Hamilton 'incredibly proud' of Mercedes after taking Melbourne pole

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Lewis Hamilton lauded his Mercedes team for their close-season efforts after claiming pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.

Mercedes have dominated the last three campaigns, but are expected to face a much stiffer challenge from Ferrari and Red Bull in 2017.

The Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel did manage to split the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in Saturday's qualifying.

Yet there was still a familiar name at the top of the timesheets, with Hamilton thrilled to have posted the fastest time of one minute and 22.188 seconds.

"I'm incredibly proud of my team - the rule change has been huge, a massive challenge for everyone, and the guys have worked just so hard to make this car what it was today," said the three-time world champion.

"I think Valtteri did a fantastic job in his first qualifying session, which is great for us. And obviously it's close between us [and Ferrari]. As you can see it's going to be a close race between us this year I think."

Bottas, who has filled the void left by retired world champion Nico Rosberg, felt he had room for improvement after earning a place on the second row.

"Third is not ideal - I think in general I'm not happy for the result. I didn't quite get any perfect laps in, so I'm not that satisfied," explained the Finn, who was almost three tenths of a second slower than Hamilton.

"But tomorrow [Sunday] is the day that matters - it seems that we have been quite strong on the practice starts, so hopefully we can keep that going.

"I only saw a small part of the preparation but it's really nice to see all the work has paid off."

Vettel (+0.268secs) reflected positively on his efforts, adding: "We have a good car, we are working well as a team and things are improving. 

"The confidence in the car was there from testing and we showed that. I would have loved it but I don't think pole was up for grabs.

"I think we can do something in the race."