By Sportsmail Reporter
Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel began his campaign to retain his title in devastating fashion by grabbing pole position at the Australian Grand Prix for the second successive season.

Red Bull Racing equalled an F1 record of 15 poles last season en route to winning both championships, and it was a case of starting from where they left off in Abu Dhabi in November.

Vettel’s pole lap around Melbourne’s Albert Park was stunning as the sport’s youngest title holder smashed the park circuit with a time of one minute 23.529secs.

Sebastian Vettel of Germany

Let me through – I’m the champion: Sebastian Vettel roared to another pole position

Sebastian Vettel of Germany

I’m number one – don’t forget it: Sebastian Vettel reminds the world of his success

As for the rest of the field, they were effectively nowhere in F1 terms, although with Lewis Hamilton clinching second spot on the grid at the death that represents an astonishing leap for McLaren given the mess they were in a fortnight ago at the end of testing.

To underline Vettel’s dominance, the 23-year-old German finished 0.778secs clear of Hamilton, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber also a long way from his team-mate, with the Australian on home turf 0.866secs adrift.

Solid start: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton qualified in second place

Solid start: McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton qualified in second place

Jenson Button, who has won the last two races here, will start from fourth in his McLaren, but the 31-year-old Briton was 1.2secs off Vettel, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso fifth.
Vitaly Petrov put in a fine performance in his Renault and will line up sixth, followed by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who finished just under two seconds behind compatriot Vettel.

The remainder of the top 10 was completed by Felipe Massa in his Ferrari, followed by a superb Kamui Kobayashi in his Sauber and the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi.

So much for Michael Schumacher’s new-found confidence in his car, as he expressed this week, as the seven-times world champion’s hopes of pushing the Red Bulls fell completely flat.
Schumacher could only manage 11th in his Mercedes, missing out on a place in the top 10 by 0.889secs to Buemi.

The 42-year-old German will be sandwiched by the Toro Rossos as Jaime Alguersuari starts 12th ahead of Sauber’s Mexican rookie Sergio Perez.

In his first qualifying session as an F1 driver, Paul di Resta will start from 14th in his Force India, two places ahead of team-mate Adrian Sutil, whose qualifying ended in spectacular fashion.
Pushing hard on his final hot lap, the German caught a kerb on the final corner, sending him into a spin along the start-finish straight.

Sutil brilliantly caught the car, preventing it from smashing into a wall, completing a full pirouette before eventually crossing the line, albeit just under four seconds off those ahead of him.
In between the Force India pairing will be another rookie in Pastor Maldonado, who lines up from 15th on the grid.

On a bad day for Williams, Rubens Barrichello will start from a disappointing 17th after he pitched his car into the gravel at the start of Q2.

AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFICATION

1. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min 23.529
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1:24.307
3. Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1:24.395
4. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1:24.779
5. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1:24.974
6. Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Renault 1:25.247
7. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1:25.421
8. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:25.599
9. Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1:25.626
10. Sebastien Buemi (Switzerland) Toro Rosso 1:27.066    

11. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1:25.971

12. Jaime Alguersuari (Spain) Toro Rosso 1:26.103
13. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1:26.108
14. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1:26.739
15. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1:26.768
16. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 1:31.407
17. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Williams no time   

18. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) Renault 1:27.239
19. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Lotus 1:29.254
20. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Lotus 1:29.342
21. Timo Glock (Germany) Virgin 1:29.858
22. Jerome d’Ambrosio (Belgium) Virgin 1:30.822
23. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy) HRT 1:32.978
24. Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1:34.293 

What do you mean only third? Mark Webber looks less than impressed

What do you mean only third? Mark Webber looks less than impressed

Despite their lack of resources and limited running ahead of Q1, Hispania Racing produced a brave effort in a bid to make the race with their new car that only took to the track for the first time yesterday.

Vitantonio Liuzzi managed just one installation lap at the death of second practice, before succumbing to a gearbox issue after just 20 seconds on his first run in final practice today.

Team-mate Narain Karthikeyan then completed just a handful of laps, so it was always on the cards the duo would never plunge under the 107% rule reintroduced by the FIA for this year.

In the fast lane: Sebastian Vettel was a cut above the rest

In the fast lane: Sebastian Vettel was a cut above the rest

It means that any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of the fastest time set in the first 20-minute qualifying period will not be allowed to take part in the grand prix unless he can show extenuating circumstances.

Vettel was quickest in Q1 with a lap of 1:25.296, setting the 107% time at 1:31.266, with Liuzzi finishing 1.7secs adrift of that mark and Karthikeyan three seconds off.

Unless Hispania can show just cause as to why they should compete, it means the back row of tomorrow’s grid, in 21st and 22nd places, will be occupied by Virgin Racing duo Timo Glock and rookie Jerome D’Ambrosio, the latter finishing 0.444secs inside the 107% time.

Smile, you're on camera: Sebastian Vettel meets the photographers in parc ferme after taking pole position

Smile, you’re on camera: Sebastian Vettel meets the photographers in parc ferme after taking pole position

Ahead of them on the 10th row will be the Lotus pairing of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, the latter two seconds away from a place in Q1, showing they are a long way off fighting for points, as was their stated aim for this season.

The big loser from Q1 was remarkably Nick Heidfeld in the Renault, a team that were expected to be pushing the frontrunners this year.

The German, who has replaced Robert Kubica following his horrific accident in a rally in early February that seems certain to keep him out for the year, will start an unhappy 18th.

Frustrated: Mark Webber revealed he 'couldn't get the times' and didn't know why

Frustrated: Mark Webber revealed he ‘couldn’t get the times’ and didn’t know why

Following his 16th career pole, Vettel said: ‘We’ve made the first step. Starting the season this way is what we wanted, and with the car the way it is, that is down to the people back at the factory and those here.
‘The key now is obviously to finish the race because last year I was on pole, but halfway through I had to retire.
‘Over the winter we’ve not suffered any reliability issues, but with the new (pirelli) tyres tomorrow is a race into the unknown, although we can guess how they will behave.
‘Today was the base and it couldn’t have been any better.’

All of a blur: Jenson Button brought his McLaren home in fourth place

All of a blur: Jenson Button brought his McLaren home in fourth place

That was certainly the case for Hamilton who could not have predicted starting from the front row given what happened to himself, Button and McLaren in testing in Barcelona.

Hamilton said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled to be up here today. The guys have done an unbelievable job. We’ve still a lot to do, but a big thank you to everyone at home. Keep pushing.’
As for Webber, he was at a loss to understand why he is so far off Vettel’s pace.

‘I couldn’t do the times. I was disappointed with them,’ said Webber.
‘I tried my best, but I’m mystified by the gap to Seb. I’ll look through it and go from there, but it’s a bit frustrating.’