Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton said it was a "shock" to twice break a track record as he took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton took his sixth consecutive pole at Albert Park with teammate Valtteri Bottas completing a Mercedes lockout of the front row ahead of Sunday's season opener.
But the 34-year-old, gunning for his sixth world championship, is aware of the challenge posed by Ferrari who will be "pushing hard" with Sebastian Vettel eager to take his third consecutive win in Melbourne.
Mercedes were considered to be off the pace of the Italian constructor after winter testing in Barcelona, but Hamilton topped all three practice sessions going 0.264 seconds clear in Saturday's final practice.
In qualification, he set a new track record on one minute 21.014 seconds with a tidy lap in the second qualifying session, surpassing it in the top 10 shootout with a 1min 20.486secs, 0.704secs quicker than Vettel.
"Since practice from day one until the last day when we left and went back to the factory we knew we had work to do," he said.
"I felt good that we had a decent package to work with but we were aware we might be slightly behind.
"I really was not expecting to see the performance difference that we have here. It had been so close throughout the whole weekend between us all."
"I know that Ferrari are going to be pushing hard and progressing over the coming days and tomorrow I'm sure they will be putting up a good fight as they are always strong in the races."