Hamilton takes Barcelona pole for 2nd year running

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton appeared to have recovered some pace during qualifying in Spain after his sluggish performance in Russia. He will have little breathing space, with the drivers' championship leader Sebastian Vettel starting on the front row a
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton appeared to have recovered some pace during qualifying in Spain after his sluggish performance in Russia. He will have little breathing space, with the drivers' championship leader Sebastian Vettel starting on the front row alongside him today.PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • Lewis Hamilton took pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix for the second year in a row yesterday, with Ferrari's championship leader Sebastian Vettel set to start alongside the Mercedes driver on the front row.

The three-time world champion resisted a powerful late challenge in the final seconds of Q3 from the German four-time world champion.

"It was very close, but well done to Lewis," said Vettel.

"And a big thank you to my team. I'm afraid it was my lock-up at the end of the lap that made the difference. It was a really good lap up to the final chicane."

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A beaming Hamilton, who has bounced back to his best form after a puzzling loss of pace in Russia, said his first lap had been "very, very good, but the last lap was only so-so... But I am super proud that we are back up there."

The Briton produced a best lap of 1min 19.149sec to stay ahead of Vettel by the narrowest of margins. Vettel clocked 1:19.200 and had required a rapid engine change shortly before the session began.

  • SPANISH GRAND PRIX GRID

  • 1ST ROW
    1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
    2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

  • 2ND ROW
    3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
    4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari

  • 3RD ROW
    5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
    6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull

  • 4TH ROW
    7 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
    8 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India

  • 5TH ROW
    9 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
    10 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India

  • 6TH ROW
    11 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas
    12 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) Toro Rosso

  • 7TH ROW
    13 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault
    14 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas

  • 8TH ROW
    15 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber
    16 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber

  • 9TH ROW
    17 Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault
    18 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams

  • 10TH ROW
    19 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren
    20 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso

    REUTERS

It was the 64th pole of Hamilton's career, lifting him to within one of his childhood hero Brazilian Ayrton Senna, on 65, and four from German seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher who holds the record of 68.

Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas, a first-time winner in Russia two weeks ago, qualified in third, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen fourth.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who became Formula One's youngest winner in Spain last year after Hamilton and then team-mate and 2016 champion Nico Rosberg collided at the start, will start Sunday's race in fifth place for Red Bull.

Vettel, who leads Hamilton in the championship by 13 points after four races, had an engine change between final practice and qualifying with mechanics finishing off the job with only minutes to spare.

He then had a big scare during the opening session when it looked momentarily as if his afternoon was already over.

"Stop the car, stop the car now," he was told over the team radio.

The 2011 Spanish GP winner hesitated, however. "Seems better now," he said and carried on.

"Okay, box, Sebastian, box," he was told. "Okay, you can push," came the eventual radio message from the pit wall as he set the fastest lap of the session before Hamilton and Raikkonen went quicker.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, whose McLaren broke down in first practice and was slowest overall on Friday, enjoyed a miraculous transformation - and delighted his home crowd - by qualifying in an astonishing seventh.

For the Spaniard, who is heading to the Indianapolis 500 instead of Monaco later this month, it was a personal triumph four years after his last victory, with Ferrari in Spain, in 2013.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Red Bull, with Mexican Sergio Perez eighth in a Force India. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SPANISH GRAND PRIX

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'Hamilton takes Barcelona pole for 2nd year running'. Print Edition | Subscribe