Australian GP: Hulkenberg qualifies 7th but Perez a poor 16th

Melbourne: Comeback man Nico Hulkenberg has put Sahara Force India in contention for points in the season- opening Australian Grand Prix by securing a seventh place on the grid but Sergio Perez could manage only the 16th spot.

The 2014 Formula One season will kick off under new regulations as turbo charged V6 engines have replaced ear-splitting V8s.

Hulkenberg, who raced for Sauber last season, set his fastest lap in 1:46.030 in Q3, to be seventh, sandwiched between two Toro Rosso cars -- Jean-Eric Vergne (P6) and and Daniil Kvyat (P8).

Perez, who drove a McLaren car in 2013, could no go beyond Q2 and his best lap came in 1:47.293. Hulkenberg said getting P7 in the first qualifying session of the new season should be considered a "good news".

"Everything went well today and it was an entertaining session, which I really enjoyed. It was the first time I`ve driven the new car in the wet, but right away I felt comfortable and confident with a nice balance on the intermediates and the wets," the German said.

"There was a good harmony between me and the car, and the team did a great job helping me manage the traffic. Looking ahead to tomorrow, it really is a step into the unknown for everyone. I think we are well prepared and I`m really looking forward to the race where points will be our target."

Mexico`s Perez said it was not an easy qualifying session for him especially Q2 and blamed traffic for him not getting the optimum result out of the car.

"Unfortunately we didn`t manage to get a good lap in the wet conditions. It was hard to find clear space with the traffic and I had to pit for new tyres when the track was probably at its best. When I left the pits for my final attempt I locked the rear tyres going into turn three, lost control and could not recover. "

Team Principal Vijay Mallya hoped that Perez would do better in the race, where weather would be a crucial factor.

"It is very promising to see Nico qualify seventh under these difficult conditions. He always excels in the wet and today he looked very comfortable whatever the weather. Sergio had a more difficult session and unfortunately the weather changed for the worse as he was pitting for new tyres, which made it very difficult for him to improve.

"I think he will fare better in the race and improve his position because our pace in practice suggests we can be in the fight for points. The weather will surely play a big role, with the chance of more rain showers tomorrow, so we will need to plan for all possible conditions," he said.