Hamilton Edges Vettel For Australian Pole

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Lewis Hamilton (center) won the pole for the Australian Grand Prix. He is joined on the podium by second-place Sebastian Vettel and third-place Valtteri Bottas. (Mercedes photo)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Lewis Hamilton edged Sebastian Vettel by a quarter of a second to win the pole for Sunday’s Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton drove his Mercedes to a lap of 1:22.188 to best Vettel’s Ferrari, which covered the course in 1:22.456 as the pair will share the front row for Sunday’s race.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far. It’s quite amazing to come here for, I think, the 11th time. It feels like only yesterday that I came and had my first race here, in 2007,” Hamilton said. “So, such a great journey and I’m just incredibly proud of my team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone.

“The guys have just worked so hard to make this car what it is today and to be up here representing them, you know Valtteri Bottas did a fantastic job, being that it is his first qualifying session with the team. He has done a great job and it’s great for us, for Mercedes. Looking forward to the race and obviously it’s close between us all and as you can see there’s going to be a tight race this year I think.”

Vettel was encouraged by his team’s effort.

“We have a good car, we are working well as a team, things are improving, so obviously it’s nice to see things are working, the car is working,” Vettel said. “We had a mixed day yesterday but the confidence in the car was there from testing and we showed it again today. In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not the opening of the lap, where we lost a bit too much, but I think Lewis did a very good lap so… I would have loved to but I don’t think pole was out for grasp.”

Hamilton’s teammate, Bottas, qualified third, while Vettel’s Ferrari mate, Kimi Raikkonen was fourth.

Max Verstappen qualified fifth, but his Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, disappointed his home country fans when he crashed on his final qualifying run.

Romain Grosjean qualified sixth for the North Carolina-based Haas F1 operation.