Date registered: Oct 2005
Vehicle: 107, 115, 116, 123, 124, 126
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Oz quali report
The McLaren drivers and beaming returnee Romain Grosjean on Saturday looked to have knocked Red Bull from its dominant perch.
"McLaren had an upgrade at the last test and it's performed here at Albert Park," said former team driver and BBC commentator David Coulthard.
Lewis Hamilton beat his teammate Jenson Button to pole in Melbourne, but just a few tenths behind is the reigning GP2 champion Grosjean.
Frenchman Grosjean's teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a dire return qualifying performance by missing the Q1 cut, describing the session as "shit" according to the German press.
Button will start second
In total contrast, Grosjean was beaming: "A few people believed in me through the toughest time and I'm back -- almost at the top!"
The surprises continued beyond the top three: Mercedes' Michael Schumacher is fourth, and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel sixth.
"We are aware we need to improve," said Mark Webber, who qualified the sister Red Bull in fifth as both RB8 cars had KERS issues.
In much bigger strife is fabled Ferrari, with neither F2012 making it through to Q3.
Fernando Alonso threw his red car into the gravel and Felipe Massa is a disastrous 16th, with Sky analyst Martin Brundle described the handling of the F2012 as "horrible".
"Forget the reds," the summary report at Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport website, written by correspondent Andrea Cremonesi, said.
Said Spaniard Alonso: "We need to change the direction quickly if we're to challenge for the championship. We have to react."
Meanwhile, Lotus boss Eric Boullier answered "maybe" when asked on Sky UK television if the team will lodge an official protest against Mercedes' qualifying result, based on the belief the W03's F-duct solutions are illegal.
1. Hamilton - McLaren seems to have the car this year. We think their FDuct interpretation is a big help at this track, and they have a much faster pit stop too - probably the race winner.
2. Vettel - car may be slightly off from last year but good driver of course - I think the car isn't getting off the slow corners as well as last years car.
3. Button - only a tick off of Hamilton and Vettel.
4. Schumacher - been looking great all weekend so far - probably a podium finish and could win if something happens to Hamilton
5. Grosjean - showing some serious speed and faster than Kimi all weekend
6. Webber - seems to be a bit off
7. Rosberg - This kid is good and fast, but just never seems to excite me for some reason. He is no Keke.
8. Alonso - great qualifying for a horrible car
9. Raikkonen - still getting his feet warm again but will have a decent race
10. Perez - quick in a very mediocre car
11. Kobayashi - seems to have decent qual on flowing circuits like Oz
12. Ricciardo - Toro Rosso still mid pack at best, but he is carrying the car
13. Massa - washed up - Ferrari would be better off with Rossi
14. Maldonado - faster than Senna pretty much all the time
15. Di Resta - has his moments but will get passed up under qual pressure
16. Hulkenberg - all very good drivers this year but Hulk doesnâ€™t seem to be living up to expectations after dominant feeder series record
17. Senna - Not Ayrton. Not even close
18. Vergne - Will get better as year goes on. Has the talent.
19. Petrov - really good driver - terrible car
20. Kovalainen - good driver who has lost his fire in crummy cars. This is another one.
"The first qualifying session of the year proved to be as tight a competition as we had all hoped for. I am certainly happy with our performance which is a huge step forward, considering where we were in qualifying here last year. I can only thank the guys for all of the hard work that they have achieved over the winter. I also think it is important to stress that Mercedes-Benz have always believed in and supported this project, and I really hope we can deliver the results we all want. We have to take this step-by-step as the competition is very tight, so now we have to continue to work hard."