World champion Sebastian Vettel put himself in prime position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix with an easy run to pole in the qualifiers on Saturday. The Red Bull driver dominated proceedings by leading in all three sessions without having to deploy KERS in the final lap.

Lewis Hamilton underlined McLaren's improvement since their final pre-season testing with a late surge despite losing his KERS in the final lap, which was estimated to have cost him around 0.3 seconds per lap, to finish alongside Vettel in the front row.

Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber turned in a disappointing performance and came in third 0.8 seconds off Vettel and will line-up alongside Hamilton's McLaren teammate Jenson Button who found it hard to get tyre temperature in the cloudy conditions.

Ferrari struggled throughout qualifying with the soft tyres, and Fernando Alonso came in fifth followed by Vitaly Petrov who was over a huge 1.5 seconds off Vettel's pole time. Nico Rosberg, who overshadowed seven-time champion Michael Schumacher last season, was seventh in the grid ahead of the Alonso's Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa. Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi finished the top ten.

Michael Schumacher lost it in Q2 after failing to get temperature in his fresh soft tyres and missed the cut by 0.089 seconds, and finished 11th.

Vettel was delighted with his performance and said, It was a bit of a funny winter because a lot of things changed, the car changed a lot, and we all had to work our way with the (new) tyres, but coming here it looks quite promising.

The key is to finish the race, to see the chequered flag, because last year I had to retire halfway through. But we've had a very, very good preparation, we hardly had any reliability issues, and the car is not too slow, so things are looking good. Today was the base, and it couldn't be any better.

However, his team-mate Mark Webber was bitterly disappointed at failing to match his team-mates effort.

I couldn't do the times today, I was disappointed with my performance, he said. I tried my best. I'm a little bit mystified by the gap to Seb, but I'll have a look and see where I can improve.

The performance of McLaren is probably the biggest surprise as Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, took his place alongside Vettel in the front row despite losing his KERS boost. He said, What a turnaround. It's a tribute to everyone in the team that we've taken such a massive step this weekend, and the car is feeling fantastic. We have a lot to do still, but it's very positive, the race is winnable from where I am and I plan on giving him the race of his life.

Hispania will have to hope for the best if they are to compete in the race as Karthikeyan and team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi's exceeded the 107% rule, which states that the racers exceeding the fastest lap in Q1 by 107% will not be allowed to take part in the race.

 

1

S Vettel

Red Bull

1:23.529

2

LC Hamilton

McLaren

1:24.307

3

M Webber

Red Bull

1:24.395

4

J Button

McLaren

1:24.779

5

F Alonso

Ferrari

1:24.974

6

V Petrov

Renault

1:25.247

7

N Rosberg

Mercedes-Benz

1:25.421

8

F Massa

Ferrari

1:25.599

9

K Kobayashi

Sauber

1:25.626

10

S Buemi

Toro Rosso

1:27.066

11

M Schumacher

Mercedes-Benz

1:25.971

12

J Alguersuari

Toro Rosso

1:26.103

13

S Perez

Sauber

1:26.108

14

P di Resta

Force India

1:26.739

15

P Maldonado

Williams

1:26.768

16

A Sutil

Force India

1:31.407

17

RG Barrichello

Williams

1:26.270

18

N Heidfeld

Renault

1:27.239

19

H Kovalainen

Lotus

1:29.254

20

J Trulli

Lotus

1:29.342

21

T Glock

Virgin

1:29.858

22

J d'Ambrosio

Virgin

1:30.822

23

V Liuzzi

HRT

1:32.978

24

KRN Karthikeyan

HRT