FORMULA 1 racer Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s controversial 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix from the front row after a thrilling qualifying session.

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The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver qualified second at the Sahkir circuit today (Saturday) as reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel snatched pole position for Red Bull Racing.

Vettel’s Red Bull colleague Mark Webber looked to have bagged pole with his final hot lap in the desert with a time of 1:32.637.

However, Vettel pipped him with his final flying lap around the Bahrain International Circuit, clocking a 1m 32.422s.

In an exciting final few seconds of qualifying, Hamilton split the Red Bulls to take second place on the grid with a time of 1m 32.520s.

The McLaren pitwall told Hamilton: “Great lap, we were 0.1s off pole.”

McLaren’s Jenson Button will start from the second row alongside Webber after clocking the fourth best time of Q3, a 1m 32.711s.

Button was told over the radio: “You are P4, we can fight from there.”

Nico Rosberg, last week’s Chinese Grand Prix winner, qualified fifth for Mercedes and will start alongside Daniel Ricciardo.

Romain Grosjean was seventh for Lotus and Sergio Perex eighth for Sauber.

Fernando Alonso will start ninth for Ferrari ahead of Paul di Resta.

After successfully reaching the top 10 shoot-out, the McLaren pitwall told Hamilton: “We’re in an excellent position for Q3. We have two sets of options available. Are you happy with the car?”

Hamilton replied: “Yes.”

The Hertfordshire-born F1 racer had earlier just scraped through the opening qualifying phase.

Lewis was 16th in Q1, one place behind team-mate Button.

The McLaren pitwall told the 2008 F1 world champion: “That was very close, but we’re through.”

However, Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher wasn’t so lucky – he was one of the Q1 fallers.

The 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix is due to start at 1pm on Sunday.

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