Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel began his campaign to retain his title in devastating fashion by grabbing pole position at the Australian Grand Prix for the second successive season.

Red Bull Racing equalled an F1 record of 15 poles last season en route to winning both championships, and it was a case of starting from where they left off in Abu Dhabi in November.

Vettel's pole lap around Melbourne's Albert Park was stunning as the sport's youngest title holder smashed the park circuit with a time of one minute 23.529secs. Lewis Hamilton clinched second spot on the grid at the death to represent an astonishing leap for McLaren given the mess they were in a fortnight ago at the end of testing.

To underline Vettel's dominance, the 23-year-old German finished 0.778secs clear of Hamilton, with Red Bull's Mark Webber also a long way from his team-mate on home turf 0.866secs adrift.

Jenson Button, who has won the last two races here, will start from fourth in his McLaren, but the 31-year-old Briton was 1.2secs off Vettel, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso fifth.

Vitaly Petrov put in a fine performance in his Enstone-built Lotus Renault and will line up sixth, followed by the Brackley-built Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, who finished just under two seconds behind compatriot Vettel.

The remainder of the top 10 was completed by Felipe Massa in his Ferrari, followed by a superb Kamui Kobayashi in his Sauber and the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi.

So much for Michael Schumacher's new-found confidence in his Mercedes, as he expressed this week, as the seven-times world champion's hopes of pushing the Red Bulls fell completely flat.

Schumacher could only manage 11th in his Mercedes, missing out on a place in the top 10 by 0.889secs to Buemi.