Lewis Hamilton broke Australian hearts by pipping Daniel Ricciardo to pole position in a thrilling wet qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.
As rain hit the circuit early in the session before returning towards the end, the dominant Mercedes were caught in a major battle with the new Red Bull driver.
The decision between full wets and intermediates on the sodden circuit saw Ricciardo go with the shallower grooved tyre while Mercedes stayed on the blue-marked wets. The Australian benefited going 1.3 seconds faster than the next intermediate runner.
But Hamilton just had enough to go three-tenths clear of the Red Bull. Nico Rosberg’s slightly misjudged timing meant he was unable to do a second lap unlike Hamilton and Ricciardo ahead but he was still able to claim third in the second Mercedes.
While it was thought experience would pay dividends instead it was the young guys who shined through the Melbourne gloom as McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen claimed fourth with Fernando Alonso having a difficult session but will be pleased with fifth overall.
Both Toro Rosso’s also impressed in the wet conditions with Jean-Eric Vergne sixth, and despite losing the car on a white line and clipping the wall late on, Daniil Kvyat also made the top on his debut and will start eight.
Hulkenberg was in between the two STR9′s in seventh for Force India while the Williams’ of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas completed the top ten.
In the tricky conditions there were some major shocks in the second segment including world champion Sebastian Vettel who struggled with his RB10 and could only manage 13th after Kimi Raikkonen crashed at turn three towards the end of the session.
The Finn was left in 12th as a result on his Ferrari return, while the drying track meant Jenson Button was the final expected front-runner to miss out on Q3 in 11th. Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez completed the line-up 14th thru 16th.
The first session, reduced to 18 minutes for 2014, was a race to beat the weather as the session started dry before the rain arriving towards the end.
The two Mercedes, confident of their own pace, set times on the medium or ‘prime’ tyre this weekend. Despite the gap between the two compounds - believed to be over two seconds - both Rosberg and Hamilton comfortably made the cut off for Q2, taking tenth and seventh respectively.
Instead it was Daniel Ricciardo who led the session for Red Bull with team-mate Sebastian Vettel over a second slower after making light contact with the wall exiting turn 10.
As the rain arrived the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado went off twice proving how little grip these new cars have even with just a little dampness on the circuit as both the Enstone cars went slowest of all.
Esteban Gutierrez was another midfield casualty in 19th as Kamui Kobayashi made the second session for Caterham, Max Chilton out-qualified team-mate Jules Bianchi for just the third time in 20 races as the Marussia’s took 17th and 18th place.
It was a brilliant qualifying session full of action and drama but now the real step into the unknown occurs tomorrow where the new V6 units have to achieve 58 laps with 100 kg of fuel, and with possibly more rain as well quite literally anything could happen on Sunday.
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