Melbourne, March 17, 2012 (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button delivered convincing evidence of McLaren's resurgence on Saturday when they filled the front row of the grid for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
It was clear proof, after two years of struggling to keep pace with champions Red Bull, that the English team, powered by Mercedes engines, is back on form -- and set to be a force in the 2012 championship.
After his roller-coaster year in 2011, when he was involved in crashes and controversy aplenty, Briton Hamilton drove with real elan to claim pole for Sunday's race and prove those bad times are behind him.
"This is so great for the team," said Hamilton. "We've had two tough years. The team have done so much, done such a great job over the (European) winter and we have all done a great job today.
"I think this is our first one-two since Jenson and I have been together, but we know that though this is a great day, it is tomorrow that matters."
McLaren, based in Woking, southeast England, have not won the constructors' world title since 2007 or the drivers' championship since 2008.
Compatriot Button, who was unable to overhaul his team-mate's best lap of one minute and 24.922 seconds with a final late lap, was generous in his praise to Hamilton and team.
"Congratulations to Lewis," he said. "And to the team who have done a great job. The lights have not gone out yet (for the start of the race), but we already have had a great result on a Saturday.
"It looks like it is going to be a very exciting season. Today, it was close all the way. I tried my best, but Lewis had the upper hand."
Asked to look ahead to the race and assess their rivals -- including Red Bull whose drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel only qualified fifth and sixth -- both forecast a close contest.
"I think it is going to be incredibly tough and intense," said Hamilton. "I think tyres are going to be key, and a good start. Button warned that Red Bull will remain a threat.
"Red Bull haven't lost it," he said. "They are still going to be competitive and we can never forget that."