Hamilton tops Rosberg for Australian GP pole

Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) - Reigning Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will start on the pole for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after beating his Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg in Saturday's qualifying.

Hamilton made a lap around Melbourne's Albert Park Circuit in 1 minute, 26.327 seconds for his 39th career F1 pole, including his fourth in the Australian GP. His lap time was nearly six-tenths of a second quicker than Rosberg.

Four months ago, Hamilton clinched his second F1 world championship with a victory in the season-finale in Abu Dhabi. He concluded the season 67 points ahead of Rosberg.

"It's been a great start to the weekend," Hamilton said. "It doesn't feel like it's been a long time since the last race we've already had and a big rush and a huge effort from all of the guys back at the factory to enable us to come here and have this performance, so I feel incredibly blessed to have this car."

Rosberg had the quickest lap in each of the first two practice sessions on Friday, but Hamilton led the way in Saturday's final practice, held shortly before qualifying.

"Lewis was in impressive form today," Rosberg said. "He did an awesome job and nailed it all the time. For me, the speed was there, but I just didn't get it together today. So it wasn't a great day."

Rosberg is the defending winner of the Australian GP. Hamilton has yet to win this race. One year ago, Hamilton claimed the pole here, but after completing only two laps, he was forced to retire due to engine failure.

Felipe Massa from Williams qualified third, with his lap a distant 1.4 seconds behind Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel, making his competition debut with Ferrari this weekend in Melbourne, finished fourth in qualifying, while his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, placed fifth.

"So far, it's been a very good weekend for us," Vettel said. "No issues with the car so far, and it looks like it will stay that way, so we can be pretty happy."

Valtteri Bottas from Williams was sixth. Australian Daniel Ricciardo placed his Red Bull seventh on the grid for his home race. Rookie Carlos Sainz Jr. from Toro Rosso took the eighth spot, followed by Lotus teammates Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.

McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen struggled in qualifying, as both drivers will 17th and 18th -- the last row on the grid for Sunday's 58- lap race here.

Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens from the Manor Marussia team did not participate in qualifying. Both drivers also did not get on track for any one of the three practice sessions.