The Sunday Mail
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton yesterday blazed to a record-extending eighth pole and sixth in succession at the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton struggled with a brake problem during the frenetic final session at Albert Park but edged his Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.112 seconds with a searing second lap of one minute 20.486 seconds that set a record at the lakeside circuit.
The one-two punch by Mercedes left Ferrari and their championship rivals stunned, with Hamilton’s chief challenger Sebastian Vettel, who qualified third, more than seven-tenths of a second off the five-time champion’s pace.
“Oh man, I’m shaking it was so close out there,” Briton 34-year-old Hamilton said after extending his pole record to 84.
“Coming from winter testing, we had no idea where we would be. We were hoping to be where we are … Valtteri did an exceptional job out there, it was very close.”
Hamilton matched Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher for the record number of poles at a single race track.
Senna took his eight at Imola, with Schumacher dominating the Suzuka circuit.
Four-time champion Vettel, bidding for a third successive win at Albert Park, was separated from his new teammate Charles Leclerc by fourth placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
It would have felt like ‘deja vu’ for Ferrari, having trailed Mercedes by nearly seven-tenths of a second in qualifying at last year’s race.
“Certainly Mercedes are the clear favourite,” Vettel told reporters with a touch of resignation.
“I’m certainly surprised (by their pace), I think everybody is, probably even themselves.”
While Verstappen’s pace was encouraging for Red Bull on the debut of their Honda partnership, Toro Rosso graduate Pierre Gasly was eliminated in Q1 and will start 17th on the grid. — SuperSport