The new 2014-spec Formula 1 cars may lack the noise when compared to the V8 era, but the Melbourne crowd had a moment to cheer when their home driver was going to get his maiden pole position.
And yet, race favourite Lewis Hamilton snatched that opportunity from Daniel Ricciardo in the final moments of an exciting Q3 session.
The Mercedes driver will start on pole position for the 32nd time and he now equals Nigel Mansell’s qualifying achievement in the sport.
As for the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull driver failed to make into Q3 and will start the Australian Grand Prix down in unlucky P13.
The Mercedes driver, on wet tyres, knocked Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who was on intermediate rubber, off top spot by three tenths of a second in the final seconds of a rain-hit session.
Nico Rosberg, who had briefly taken provisional pole before Hamilton and Ricciardo improved late on, was third ahead of McLaren’s rookie Kevin Magnussen.
Both drivers, as well as fifth-placed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, set their times on wet rubber with opinion split among the ten runners as to which tyre compound was preferable.
Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne showed his wet weather prowess with a superb sixth position ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, both setting their times on intermediates.
Behind the pair was Formula 1 rookie Daniil Kvyat, who impressed despite an off in Q3 on the run between Turns 10 and 11.
He took eighth place on wet rubber, ahead of Williams drivers Felipe Massa (intermediates) and Valtteri Bottas (wets), although the latter must serve a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change before qualifying.
Several of the drivers who failed to advance from Q2 to Q3 were unable to improve thanks to yellow flags caused by Kimi Raikkonen’s late crash as rain returned in intermediate conditions.
The Ferrari driver lost the rear at the exit of Turn 3 and spun into the wall, with Vettel among those who were attempting to jump into the top ten at the time.
With both failing to make the cut in P12 and P13, Jenson Button made it three world champions to fail to make the top ten shootout in P11.
Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi and Force India driver Sergio Perez, who ran through the gravel at Turn 2 on his final flying lap, also fell in Q2.
Marussia driver Max Chilton was the fastest of the drivers to be knocked out in Q1, which was effectively ended at a point when most had managed only one run thanks to rain at the halfway mark.
Chilton was just nineteen thousandths of a second slower than Kobayashi, who did make the cut but was unable to do better than P15 in the second stage of qualifying.
Chilton’s eam-mate Jules Bianchi, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez (who will be hit with a five-place penalty for a gearbox change) and Caterham rookie Marcus Ericsson were also eliminated in Q1.
Joining them were the Lotus E22s of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, the latter not able to attempt a lap until the damp conditions late on and having two off-track excursions before aborting his run.
This was a shocking qualifying session for Lotus and starting on the back row is not ideal.
As for the stars of qualifying – Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen – this was a brilliant achievement. Out-qualified their highly impressive team-mates first time.
Qualifying positions for the Australian Grand Prix:
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m44.231s
2. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m44.548s
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m44.595s
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1m45.745s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m45.819s
6. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1m45.864s
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m46.030s
8. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m47.360s
9. Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m48.079s
10. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.437s
11. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m44.494s
12. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m44.668s
13. Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1m45.655s
14. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1m45.867s
15. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m48.147s*
16. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m47.293s
17. Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1m34.293s
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1m34.794s
20. Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1m35.157s
21. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m36.993s
22. Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault No time
22. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.117s*
*Five-place penalty for gearbox change
107 per cent: 1m37.129s