Wary of his arch foe in a rejuvenated Ferrari, Formula One pacesetter Lewis Hamilton is forecasting a tight Australian grand prix.
Mercedes star Hamilton will start from pole position in Sunday's season-opening race in Melbourne.
But shadowing him will be his great rival, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is second on the grid.
"It is close between us all and it will be a tight race," Hamilton said.
The Englishman set a record lap time around the Albert Park circuit to take his 62nd career pole position - six adrift of Michael Schumacher's all-time benchmark.
While Australian Daniel Ricciardo crashed in qualifying and will start from 10th on the grid, Vettel and Ferrari signalled they're ready to challenge the domination of Mercedes, which has provided the past three world champions and claimed the past three constructors' championships.
"People are fired up," said Vettel, a four-time world champion who was within three-hundredths of a second of Hamilton's fastest lap in Saturday's qualifying.
"We're motivated. We have a good car and we're working well as a team. It's nice to see that things are working."
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas is third on the grid followed by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Ricciardo's Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen.
But Australian hope Ricciardo faces a near-impossible task of making the podium after inexplicably spinning while taking a regulation corner and crashing into a barrier during qualifying.
"I'm fine physically. Emotionally I'm a little bit disappointed," Ricciardo said.
"It was a little bit messy ... it has put me back to 10th as opposed to fifth or sixth.
"Its frustrating ... I want to beat myself up a bit."