Lewis Hamilton and McLaren team mate Jenson Button share the front row of the grid for the Australian Grand Prix.
A scorching lap of 1’24.922 put Hamilton clear of his team mate while Lotus’s Romain Grosjean took a surprise third.
This was despite team mate Kimi Raikkonen being eliminated in the first part of qualifying.
A dramatic session saw both Ferraris miss out on the top ten and the Red Bulls consigned to the third row of the grid.
With the midfield runners separated by tenths or even hundredths, the first part of qualifying was always likely to create drama.
And so it proved. To begin with Felipe Massa looked most at risk of failing to reach Q2 as he languished an 18th. Both he and team mate Fernando Alonso had to make another run on soft tyres to make sure of their progress.
But it was Raikkonen who was caught out. With the lap times tumbling at the end of the session, Raikkonen made a mistake in the final sector and with too little time to respond he missed the cut by a tenth of a second.
Caterham were the best part of a second adrift, showing little progress over their position at the end of last year.
Both Marussia drivers were comfortably within 7% of the fastest time. But HRT struggled, and Narain Karthikeyan incurred the wrath of several drivers including Alonso and Sebastian Vettel who he held up.
Neither F112 was within the 107% time, Pedro de la Rosa falling short by 1.2 seconds.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
|23||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1’33.495|
The second part of qualifiyng produced more drama. Alonso had put the unco-operative F2012 in fifth place when he dropped his left-hand wheels onto the grass at turn one and spun into the gravel trap.
That brought his session to an end and temporarily halted proceedings just after Hamilton had set the fastest time so far.
When the session resumed the Mercedes drivers showed their hand, Rosberg taking the quickest time a tenth of a second ahead of Schumacher.
A fine effort from Maldonado propelled him into Q3. It also began Alonso’s slide out of the top ten, which was completed when Hulkenberg edged him out by a tenth of a second.
Ferrari still had one other car running but Massa’s best effort was a full second off Alonso’s time.
Ricciardo made it two home drivers in the final ten, pipping his team mate by a tenth of a second.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
|11||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’26.429|
|15||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1’27.086|
The Mercedes drivers did their first run of Q3 on the soft tyres which they had been using when the red flag came out in Q2.
Rosberg was first to set a time but it was emphatically beaten by Hamilton, whose 1’24.922 was seven-tenths quicker than anyone could manage on their first runs.
That included Vettel, who slotted into second ahead of Schumacher and Button.
Rosberg had a set of new soft tyres for his final attempt. But he locked up heavily at turn four and slumped to seventh place.
Team mate Schumacher moved up to second, only to be pegged back by Romain Grosjean. Jenson Button erased most of the gap to Hamilton with his last effort – but fell short by a tenth of a second.
Hamilton couldn’t find any more time with his last run but he didn’t need to, and duly claimed his second Australian Grand Prix pole position.
Top ten in Q3
|5||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’25.651|
|6||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’25.668|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1’26.451|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari|
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Image ?ť?ģ McLaren/Hoch Zwei