BARCELONA • Lewis Hamilton was delighted after smashing the Circuit de Catalunya circuit record yesterday en route to taking pole for today's Spanish Grand Prix.
The Briton secured a front-row lockout for Mercedes, pipping his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who ended in second, to pole by just 0.040sec.
Qualifying is of particular importance at Barcelona as all but three of the last 17 grands prix have been won by drivers starting from pole.
"It was very close in qualifying but very happy," the world champion said.
"I needed this pole, I've not had one for a while."
Ferrari had looked strong but could not quite match their rivals, with Sebastian Vettel in third and Kimi Raikkonen in fourth.
SPANISH GP GRID
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
7 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas
9 Carlos Sainz (Esp) Renault
10 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were in fifth and sixth respectively.
Hamilton had been desperate for a return to form over the single lap and with his Mercedes finally performing as expected and required, he managed it superbly.
When it mattered in Q3, he set a blistering lap on his first run and with the pressure on, the 33-year-old promptly improved it, taking pole with a time of 1min 16.173sec.
He needed to perform at his best, and was pushed to the line by Finland's Bottas. Ferrari, who had been very strong in qualifying with Vettel finishing on pole for the past three races, could not quite find the improvement they needed in Q3, but the German did well to be within one-tenth of a second of Hamilton.
And the 30-year-old intends to push Hamilton all the way in today's race.
"Hats off to Mercedes (for the pole) but tomorrow will be a close race," he said.
This was Hamilton's second pole of the season, having taken the top spot at the season-opener in Australia in March.
His 74th career pole is also a return to competitive form just when he needed it, having been outpaced over the single lap at Bahrain and China by his team-mate Bottas, and by Vettel in the last three races.
Hamilton's fourth pole in Spain - his third straight - confirms that his Mercedes car is a strong package when it can put the tyres in the right operating window, but the Briton said he was taking nothing for granted with the chasing pack behind him.
"It took everything to get this result," he added. "Valtteri has been driving exceptionally well. It will be a tough race."
While Hamilton has only a narrow four-point lead over Vettel, he will be buoyed by how his team have the car performing as needed at the opening of the European season, and Mercedes certainly look to have found the sweet spot in Barcelona.
F1 SPANISH GP
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