 16th, with Sky analyst Martin Brundle described the handling of the F2012 as "horrible".

"Forget the reds," the summary report at Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport website, written by correspondent Andrea Cremonesi, said.

Said Spaniard Alonso: "We need to change the direction quickly if we're to challenge for the championship. We have to react."

Meanwhile, Lotus boss Eric Boullier answered "maybe" when asked on Sky UK television if the team will lodge an official protest against Mercedes' qualifying result, based on the belief the W03's F-duct solutions are illegal.

 

Official qualifying results

Pos

Driver

Team

Q1

Q2

Q3

1

Lewis Hamilton

McLaren-Mercedes

1:26.800

1:25.626

1:24.922

2

Jenson Button

McLaren-Mercedes

1:26.832

1:25.663

1:25.074

3

Romain Grosjean

Lotus-Renault

1:26.498

1:25.845

1:25.302

4

Michael Schumacher

Mercedes

1:26.586

1:25.571

1:25.336

5

Mark Webber

Red Bull Racing-Renault

1:27.117

1:26.297

1:25.651

6

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull Racing-Renault

1:26.773

1:25.982

1:25.668

7

Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

1:26.763

1:25.469

1:25.686

8

Pastor Maldonado

Williams-Renault

1:26.803

1:26.206

1:25.908

9

Nico Hulkenberg

Force India-Mercedes

1:27.464

1:26.314

1:26.451

10

Daniel Ricciardo

STR-Ferrari

1:27.024

1:26.319

No time

11

Jean-Eric Vergne

STR-Ferrari

1:26.493

1:26.429

 

12

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

1:26.688

1:26.494

 

13

Kamui Kobayashi

Sauber-Ferrari

1:26.182

1:26.590

 

14

Bruno Senna

Williams-Renault

1:27.004

1:26.663

 

15

Paul di Resta

Force India-Mercedes

1:27.469

1:27.086

 

16

Felipe Massa

Ferrari

1:27.633

1:27.497

 

17

Sergio Perez

Sauber-Ferrari

1:26.596

 

 

18

Kimi Räikkönen

Lotus-Renault

1:27.758

 

 

19

Heikki Kovalainen

Caterham-Renault

1:28.679

 

 

20

Vitaly Petrov

Caterham-Renault

1:29.018

 

 

21

Timo Glock

Marussia-Cosworth

1:30.923

 

 

22

Charles Pic

Marussia-Cosworth

1:31.670

 

 

DNQ

Pedro de la Rosa

HRT-Cosworth

1:33.495

 

 

DNQ

Narain Karthikeyan

HRT-Cosworth

1:33.643

 

 

 

Q1 107% Time

 

1:32.214

 

 

Be part of something big