British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton grabbed pole position for the Australian Grand Prix with a Q3 fastest lap of 1:44.231 on Saturday and will be joined on the front row by Australia's Daniel Ricciardo, who competes for Red Bull, while Spanish Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso will start fifth.

Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg were dominating the final 12-minute session until Ricciardo, the home-crowd favorite, pulled off a major surprise by posting a lap time of 1:44.548.

The Briton, however, managed to get his best lap in at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit just before time expired to slip in just ahead of the Australian.

Rosberg, who at one point appeared to have secured pole position, ended up settling for third with a best lap of 1:44.595 and will be joined on the second row by Denmark's Kevin Magnussen, who drives for McLaren.

French Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne will start sixth on Sunday alongside Alonso.

Four-time defending Formula One drivers' champion Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Red Bull, had a miserable day of qualifying, finishing 13th in the second part of Saturday's session and failing to advance to Q3 for the first time since 2012.

The German will start 12th on Sunday after Finnish Williams driver Valtteri Bottas received a five-place grid penalty for changing a gearbox.

Sunday's Australian Grand Prix will be the first race of the 2014 Formula One season. EFE