Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position – the 100th for a Mercedes-powered car – in a thrilling rain-affected qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix.

The Englishman came out on top in an exciting battle with teammate Nico Rosberg, but the surprise performer was local boy Daniel Ricciardo, who drove outstandingly to secure a front-row start in his first outing for Red Bull Racing.

The result saw Hamilton equal Nigel Mansell’s record of 32 pole positions. His decision to remain on Pirelli’s wet tyres – Ricciardo opted for intermediates – was enough to see him on pole with a terrific final flying lap, edging out Ricciardo for top spot by three-tenths of a second to deny the Australian crowd a fairytale result for their main man.

Rosberg cemented Mercedes’ strong weekend-long pace with the third-fastest time, with Kevin Magnussen securing fourth place on his Grand Prix debut ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

After struggling with braking issues in practice, both Toro Rossos were the surprise achievers in qualifying, with Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat – despite a late biff with the wall in the final minute – qualifying sixth and eighth respectively, sandwiching Nico Hülkenberg, who fell down the timesheets in Q3.

Neither Williams was able to hook it up in Q3 after performing strongly to get into the shootout. Felipe Massa was a distant ninth-fastest, while teammate Valtteri Bottas completed the top-ten, although he’ll take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Three former champions – Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel – were all disappointing, although Button and Vettel had Räikkönen to blame after the Finn nosed his Ferrari into the barriers at Turn 3 when he put down too much power exiting the corner. The local yellow flags in the final seconds of Q2 ensured they would be unable to make the final ten, but there could be a number of grid adjustments as several drivers appeared to post personal best sector times.

Adrian Sutil (Sauber) and Sergio Pérez (Force India) qualified fourteenth and sixteenth-fastest, sandwiching Kamui Kobayashi, who put in a sterling effort – helped by the misfortune of some – to make it into Q2 in the little-run Caterham.

Max Chilton was the fastest of the runners to be knocked out in Q1, managing to outqualify teammate Jules Bianchi for just the second time in his career. Esteban Gutiérrez was rather predictably all at sea in his recently repaired Sauber, qualifying just four-hundredths of a second faster than rookie Marcus Ericsson in the second Caterham.

It was an embarrassment of riches for the Lotus pairing of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, whose E22s handled appallingly in the damp conditions and never had a prayer of making it out of Q1 as the conditions worsened. Grosjean’s sole run came after many had posted lap times in drier conditions, while Maldonado had two off-track moments and aborted his flying lap. He’ll require dispensation from the FIA stewards to start the race, but that’s expected to be a formality.

Sunday’s 58-lap race kicks off at 5:00pm local time.

2014 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Results Results:

Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05 1:44.231 22
2. Daniel Ricciardo Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10 1:44.548 + 0.317 20
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05 1:44.595 + 0.364 21
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 1:45.745 + 1.514 19
5. Fernando Alonso Scuderia Ferrari F14T 1:45.819 + 1.588 21
6. Jean-Éric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9 1:45.864 + 1.633 21
7. Nico Hülkenberg Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07 1:46.030 + 1.799 20
8. Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9 1:47.368 + 3.137 20
9. Felipe Massa Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36 1:48.079 + 3.848 21
10. Valtteri Bottas^ Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36 1:48.147 + 3.916 19
Q3 Cut-Off – 1:44.331 
Time Gap Laps
11. Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 1:44.437 + 2.173 13
12. Kimi Räikkönen Scuderia Ferrari F14T 1:44.494 + 2.230 13
13. Sebastian Vettel Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10 1:44.668 + 2.404 13
14. Adrian Sutil Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33 1:45.655 + 3.391 12
15. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05 1:45.867 + 3.603 13
16. Sergio Pérez Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07 1:47.293 + 5.029 13
Q2 Cut-Off – 1:34.274 Time Gap** Laps
17. Max Chilton Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:34.293 + 3.518 5
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:34.794 + 4.019 5
19. Esteban Gutiérrez^ Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33 1:35.117 + 4.342 7
20. Marcus Ericsson Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05 1:35.157 + 4.382 5
21. Romain Grosjean Lotus F1 Team Renault E22 1:36.993 + 6.218 6
Outside 107% cut-off – 1:37.129 Time Gap Laps
DNQ. Pastor Maldonado Lotus F1 Team Renault E22 no time 3

* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:42.264 by Nico Rosberg

** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:30.775 by Daniel Ricciardo

^ Denotes five-place grid penalty will be imposed for unscheduled gearbox change

Image via George Hitchens

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.