Caterham make early exit from Melbourne qualifying

It is a new season but the same old story for Hingham-based Caterham as the Norfolk marque fell short of making progress in the opening qualifying session of the season.

Both Heikki Kovalainen and new team-mate Vitaly Petrov were in the seven drivers who exited in Q1 at Albert Park ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, alongside their fellow 2010 new boys HRT and Marussia plus the surprise figure of Lotus' Kimi R�ikk�nen.

But what will disappoint those most at Hingham will be the fact Kovalainen was more than a second off the pace to trouble making Q2 in Melbourne, with his quickest laps interrupted by traffic.

It seems hopes the Norfolk outfit can seriously challenge the midfield pack from the off in 2012 are optimistic – but Kovalainen is remaining positive.

'We didn't get everything we could out of the car in Q1 but it felt better this afternoon than it did in FP3 and on my last quick lap I was held up by an HRT which probably cost me something like six tenths, but around this sort of circuit that's one of the issues you have to deal with,' said the Finn.

'There are quite a few positives to take out of today, the main one being that we know we're much closer to the cars in front than where we finished last year, and now we have Kers and a better package overall, so I think Sunday's race could be really interesting.'

Technical director Mark Smith added: 'There are always pluses and minuses with sessions like today. Our final positions are probably not really a fair reflection of where we are in terms of the gap to the cars ahead. We have a solid plan to keep improving the key areas of the car's performance and I think we can look forward to a more competitive display in the race.'

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Lewis Hamilton took pole in Saturday's qualifying will a stunning lap to pip team-mate Jenson Button.

R�ikk�nen's Lotus colleague Romain Grosjean was the star of the day to put his E20 third, while both Ferraris exited in Q2 and will start outside the top 10.

Red Bull's Mark Webber and defending champion Sebastian Vettell will start fifth and sixth respectively.