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Australian GP: Lewis Hamilton wrestles 'viper' Mercedes back into contention with fifth in qualifying

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished fifth and sixth in Albert Park qualifying despite lack of Mercedes upgrades and "spiteful" car; Charles Leclerc on pole ahead of Max Verstappen; watch Sunday's race live at 6am on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event

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Lewis Hamilton says it's 'nice to be back up there' after qualifying fifth, but claims his Mercedes can react like a 'viper' if you push it too far

Lewis Hamilton hailed fifth place in Australian GP qualifying as a positive step for Mercedes and their W13 car, which he compared to a "viper" and a "rattlesnake" with its "spiteful" streak.

After scoring just a single point in Saudi Arabia and struggling in practice to start the Melbourne weekend, Hamilton and Mercedes were in desperate need of an improved qualifying - and they managed to rise up the order.

While a second off Charles Leclerc's pole time, Hamilton placed fifth and just ahead of George Russell, with the Mercedes drivers to line up on the third row on the grid for Sunday's race live on Sky Sports F1 at 6am.

"Compared to yesterday and the last race [it's a big win]," Hamilton told Sky F1. "It is nice to be back up there."

Hamilton called Jeddah - where he qualified 16th and finished the race 10th - "really, really tough" before a "difficult" start to the Australian GP weekend as both he and Russell slipped out of the top 10 in Friday practice.

"We had a bigger deficit and everyone back at the factory was working hard to try and figure out where we can go with the set-up and I feel we have extracted the most from the car today," he explained.

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Lando Norris and George Russell review their qualifying laps and look ahead to Sunday for an exciting race at the Australian Grand Prix

His 1:18.825 in Q3 came despite the heavy bouncing of his car, which Mercedes are yet to tame.

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"I feel like my lap, I feel like there was a little more in the car so that is a positive," added Hamilton

"I am also naturally gutted that I wasn't able to extract that little bit but the problem is when you push that car a little bit more she is quite spiteful, she is like a viper or like a rattlesnake, you never know."

Mercedes did not bring upgrades to Australia as they are yet to solve their porpoising issues, with Ferrari and Red Bull clearly the fastest cars again this weekend - while McLaren also edged ahead of the Silver Arrows on Saturday.

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Karun Chandhok is joined by Charles Leclerc at the SkyPad to analyse his pole lap at the Australian GP

"Basically we just have to try and find a level of the bouncing, as hardcore as we can go without rattling our brains out," said Hamilton.

"That is what we tried to do. George and I have slightly different cars because we are trying out different things.

"I have something in my car that makes it a little heavier but hopefully it will enable the team to gain more information for the race tomorrow so hopefully off that we can make some progress."

Australian GP, Provisional Grid
1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
6) George Russell, Mercedes
7) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
8) Estaban Ocon, Alpine
9) Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari
10) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
11) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
12) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
13) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
14) Zhou Guanyu, Alfo Romeo
15) Mick Schumacher, Haas
16) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
17) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
18) Nicholas Latifi, Williams
19) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin*
20) Alexander Albon, Williams**

*three place grid penalty
**excluded from qualifying over fuel sample

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Lewis Hamilton narrowly avoids a crash in practice at the Australian Grand Prix

Live Australian GP schedule on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event

Sunday, April 10
4.30am: Grand Prix Sunday: Australia
8am: Chequered Flag: Australia
9am: Ted's Notebook
9.30am: Australian GP Replay

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