Formula One: Hamilton blitzes Rosberg for Aussie pole

MELBOURNE (AFP) - World champion Lewis Hamilton scorched to pole position more than half-a-second faster than team-mate Nico Rosberg as he led a Mercedes one-two at Australian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.

Hamilton's 39th career pole came from a dominating performance with a sizzling lap time of 1 minute 26.327 seconds at Melbourne's Albert Park.

Rosberg, who looked as if he would miss out on the front row after taking to the grass, hit back with a flying 1 minute 26.921 seconds final lap, still six-tenths off his fierce rival.

Brazilian Felipe Massa in a Williams was third fastest in 1 minute 27.718 seconds, ahead of four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel for his new Ferrari team.

Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fifth ahead of Valtteri Bottas in a Williams and Australian Daniel Ricciardo struggled to keep up, finishing seventh in his Red Bull.

Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso), Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) filled out the top 10.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, set to become the youngest ever Formula One driver at 17 years and 166 days in Sunday's race, was among the five drivers eliminated in Q2.

Verstappen, driving a Toro Rosso, finished 12th fastest and missed out along with Sauber's Felipe Nasr, Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat and Force India pair Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.

After Sauber's legal turmoil this week, finally resolved when Giedo van der Garde gave up his seat despite a court ruling in his favour, Nasr got to within 0.076sec of Q3.

The struggling McLarens of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen both failed to make Q2 after finishing 16th and 17th in the first stage and will start on the back row of the race grid.

Button, a three-time Australian Grand Prix winner, was a substantial 2.836 seconds off the pace, emphasising the McLaren's problems since their incomplete off-season testing.

The last time Button qualified as low as 17th was at the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix.

The McLarens were behind the Sauber pair of Nasr and Marcus Ericsson. Brazil's Nasr scraped into the last spot in Q2 ahead of his team-mate Ericsson.

The Manor pair of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, who were unable to take part in practice as the new team gets on its feet, did not take part in qualifying.

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