Australian F1 Grand Prix 2018 Qualifying: Saturday's Results, Times, Final Grid

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2018

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain pumps his fists after qualifying at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Saturday, March 24, 2018. Hamilton has poll ahead of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the 2018 Australian Formula One Grand Prix after finishing fastest in qualifying on Saturday. Hamilton will lead the pack in Melbourne for the seventh time in his career on Sunday after setting a record time of one minute, 21.164 seconds at Albert Park.

Hamilton outpaced familiar foes in Ferraris on his final run in Q3, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The latter had taken Q2 after Hamilton had set the pace in the opening session.

It was a strong day for Hamilton, but Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was involved in a heavy crash early on in Q3. There were also problems for McLaren, with Fernando Alonso among those who missed the cut for the third session.

Channel 4 F1 posted the lap times from Q3:

Channel 4 F1® @C4F1

Here's confirmation of the Q3 lap times ⏱️⏱️ Daniel Ricciardo faces a three-place grid penalty while Valtteri Bottas will await the diagnosis of his crashed Mercedes 👨‍🔧 #AusGP https://t.co/jxmcJxfBcu

Meanwhile, the F1 official Twitter account relayed the classification for Q2:

Formula 1 @F1

INITIAL CLASSIFICATION (END OF Q2): Game on between Vettel and Hamilton ⬇ #Quali #AusGP #F1 https://t.co/VIOVZHU1Ev

And for Q1:

Formula 1 @F1

INITIAL CLASSIFICATION (Q1): Hamilton fastest, Alonso currently seventh #Quali #AusGP #F1 https://t.co/WF0AknO7Og

Hamilton approached his final run brilliantly, going four-tenths of a second up through the first sector. With two corners left, Hamilton had yet another pole position in his sights as he chased a record.

Chris Medland of Racer hailed Hamilton's brilliance:

Chris Medland @ChrisMedlandF1

Just stunning from Hamilton. Merc turns it up but Hamilton was supreme. Pole position by over 0.6s, Raikkonen, Vettel and Verstappen all covered by 0.051s #F1 #AusGP

The defending champion described his satisfaction with his efforts:

Formula 1 @F1

HAM: "My heart is racing right now. I'm so grateful to the Aussies having us here every year. I'm so happy with that lap" #Quali #AusGP #F1 https://t.co/bdCRnlF25y

It was a good day for the 33-year-old, but one to forget for Bottas. He was only ninth-fastest in Q1 before improving to third in the next session.

However, Q3 started horribly for the Finn when he collided with the wall at the second turn. Sky Sports F1 relayed images of the damage done to Bottas' Mercedes:

Sky Sports F1 🏎 @SkySportsF1

Red flag is out after Bottas' crash Sky Go: https://t.co/ie0WB5lo3P Blog: https://t.co/CIJnxcDYLu #SkyF1 #F1 #AusGP https://t.co/uBFNDaSdE0

Vettel came out on to the track last, but he could only finish third-fastest, trailing both Hamilton and Raikkonen. Although the German hadn't made the most of his final run, Raikkonen still did Ferrari proud, as he finished ahead of his more illustrious team-mate.

Afterward, the 38-year-old said he was pleased with what he'd done, even if there was no escaping Hamilton's superiority:

Formula 1 @F1

RAI: "It was a decent job, obviously the lap time difference is very big... but we have to be happy with where we're starting the race" #Quali #AusGP #F1 https://t.co/v3u69ESqe8

By contrast, Vettel will be left disappointed after not building on his excellent finish to Q2. At the time, he had the record all to himself:

Formula 1 @F1

RECORD BREAKER! Vettel's Q2 lap (1:21.944s) is the fastest ever around Albert Park 🚀 #Quali #AusGP #F1 https://t.co/kemLlDlvNx

Earlier, Hamilton had set the pace en route to topping the standings after Q1:

Channel 4 F1® @C4F1

World champ @LewisHamilton has gone quickest so far in Q1 with 1:22.824 but team-mate @ValtteriBottas is down in seventh. ⏱️ https://t.co/c3wOoZFjw2

There was also a solid effort from Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing in Q3, as his fourth-fastest time came at the expense of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian will face a three-place grid penalty on race day for driving too fast when a red flag was shown during the second practice session.

Ricciardo was less than impressed with the decision, according to James Galloway of Sky Sports F1:

"I slowed down. I knew there was a red flag, I didn't go slow enough. When I went in there (the stewards' office) I said I did break that rule but there are guidelines and one of them is a grid-place penalty, but as well you've got to have a bit of common sense."

Things were rocky for Ricciardo, just as they were for McLaren, with both Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finishing outside the top 10.

McLaren and Red Bull have their issues, but no such problems exist for Hamilton, who underlined his status as the driver to beat on a day when Ferrari showed some impressive speeds but ultimately still couldn't beat Mercedes' top man.