Defending champion Sebastian Vettel laid down an early season marker as he swept aside opposition to claim pole position by a staggering margin in Australia.
Vettel posted a lap seven-tenths quicker than Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren and a phenomenal eight-tenths quicker than Red Bull teammate and local hero Mark Webber, leaving his rivals scratching their heads.
Such was the young German’s dominance, the pole lap came without the help of the KERS button which would have given him an extra speed boost round the lap.
More surprisingly was that Vettel's 1:23.529 in his RB7 was quicker than his pole lap last year despite the loss of about 10% downforce and new tyres under 2011 regulations.
Red Bull were denied a front row lockout by an impressive lap from Hamilton, despite a problem with his KERS button. Webber and Jenson Button make up the second row respectively behind their quicker teammates.
Further down the field it was a disappointing qualifying hour for Ferrari as Fernando Alonso, who had promised so much in practice, failed to deliver in fifth and Felipe Massa struggled to find any pace and sits way down in eighth, piling more pressure on the Brazilian.
Vitaly Petrov impressed for Renault in the absence of the injured Robert Kubica and qualified a strong sixth, outperforming Mr Reliable, Nick Heidfield, who surprisingly failed to make it out of Q1.
And it was not the session for experienced drivers. Heidfield was the first to drop out, followed by Rubens Barrichello who will start his 307th Grand Prix from 17th after dropping a wheel on the grass and spinning into the gravel in Q2.
Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher didn't do much better and dropped out in Q2 failing to make the cut and was outperformed by his younger teammate Nico Rosberg in seventh. The qualifying result will disappoint the Mercedes GP team who had looked quick in testing and believed they could challenge the frontrunners.
It was a mixed day for the rookie drivers too, Sergio Perez showed potential but could not match Kamui Kobayashi who produced a stellar run to qualify ninth and Paul Di Resta and Pastor Maldonado both out-qualified their more illustrious teammates.
At the bottom it was a disappointing session for Team Lotus as their offseason investment failed to garner any extra time and they fell out in Q1 but it could have been worse, they could have been Hispania.
The Spanish outfit has barely run all year and were effectively using the session as testing and failed to clock a time inside the 107% cutoff and are unlikely to be allowed special dispensation into race. These are worrying times for the low budget backmarker.
With qualifying over the speculation surrounding the new rear wings, KERS, tyre degradation and car performance can stop and it appears that not a lot has changed. When you look at the timesheet there isn't an awful lot new from the grid 12 months ago.