In a nerve-racking finish during the qualifying race that went ahead with radical new rules and regulations, the Brit was followed by champions Red Bull’s new recruit Daniel Ricciardo, who is also the local hero, and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton’s staggering performance has once again reaffirmed suggestions that he is a favourite to win this season’s driver’s championship.

McLaren’s latest hire Kevin Magnussen finished fourth, followed by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel endured a despondent afternoon, as he even failed to make it to Q3 for the first time since 2012.

Former champion Jensen Button and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen were the other notable names, who couldn’t make it to Q3.

(JPN)

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