Hamilton finished 0.372s off the pace of polesitter Verstappen as he took third behind Mercedes teammate George Russell in qualifying on Saturday. 

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After Mercedes’ most competitive showing of the season so far, Hamilton was bullish about his team’s chances of taking the fight to Verstappen’s sole Red Bull on Sunday. 

“This is a totally unexpected,” Hamilton said. “Really proud of the team.

"George did an amazing job there today so for us to be up on the front two rows in honestly a dream for us.

"We are all working as hard as we can to get right back up to the front so to be this close to Red Bull is incredible.

"Hopefully tomorrow we can give them a run for their money and we hope the weather is good. 

"I am super grateful for this position and I am just going to work as hard as I can tomorrow.”

Asked what his goal is for the race, Hamilton replied: “[My goal] is to get to first. 

"I am going to try and see and I will be hoping like my first day here 2007, Turn 1. 

"I don't know if anybody remembers but hopefully we can do that." 

Russell, who pipped Hamilton by just 0.035s and was 0.236s adrift of Verstappen, said Mercedes’ performance was a big surprise. 

"We weren't expecting that - that's for sure,” he said. 

"A lot of hard work going on at the factory, here in Melbourne and wow, what a session for us.

"The car felt alive, the lap at the end was right on the limit and to be honest I'm a little bit disappointed that we didn't get pole position.

"It's one of those things where your expectations change so quickly in this sport.”

The Briton added: "We would have been happy with a top four, top five yesterday.

"The car felt awesome and we've definitely got potential still to come.

"It must be the jet lag programme we're doing - something's got to be right.

"We've got to understand when you've had good days and bad days.

"We'll take it - it's going to be exciting tomorrow, tough against Max and I'm very happy to finish P2.”