Hamilton seizes on Raikkonen slip to take pole
Briton's Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren claimed pole position for Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix cashing in on mechanical problems with Ferrari's world champion Kimi Raikkonen in final qualifying here on Saturday.
Hamilton, runner-up to Raikkonen by one point in last year's championship, claimed his seventh career pole and will start from the inside of the grid in the Australian GP.
Poland's Robert Kubica, in a BMW Sauber, estimated he lost two or three-tenths of a second in veering off in his final flying lap to just miss out on the taking pole off Hamilton.
Hamilton's teammate Heikki Kovalainen was third in qualifying in a great start to the new season for McLaren.
But it was a disaster for Ferrari with Raikkonen's car dramatically slowing towards the end of the first stage of qualifying and coming to rest at the top of the pit straight.
Raikkonen's car needed to be pushed to the team garage by his mechanics and he was not allowed to continue in qualifying to improve on his 16th place, conceding a massive first race advantage to his championship rival Hamilton.
Raikkonen's Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa finished fourth and will start on the outside of Kovalainen on the second row of the race grid.
"It's surprising that Ferrari are not here at the (post-qualifying) press conference, but nevertheless they will still be strong and competitive in tomorrow's race," Kovalainen said.
Hamilton said his start in the race will be important and he plans to take advantage of his inside slot to keep out of trouble negotiating the tight hairpin right-hander out of the straight.
"We'll see a wider range of starts being used tomorrow and I'm happy to be inside for once and will look to use my opportunity," Hamilton said.
It was an encouraging qualifying session for Kubica, who continued BMW-Sauber's impressive lead-in to the first race with German teammate Nick Heidfeld fifth fastest and starting off the third row.
While it was all gloom for Raikkonen, Renault's dual world champion Fernando Alonso was another to suffer and he missed the cut-off for the third and final session of qualifying.
Alonso, who returned to Renault after an unhappy season at McLaren, finished 12th, while his Brazilian teammate Nelson Piquet Jnr, was an abject 21st.