Hamilton’s delivers one of his best laps to snatch pole from Maldonado in Spain

Lewis Hamilton at Spanish GP

Lewis Hamilton powered to pole position in Barcelona

Note: Story below has been superseded by Hamilton stripped of pole position will start from back of grid

May 12 (GP247) Lewis Hamilton powered to McLaren’s 150th pole position when he stormed to top spot on the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, in a session full of surprises which saw Williams’ Pastor Maldonado claim his best ever grid position, with second and local hero Fernando Alonso prompting the biggest cheer of the day with the third fastest time in the revamped Ferrari F2012.

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams celebrate in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday 12 May 2012.

Qualifying top three (L to R) Fernando Alonso (third), pole winner Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado (second)

For Hamilton his 21st career pole position was also one of his sweetest, the time of 1 minute 21.707 was set with a fresh set of Pirelli softs bolted on for his last run of the afternoon – and in the end it was over half a second quicker than the next best, which in current F1 is an age – the next five were covered by a tad over 1 quarter  of a second!

“It was one of the best qualifyings I’ve ever had. I stopped on the track, I was told to stop. I have no idea why. It’s a great day for the team. Jenson has great strength in the race so I have no doubt he will make his way up,” said Hamilton.

The 2008 world champion will be looking to win his first Spanish Grand Prix and add to his 17 F1 career wins.

For Maldonado it was a career defining moment, as he has successfully shaken off the ‘pay driver’ tag that haunted him in his first year in F1. His evolution into a strong competitor, deserving respect is complete.

He said afterwards, “We have been working so hard trying to understand these tyres and to develop our car around these tyres, we did a very good step forward for this race. There is a great atmosphere in the factory and team. The car looks fantastic especially in terms of race pace.”

Pastor Maldonado will start from second on the grid

Pastor Maldonado will start from second on the grid

It was also a timely 70th birthday present for team principal Frank Williams who was in his team’s pit garage in Barcelona to witness Maldonado’s feat.

The pressure on Ferrari to perform has been huge and Alonso showed why he is regarded as one of the best drivers of his generation as he muscled the cumbersome Ferrari F2012 to third on the grid in front of his adoring home crowd. The Spaniard continues to be a crucial galvanising factor in the Maranello camp with performances which surprise even himself.

“For us, it was impossible to dream about being in the top three in the first four races, so it is definitely a step forward. We did a step forward, I don’t know how much because I think P3 is over-performing. I was really happy with the lap, it was perfect, I could fit 100 more sets of tyres and not do better,” admitted Alonso.

The Lotus pair have looked strong all weekend, make that all year, and this time around Romain Grosjean ended the session fourth fastest, with Kimi Raikkonen set to head up the third row of the grid in fifth.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 waves to the crowd. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday 12 May 2012.

Fernando Alonso waves to his fans after qualifying third for his home grand prix

The team would probably have been hoping for a better grid position, considering their pace in practice, they will nevertheless be strong podium contenders as their race pace is at the top end of the spectrum.

Grosjean said at the end of the session, “It was a good performance from the team, especially as I didn’t run in FP3 because of a fuel pressure problem. For the set-up we went from what we’d found out yesterday and it worked pretty well. Everyone did a good job to get the car ready for qualifying after the problems of the morning. We can be happy with what we have achieved.”

Raikkonen commented, “I think we had a good chance to finish in the top three but we had a problem with the set-up. We’ll see how it goes in the race. There are a lot of small details which will decide who is on the top but we have a good car.”

Sauber have looked strong all weekend and both Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez made it into Q3, but Kobayashi’s C31 came to halt on his slow down lap at the end of Q2 and his qualifying session was over.

Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E20. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday 12 May 2012.

Romain Grosjean will start fourth on the grid

Kobayashi, who will start tenth, lamented, “I had an oil leak, which is really a shame. I had to stop and I did not drive in Q3. I had a good chance to qualify in the top five but we are confident on our long run in the race.”

Perez ended sixth fastest, “It was quite good, better than expected. The field is so close . It will be an interesting race. Today was more than we expected so hopefully tomorrow we can have another good surprise.”

Last of the top ten who gave a stab at a qualifying lap was Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes, who will start from eighth on the grid, with his team mate Michael Schumacher set to start directly behind him in ninth spot on the grid.

Splitting the Silver Arrows duo will be championship points leader Sebastian Vettel. Much was expected from the world champion Red Bull team after their impressive showing in the morning’s free practice session, but Vettel and Mark Webber will start further down the grid than they have in quite some time.

In Q3 Vettel’s first lap was slow on purpose, then he had a a half hearted stab at a fast lap which he aborted before crossing the line, while Webber failed to make it beyond Q2 and will start from twelfth.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31. Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday 11 May 2012.

Sergio Perez was sixth fastest

Vettel explained, “There is nothing is wrong. We decided to abort the lap to have a free choice of tyres for the race. If I had set a lap, we would have to start the race on soft tyres. In Q2, the first run was crucial. I didn’t manage to pull a lap out so I had to use my final set of tyres to get into Q3. We simply weren’t quick enough. We’ll see how it goes for tomorrow. We were a bit surprised how much of a step the others could do. But I’m quite confident for race, we always have a good race car. We have a couple of new sets which has proved successful for others in previous races this year.”

