• REPORT: Silver Arrows Seal Pole for Season-opener

Silver Arrows on top as Lewis Hamilton takes 62nd Formula One pole

Kick off in style

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport kicked off the 2017 Formula One season in style, as Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix with Valtteri Bottas sealing P3 on the grid in a tense battle at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.

Lewis triumphed in a close-fought Qualifying session, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel breathing down his neck. The Brit clocked a 1:22.188 pole lap – the fastest ever time recorded by an F1 car around Albert Park – to take the 62nd pole of his Grand Prix career.

Lewis today took his sixth pole position at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit

Lewis takes his 62nd Formula One pole

Lewis: I'm looking forward to the race

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far,” said Lewis. “I’m just incredibly proud of the team.

“The rule change has been huge – it’s been such a massive challenge and the guys have worked so hard to get the car to where it is today. To be up here representing them is fantastic.

“I'm looking forward to the race - I think it’s close between us and Ferrari. Tomorrow is about putting all of the work that’s gone on over the winter and over testing into practice.”

Strong first qualifying session with the team

Valtteri Bottas briefly grabbed provisional pole in his first Qualifying session for the team, but was shuffled down the pack in the dying seconds of Q3 as Lewis and Sebastian both found time on their final fliers.

The Finn was disappointed to miss out on a maiden pole on his Silver Arrows debut but will sill start from the second row, in third.

Valtteri will start his first race for the Silver Arrows from third

Both drivers ran the UltraSoft compound tyres throughout Qualifying

Valtteri: I’m really proud of this team

“I couldn’t quite get a perfect lap in, so I’m not quite satisfied with the result,” he said. “But what I’m really proud about is the team of people who built this car.

“I only saw a very small part of the preparation for this new era of Formula One – but it’s really nice to see that all of the work has paid off.

“Tomorrow is the day that matters and my race starts have been quite strong, so hopefully we can keep that going.”

Toto: A really good way to start the first race weekend

Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff was full of praise for the team after a strong start to the weekend and says he is relishing a battle with rivals Ferrari come Sunday.

“P1 and P3 is a really good way to start the first race after a winter with so many changes,” he said. “Under new regulations, there were no guarantees for us and we knew from testing that Ferrari were very strong.

Toto Wolff was full of praise for the team after a strong start to the weekend

Toto is relishing a battle with rivals Ferrari come Sunday

Toto: We have a big fight on our hands with Ferrari

“It was exciting to have that close battle for pole, right down to the wire with the final laps in Q3, and it’s clear that we have a big fight on our hands with Ferrari.

“Lewis has been flying all weekend so it’s great to see him put it on pole. For Valtteri, he might be a little disappointed to miss out on P2 by just a few hundredths. But you cannot expect everything perfect on the first weekend.

“He improved with every run and there is still more to come, no doubt. Now we need to get our heads down, do the homework and see what tomorrow brings us.”

James: That was an exhilarating session

Watching from the pit wall, Technical Director James Allison saluted the team’s effort, while urging caution ahead of a long campaign.

“That was an exhilarating session,” he said. “Massive credit to all the people in this team who, after such a strong year in 2016, have created a car to a new set of regulations, come back a year later and put it on pole again. It’s a splendid effort from the entire team.

“But what is clear is that it’s very close. We’ve got some serious competition and this could be the start of quite a memorable season. We’ve just got to make sure that it’s us who keeps our nose ahead in the development race.”

James saluted the team’s effort