Romain Grosjean lights up Melbourne qualifying for Lotus

Frenchman Romain Grosjean lit up Melbourne with a stunning qualifying performance to put his Lotus third on the grid ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Only pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button outperformed last year's GP2 champion in the opening qualifying of the season.

Grosjean also put his team-mate Kimi R�ikk�nen in the shade, as the 2007 champion's return to competitive Formula One action saw him spectacularly fail to make it past Q1.

'Today is like a dream come true,' beamed Grosjean, who endured a difficult clutch of races on his F1 debut for Renault in 2009. 'I only really discovered the Albert Park circuit in the dry this morning and I didn't know what to expect. When I heard my position over the radio I just could not believe it.

'Very few people still had faith in me after my first life in F1, but we've all worked very hard to start a new adventure and I'm very happy to be able to put a great performance in right from the start of the season.

'I will not get carried away because as the saying goes, you don't score any points on a Saturday. We all know that Melbourne can be a very tricky race. I hope we can keep going like this all season long and in the end it will be a nice story.'

As for R�ikk�nen, he will start 17th thanks to Sergio Perez requiring a gearbox change in his Sauber after Saturday's qualifying – and taking the applicable five-place grid penalty that sends him to the back of the field for the start to Sunday's race.

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HRT have not been permitted to start the race, after both cars failed to make the 107 per cent qualifying time in Q1.

'Today didn't go quite as planned,' admitted the Finn. 'There's no issue with the car; I made a mistake and there was a communication issue so the timing wasn't right to get another lap. It cost us a good qualifying position but that's how it goes sometimes.

'We should have easily been in Q2. It's not the best start but we'll try to put it right in the race. There's plenty of speed in the car. The steering was fine. It's not perfect for exactly what I want but it doesn't affect my driving. For sure we can do better than 18th on Sunday so we'll have to see what happens.'

Meanwhile, Lotus team principal Eric Boullier is aiming to protest this weekend's results after taking umbrage at Ross Brawn's latest innovation on the back of the Mercedes W03 – a device which provides greater straight line speed whenever DRS is employed, but only currently features on the Silver Arrows.