Melbourne: Lewis Hamilton led a McLaren one-two by claiming pole position on Saturday for Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton qualified in a time of 1 minute, 24.922 seconds around the Albert Park circuit, a tenth of a second ahead of teammate Jenson Button, with Lotus' Romain Grosjean a surprise third.
Mercedes' Michael Schumacher qualified fourth, ahead of the Red Bull pair of Mark Webber and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton qualified in 1 minute, 24.922 seconds, one-tenth of a second ahead of teammate Button, while Lotus' Grosjean was a surprise third.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg qualified seventh, Williams' Pastor Maldonado an impressive eighth, Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Force India and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten.
Hamilton's pole was the 20th of his career, making him the 13th man in F1 history to reach that mark and moving him level with Alonso and Damon Hill on the all-time list. It was also the first all-McLaren front row since 2009.
"It's a fantastic feeling to be back here, and it's an incredible start to the season," Hamilton said.
"It was a tremendous job from the team to get us to this point. We've had a couple of tough years, but we never seem to give up."
Four of the past five winners in Melbourne have started from pole position, boosting Hamilton's hopes going into Sunday's race.
Button said he was "quite surprised" by the gap of about two-thirds of a second back to the Red Bulls after Vettel dominated last season.
"Red Bull are always competitive, we should never forget that, but we are going to enjoy this and hope we have a great race," Button said.
Grosjean's third place was the shock result in his first time at the Albert Park circuit. The Frenchman was expected to spend the season in the shadow of Kimi Raikkonen — who qualified a lowly 18th — but the 2011 GP2 champion showed he had matured since his brief, troubled time in F1 in 2009.
"A few people believed in me in the toughest times and today I am back, almost at the top," Grosjean said.
It was a dismal day for Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso spinning off into a gravel trap early in session two and qualifying in 12th place, while Felipe Massa fared even worse, qualifying 16th.
Alonso gestured angrily at a race marshall as he emerged from the car, with the team believing the trackside officials could have pushed the Ferrari out of the gravel trap had they acted more quickly.
"He had managed to keep the engine on waiting for the marshalls, who did nothing," Ferrari tweeted soon after the incident.
Alonso acknowledged his own driving error, but said the team is too far off the pace anyway.
"We are not quite quick enough," Alonso said. "We need to change the direction quickly if we are to challenge for the championship. We have to react."
Comeback driver Raikkonen also disappointed, qualifying a long way behind teammate Grosjean.
The Finn had struggled on Friday and Saturday with a steering system that did not suit his driving style, and said poor communication from his team caused him to miss out on session two by a tenth of a second, having run wide on his last flying lap.
"I slowed down because we were supposed to have time for one more lap and I guessed we didn't," Raikkonen said. "Nobody told me when I slowed down that I had to hurry up. There's no point to blame anybody and everyone is as disappointed as me. It's a bad start."
Vettel, who set a record for pole positions in a season in 2011, made an error on his last flying lap but said pole position was out of reach regardless.
"McLaren did a massive step from Q2 to Q3," Vettel said. "I should have been a bit better. I made a mistake so that's down to me, probably cost me one or two places."
The HRTs predictably failed to reach the time needed to take part in Sunday's race. Any driver who is outside seven percent of the best time in the first session of qualifying is prevented from racing. The two cars posted better times than expected, but Pedro de la Rosa was 1.2 seconds off the cut-off and Narain Karthikeyan 1.4 seconds off.
The team, which missed pre-season testing and was still putting its cars together on Friday, can apply to race stewards for an exemption to the rule, but there appeared little by way of extenuating circumstances that would justify such leeway.
Marussia had looked in danger of also missing the cut-off, but Timo Glock and Charles Pic squeezed inside that time.