BARCELONA: Briton Lewis Hamilton took his third pole position ofthe season and the 150th of McLaren's Formula One history with adazzling lap in the final minute of Saturday's qualifying for theSpanish Grand Prix. The 27-year-old Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, clocked a bestlap of 1min 21.707sec to finish half a second clear of nearestrival, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams, at the end of aclosely-contested and highly-tactical session. Spaniard Fernando Alonso delighted his home fans when he claimedthird place for Ferrari ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean and hisLotus team-mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen. Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull will line upeighth. Hamilton's third pole of the season was the 22nd of his career andstretched his run of front row starts to five in succession. |
ForWilliams, it was a great present for team founder Frank Williams,who was celebrating his 70th birthday in the team garage. Hamilton said: "It was one of the best qualifyings I've ever had --I stopped out on the track afterwards because I was told to stop. Ihave no idea why!" Despite teammate Jenson Button finishing 11th and failing to makethe cut into the top-ten shootout session, he added: "But it's agreat day for the team. Jenson (Button) has great strength in therace so I have no doubt he will make his way up." Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber was sixth ahead of German NicoRosberg of Mercedes and, unexpectedly, Vettel, who will line upeighth. Seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher of Mercedes was ninthand Japanese Kamui Kobayashi was 10th in the second Sauber.
Both Vettel and Schumacher chose not to clock a competitive time inQ3 on a day when it was clear that many teams and drivers were moreinterested in preserving as many sets of tyres as possible inpreference to claiming a strong grid position. "There is nothing is wrong," said Vettel. "We decided to abort thelap to have a free choice of tyres for the race. If I had set alap, we would have to start the race on soft tyres. "In Q2, the first run was crucial.
I didn't manage to pull a lapout so I had to use my final set of tyres to get into Q3. We simplyweren't quick enough. "We'll see how it goes for tomorrow. We were a bit surprised howmuch of a step the others could do, but I'm quite confident forrace.
We always have a good race car. We have a couple of new setswhich has proved successful for others in previous races thisyear." Maldonado said: "We have worked so hard to understand these tyresand develop our car around them and this is a great step forwardfor the team. We have such a good spirit and the car feelsfantastic." Alonso said he drive could not have gone any better. "This is a step forward for us - it was impossible to dream of thetop three in the first four races," said the Spaniard.
"We have made a big step and I was really happy with the lap. Icould fit 100 more sets of tyres and not do better. It wasperfect." -AFP/ac.
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