Lewis Hamilton took a stunning pole position for Mercedes at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix as McLaren-Honda qualified last.
The world champion beat team-mate Nico Rosberg by more than half a second as Mercedes utterly dominated.
Williams’s Felipe Massa beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to third.
Meanwhile, McLaren produced their worst performance for six years as their big-budget new engine partnership with Honda got off to a terrible start.
Hamilton’s brilliant lap was 0.594 seconds quicker than Rosberg and a massive 1.391secs clear of Massa as Mercedes confirmed pre-season impressions that they will be virtually unbeatable again this season
“It has been a great start to the weekend,” Hamilton said. “It doesn’t feel that long since the last race. It has been a big rush and huge effort form the factory to get us here with this performance.
“It is so much fun in qualifying and I am just massively grateful for all the hard work.”
Rosberg said: “Lewis was on impressive form today. He did an awesome job and nailed the time. For me, the speed was there; I just didn’t get it together.”
Williams won a tight battle with Ferrari, with just 0.072secs separating Massa in third from Kimi Raikkonen in fifth, with Sebastian Vettel in between in fourth place.
But for all the talk of a Ferrari revival, the Italian team were 1.43secs slower than Hamilton – only 0.2secs closer than they had been last year, when their former driver Fernando Alonso qualified fifth.
Following his move to McLaren, Alonso is missing this race to recover from concussion suffered in an accident in pre-season testing.
But even he would have been able to do nothing about McLaren’s poor performance – their faster driver Jenson Button in 16th place was 1.5secs off getting out of the first knock-out phase of qualifying and an effective four seconds slower than Mercedes once the effect of tyres was taken into account.
Button, who beat team-mate Kevin Magnussen by 0.6secs, remained upbeat about the potential of the new partnership with Honda.
“We know we can make big strides with this car,” Button said. “When you have a car that feels good underneath you can add downforce to it and that is what we need to do.
“That’s not saying downforce is a problem. The car is completely new, and obviously the power unit.
“I feel we can make big strides forward and that’s the exciting thing for me. It’s going to be a hard new few months but it’s worth it. Who knows where we will end up?”
Another team to struggle were former world champions Red Bull, for whom Daniel Ricciardo could manage only seventh fastest, behind Williams’s Valtteri Bottas.
Red Bull bosses are furious with engine partner Renault, who have failed to deliver any performance improvements over the winter while the engine is harder to drive than it was last year.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz impressed on his debut with Toro Rosso with eighth place, outdoing team-mate Max Verstappen, who qualified 12th on the occasion of setting a new record for the youngest driver to compete in F1 at 17.
The Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado completed the top 10, as Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, another rookie, was a strong 11th.