This weekend marks the official start to the 2015 season of Formula 1. The 2015 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is Sunday, March 15, at 12:00 am EDT. The Melbourne Grand Prix will be shown on NBC this Sunday morning but for race fans who will not be sitting by a TV, be sure to catch the live stream online by signing up for NBC Sports LiveExtra here.

While this season of racing doesn't official start until Sunday, drama had already started at least a month ago when the teams were conducting final pre-season testing sessions in Barcelona. During the second day of Barcelona testing, Fernando Alonso crashed in what was described as a "strange accident" at turn 3, which prompted emergency responders to air Alonso to the General Hospital de Catalunya for treatment. Alonso suffered a concussion as a result to the impact. Reports later revealed that the Spanish McLaren driver suffered retrograde amnesia. Alonso confirmed that ongoing observation of his health will prevent him from participating in the Australian GP. 

In many ways, the 2015 Formula 1 season begins where 2014 left off: current world champion Lewis Hamilton will start from pole at the Australian GP. Hamilton demonstrated a masterful fast lap on the Melbourne track and clocked a blistering 1:26.327, which was a full six tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Costly errors at select corners cost Rosberg any chance of challenging the bar set by Lewis.

“[The margin] is not indicative of the pace difference,” Nico Rosberg explained. “For sure, Lewis was quick but I didn't get my laps together today, so I'm not too worried about pace – I'm not worried about pace at all, to be honest. 

“The story was, first of all, that Lewis was on impressive form today - he did an awesome job and nailed it all the time - and then, for me, the speed was there but I just didn't get it together, so it wasn't a great day today. P2, I have to live with that today but it's a long day tomorrow and I've still got all the chances. 

“The race is always a different thing and maybe I can even turn it around tomorrow," Rosberg continued. "On Friday, on the long runs, my pace was very strong so I believe it can be the other way tomorrow. I'm definitely going to give it everything tomorrow and put on a good show for everybody!” 

Despite the early advantage, Lewis Hamilton accepts his pole more cautiously. Hamilton has not won in Australia since 2008. What's more, after starting from the pole last year, Hamilton only lasted two laps before mechanical issues forced him to retire from the race. That said, reliability on the new Mercedes W06 is visibly improved.

“We had a difficult start to the season last year, so definitely, as a team, as a whole, we are hoping for a better start for both cars and to succeed tomorrow, so we're going to make sure we do that," Hamilton said after he earned pole. "There's a lot of work to be done tonight to study for the race tomorrow – it's a huge challenge still.” 

“It's been a great start to the weekend,” Lewis continued, “It doesn't feel like it's been a long time since the last race, so it's been a big rush and a huge effort from all the guys back at the factory to enable us to come here and have this performance and I feel incredibly blessed to have this car. 

“Today, we found a good balance and it was just about trying to push in those laps. It's so much fun when you get into qualifying and you have those single laps that you have to push. I'm just massively grateful for all the work that has gone in.” 

As we expected, Williams is in the hunt as Felipe Massa qualified third behind the two Mercedes. Surprisingly, both Ferrari drivers are showing impressive pace as Sebastian Vettel starts fourth and Kimi Raikkonen starts fifth on Sunday. Valtteri Bottas qualified sixth on the grid but complained about lower back pain following the qualifying session. Bottas was taken to the clinic and then escorted to the hospital for check-up. It is not clear whether Bottas is fit to race tomorrow.

"Given the back complaint I had during the session, the team and I felt it sensible to get me checked out at the local hospital and we await their diagnosis," said Bottas.

Finally, local Aussie hero Daniel Ricciardo qualified seventh, ahead of Toro Rosso driver Carlo Sainz Jr., and finally Romain Grosjean as well as teammate Pastor Maldonado of Lotus, Be sure to study the full starting grid in the list below. Be sure to watch the preview to the 2015 Australian GP as well. 

The 2015 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is Sunday, March 15, at 12:00 am EDT. The Melbourne Grand Prix will be shown on NBC this Sunday morning but for race fans who will not be sitting by a TV, be sure to catch the live stream online by signing up for NBC Sports LiveExtra here.

1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 26.327s 
2. Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 26.921s 
3. Felipe Massa BRZ Williams-Mercedes 1m 27.718s 
4. Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 27.757s 
5. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 27.790s 
6. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams-Mercedes 1m 28.087s 
7. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull-Renault 1m 28.329s 
8. Carlos Sainz Jr ESP Toro Rosso-Renault 1m 28.510s 
9. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus-Mercedes 1m 28.560s 
10. Pastor Maldonado VEN Lotus-Mercedes 1m 29.480s 

11. Felipe Nasr BRZ Sauber-Ferrari 1m 28.800s 
12. Max Verstappen NED Toro Rosso-Renault 1m 28.868s 
13. Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull-Renault 1m 29.070s 
14. Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India-Mercedes 1m 29.208s 
15. Sergio Perez MEX Force India-Mercedes 1m 29.209s 

16. Marcus Ericsson SWE Sauber-Ferrari 1m 31.376s 
17. Jenson Button GBR McLaren-Honda 1m 31.422s 
18. Kevin Magnussen DEN McLaren-Honda 1m 32.037s 
19. Will Stevens GBR Manor Marussia-Ferrari no time 
20. Roberto Merhi ESP Manor Marussia-Ferrari no time