Lewis Hamilton will start the opening Grand Prix of the 2016 season in Melbourne from pole position, topping the timesheets in the controversial new-style qualifying format.

By: Charles Bradley, Editor in Chief

Lewis Hamilton will start the opening Grand Prix of the 2016 season in Melbourne from pole position, topping the timesheets in the controversial new-style qualifying format.

The elimination-style qualifying system was employed for the first time, with the slowest car being knocked out in 90-second intervals towards the end of each segment.

Teams appeared to be caught out by the new format, with a number of drivers being in the pits or only halfway through flying laps when they needed to be completing flying laps.

It meant a flurry of activity at the start of sessions, but a dearth of running at the end.

In the new-look top-eight shootout for pole, the top spot changed hands quickly early on: Rosberg on 1m25.260s, topped by Vettel’s 1m24.675s and then Hamilton’s 1m24.133s.

Rosberg’s opening lap was a scruffy affair, as he ran wide over the kerbs in Turn 9, and he had 1.1s to find on his second run. He improved to a 1m24.197s, sealing second.

Hamilton also improved to 1m23.837s, extending his advantage to 0.360s over his teammate.

Ferrari opted not to go for a second run, so Vettel will start third ahead of Raikkonen.

Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen will start fifth, ahead of the Williams of Felipe Massa.

Ricciardo was the first man to be eliminated from Q3, 1.456s off Hamilton’s pace, consigning him to an eighth place start behind Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz.

Q2: Force Indias and Bottas eliminated

Rosberg set an 1m24.796s opening gambit in Q2, quickly topped by Hamilton’s 1m24.605s – almost two tenths clear. Vettel was 0.652s in arrears.

First to be eliminated was Renault’s Kevin Magnussen in 15th, who will start behind Grand Prix debut teammate Jolyon Palmer – this despite Palmer’s Q1 near-miss, which he said was “chaotic”.

Jenson Button was already out of his McLaren when he was eliminated, saying he’d “run out of tyres”, as was teammate Fernando Alonso – whose fate was sealed by Sainz and Ricciardo drastically improving their times towards the end.

Williams’s Valtteri Bottas will start 11th after a scruffy couple of laps, behind the Force Indias of Sergio Perez (ninth) and Nico Hulkenberg (10th).

Q1: Kvyat falls at first hurdle

The Mercedes duo were the first cars on track, showing how keen teams were to get an early banker lap, and drivers jostled immediately for track position – not least Rosberg passing Hamilton in the opening corners.

Hamilton almost banged wheels with Grosjean through Turn 13 of his outlap, and Rosberg went off at the first corner of his flying lap, questioning if there was “something wrong with those tyres”.

Hamilton set the early pace at 1m26.635s, with Rosberg salvaging fourth on a second lap on his supersofts and Vettel fifth after he too had a scruffy opening lap.

Hamilton improved to 1m25.351s, giving him a 1.2s advantage over Raikkonen.

Pascal Wehrlein was the first to be eliminated, and was sat in the pits along with teammate Rio Haryanto as the time ticked past the cutoff – despite the fact they were only fractions slower than Gutierrez.

Button looked in jeopardy, but leapt from 19th to third on his second run. Grosjean was the next to go, but the big shock was Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat – who will start down in 18th after failing to get temperature into his tyres. “Everything felt a bit wrong,” he rued.

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson also went out, as Palmer progressed thanks to being to able to complete his final lap and knockout Ericsson.

Haryanto will start last due to his three-place grid penalty for colliding with Grosjean in the pitlane in FP3.

Results: Formula 1 2016 Australian GP

1 United KingdomLewis Hamilton  GermanyMercedes 1:25.351 1:24.605 1:23.837 14
2 GermanyNico Rosberg  GermanyMercedes 1:26.934 1:24.796 1:24.197 13
3 GermanySebastian Vettel  ItalyFerrari 1:26.945 1:25.257 1:24.675 14
4 FinlandKimi Raikkonen  ItalyFerrari 1:26.579 1:25.615 1:25.033 13
5 NetherlandsMax Verstappen  ItalyToro Rosso 1:26.934 1:25.615 1:25.434 12
6 BrazilFelipe Massa  United KingdomWilliams 1:25.918 1:25.644 1:25.458 12
7 SpainCarlos Sainz Jr.  ItalyToro Rosso 1:27.057 1:25.384 1:25.582 14
8 AustraliaDaniel Ricciardo  AustriaRed Bull Racing 1:26.945 1:25.599 1:25.589 15
9 MexicoSergio Perez  IndiaForce India 1:26.607 1:25.753   12
10 GermanyNico Hulkenberg  IndiaForce India 1:26.550 1:25.865   14
11 FinlandValtteri Bottas  United KingdomWilliams 1:27.135 1:25.961   9
12 SpainFernando Alonso  United KingdomMcLaren 1:26.537 1:26.125   9
13 United KingdomJenson Button  United KingdomMcLaren 1:26.740 1:26.304   9
14 United KingdomJolyon Palmer  FranceRenault F1 Team 1:27.241 1:27.601   12
15 DenmarkKevin Magnussen  FranceRenault F1 Team 1:27.297 1:27.742   11
16 SwedenMarcus Ericsson  SwitzerlandSauber 1:27.435     9
17 BrazilFelipe Nasr  SwitzerlandSauber 1:27.958     7
18 RussiaDaniil Kvyat  AustriaRed Bull Racing 1:28.006     5
19 FranceRomain Grosjean  United StatesHaas F1 Team 1:28.322     6
20 MexicoEsteban Gutierrez  United StatesHaas F1 Team 1:29.606     6
21 IndonesiaRio Haryanto  United KingdomManor Racing 1:29.627     3
22 GermanyPascal Wehrlein  United KingdomManor Racing 1:29.642     3

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