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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Lewis Hamilton Stuns Ferrari to Win Fifth Pole in Australia

Lewis Hamilton proved Saturday afternoon that his Mercedes can still do damage to his competitors as the defending world champion turned in a Q3 time of 1:21:164 to take his fifth consecutive pole position at Melbourne’s Albert Park in preparation for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

Just over six tenths behind were the Ferrari duo of Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel, who qualified second and third, respectively.

Hamilton afterwards said jokingly in the press conference, that there was nothing else put in the car to go any quicker.

“I can assure you that we don’t have a party mode.” He said. “I used the same mode in Q2 and Q3. There was no extra button, or any extra mode that I was engaged in.”

Hamilton continued his humor with Vettel joking some more, concluding with a grin stating: “I was waiting to put a good lap in, so I could wipe the smile off your face!! (looking at Vettel) I never heard the term “Party Mode” but it sounds pretty cool.”

Both Hamilton and Vettel took the first two sessions, but just before both could take to the circuit for the third session, Valtteri Bottas crashed his Mercedes into the barriers at turn two with 9:47 left, sending debris everywhere and bringing out a red flag. After a 10 minute interruption, the final session resumed.

But Hamilton finally got the quick pace when he needed it, and just with a few minutes left in qualifying, Hamilton put the throttle down and finally pulled away from both Ferraris, never giving them a chance to close, with the Briton holding a gap of six-tenths of a second to Raikkonen.

Max Verstappen had a quiet session but qualified in fourth position. Meanwhile, the American F1 Team, Haas F1, did a fabulous job, putting Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean in fifth and sixth positions on the grid, their best since the team began two seasons’ ago. Nico Hulkenberg was seventh in his Renault, and Daniel Ricciardo, who actually qualified fifth, was dropped to eighth because of ignoring red flags during Friday practice. Carlos Sainz Jr. took ninth in the second Renault. Bottas ended up 10th with no lap time as a result of his crash.

While the top teams and a couple of surprises were in the final session, both McLarens of Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso failed to make the final cut, with the Spaniard just missing out, beginning the race from 11th position. Vandoorne will start his No. 2 McLaren from 12th.

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