By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton put his McLaren on pole position for the opening race of the Formula One season with the fastest time in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.
French driver Romain Grosjean sprung the biggest surprise by steering his Lotus to the third fastest lap and he will line up alongside the Mercedes of seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher on the second row.
World champion Sebastian Vettel, who claimed a record 15 pole positions including on his way to victory at Albert Park last season, was sixth fastest, just behind his Red Bull team mate and Australian hope Mark Webber in fifth.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado of Williams will be on the fourth row of the grid after finishing seventh and eighth quickest.
Ferrari's problems continued with both cars failing to reach the final round of qualifying.
Former world champion Fernando Alonso spun off and into the gravel in the second session while running fifth fastest and will line up 12th on the grid, while Brazialian Felipe Massa's miserable run of form continued with just the 16th fastest time.
Another former world champion, Kimi Raikkonen, failed to get through the first phase of qualifying on his return to Formula One after two years away.
The 32-year-old Finn lost control of his Lotus on a corner on his final flying lap and will line up in 18th place on the ninth row of the grid for Sunday's race, barring any penalties for other drivers.
The former Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari driver also suffered the embarrassment of being resoundingly outqualified by the inexperienced Grosjean, who has never raced at Albert Park.
(Editing by Alastair Himmer)