Lewis Hamilton took his 50th career pole as Formula One's new qualification format was tested out at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton scorched the tarmac at the Albert Park circuit with a lap of 1m23.837s which was 0.360s faster than the lap set by his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton's lap also broke the previous lap record for the circuit of 1m24.125s set by Michael Schumacher in 2004. The pole setting record lap also saw him become the third driver after Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher to claim 50 or more career poles.
F1's new elimination qualification sytem made its debut and saw quite a mad scramble in Q1 as drivers tried to ensure they put down a fast time before the countdown clock knocked them out. Mercedes topped the timecharts as Hamilton wiped 0.976s off his pole time from 2015.
Q1 saw both Manor and Haas getting knocked out along with a rather unhappy Daniil Kvyat who blamed Red Bull's tactics for his elimination. Both Saubers also got eliminated in Q1 as Jolyon Palmer of Renault pipped Sauber's Marcus Ericsson to Q2 at the chequered flag.
Q2 again saw Mercedes dictating the pace as both drivers from Renault and McLaren were eliminated. Williams driver Valteri Bottas was eliminated in 11th place complaining about the grip from his tyres. He was soon joined in the pits by both the Force India drivers.
The final qualifying session (Q3) was a bit of an anti-climax as only Mercedes sent out their drivers for a second run. Hamilton took pole in his first run and then bettered his time the second time around, while Rosberg had to wait for his second run to put the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen behind him.
Max Verstappen claimed an impressive 5th place on the grid ahead of the Williams driven by Felipe Massa. His Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz took 7th place, ahead of the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo who was the first to be eliminated in Q3.
Hamilton will start his defence of his Drivers Championship when the lights go green in Melbourne on March 20 at 10:30 a.m.(IST).