Webber alluded to a case of over confidence in the Red Bull garage, “The first lap in Q2 was very competitive but it lulled us into a false sense of security so we parked up the car. The times kept coming and I realised that it was going to be tight with about 50 seconds to go but it was too late by then, you are committed to a strategy.”

In a quirky twist of fate the teammates of the top trio were comparatively way down the order:  Jenson Button failing to make it into Q2 and will start 11th; Bruno Senna spun out in Q1 during his flying lap and will start 18th and Felipe Massa will start 17th after failing yet again (five times this year) to progress beyond Q2.

Button, whose pace setting car from a day earlier, was simply not the same machine on qualifying, tried to explain, “I don’t know where it went wrong. All day I’ve struggled with balance. We were quickest on the soft tyre yesterday. I thought we would be reasonably competitive and at least get into Q3 but that’s not the case. I haven’t changed that much but struggled with the balance. I don’t know why. That final run, I had a lot understeer. We’re out in Q2 and it doesn’t help because we don’t have any option tyres left [for the race].”

Senna told reporters afterwards, “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time during the session. I was stuck behind Felipe Massa on a slow out lap and Kimi Raikkonnen was on a flying lap behind. It was not great, not terrible up till then and then I pushed a little too hard on the last part of that part of the lap and the tyres just gave out.”

Massa blamed traffic for his below par showing, “I took a lot of traffic on my timed lap. I had to change completely the direction on track and I lost three of four tenths.”

Thus the scene is set for Hamilton to win his first ever Spanish Grand Prix and in the process become the fifth winner in the first five races of this season. The Englishman has history on his side as nine of the last 10 Spanish Grands Prix have been won from pole position.

But at the truth is this is the most unpredictable seasons of all time, thus expect a surprise…

Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying – Saturday, 12 May 2012

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.583 1:22.465 1:21.707 17
2 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:23.380 1:22.105 1:22.285 14
3 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:23.276 1:22.862 1:22.302 15
4 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:23.248 1:22.667 1:22.424 14
5 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:23.406 1:22.856 1:22.487 13
6 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.261 1:22.773 1:22.533 14
7 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.370 1:22.882 1:23.005 17
8 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:23.850 1:22.884 no time 14
9 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:23.757 1:22.904 no time 15
10 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:23.386 1:22.897 no time 14
11 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.510 1:22.944 13
12 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:23.592 1:22.977 8
13 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:23.852 1:23.125 14
14 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:23.720 1:23.177 13
15 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:24.362 1:23.265 11
16 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:23.906 1:23.442 11
17 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:23.886 1:23.444 12
18 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:24.981 8
19 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:25.277 8
20 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:25.507 8
21 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:26.582 8
22 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.032 8
23 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:27.555 6
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:31.122 4
Q1 107% Time 1:28.363
  • McHare

    Hamilton on a different planet to others and what about Maldonado? Where I’d that come from. Puts Senna’s lap into perspective. Can’t believe how split the team mates are throughout the grid. Was there a day in dry weather when team mates have been so split?

  • Colin

    Great to see the return of Williams. 70th birthday present for Frank but I want to see this repeated and a first win for them this year. Must be possible now. Go Williams!

  • Psych4191

    Senna was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Williams has been strong all weekend (See Bottas going P5 in FP1). Not like Maldonado’s result was unexpected.

  • McHare

    Psych4191. Senna in the wrong place at the wrong time? In the Williams wih a fast team mate maybe.

  • Psych4191

    You are clueless, McHare. Maldonado isn’t fast – He’s reckless. He qualifies well but come time to race he’s nowhere to be found. Bruno has 10 more points than Pastor, Rubens had him beat 4 to 1.

  • Speedo

    Psych1491 – for your information in FP3 Maldonado came in second while Senna was way down in 14th position. Give this guy his due and do not take away from his performance. Senna made a mistake and it was his own doing

  • Psych4191

    Speedo, Who gives a crap about practice times? For all we know Willliams could be doing what Ferrari does, Alonso takes lower fuel, Massa takes higher fuel. Given the fact that Senna’s given up FP1 to Valtteri (who’s beaten Pastor everywhere but Bahrain) shows even more proof that Senna was most likely still making runs with higher fuel (he’s the number two driver due to money).

    I’ll give Pastor his due when he deserves it. Not after Qualifying, but after a race. If he can follow this up with a result, then fine. Until then – he’s nothing more than a driver. Not a racer.

  • Matthias O’keeffe

    Who would have thought that the Williams team would be 2nd row of the grid? Great job, and lucky you changed to Renault engines.. Congratz, and hope Pastor will win the race..

    And i also hope that Michael will not have the tyre degradation problem in spain as well.. He deserve to be in the top 3. Hope he will be on the podium tomorrow.

  • McHare

    Let’s see how they get on tomorrow eh Psych. But I bet you a free derogatory comment that Pastor finishes ahead of Bruno.

  • Ankit

    Hamilton loses pole position because he was running on really low fuel, and he has to start from the back of the grid! hahahahaha. THIS IS SWEEEEEEEET!