Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix with a fourth successive win and the overall 2014 Formula 1 world championship lead beckoning on Sunday.
Team mate Nico Rosberg, who is four points clear of Hamilton but has finished runner-up in the last three races, qualified second with Australian Daniel Ricciardo starting third for champions Red Bull.
Hamilton, celebrating his fourth pole of the season and the 35th of his career with a time 0.168 seconds quicker than the German, will wrest the overall lead from Rosberg if he wins for his first time at the Circuit de Catalunya.
“It’s been a tough day. Nico has been driving really well through P3 and Qualifying, so I didn’t know if I could get it. At the end, I had to eek out everything and more from the car,” said Hamilton, who had been slower than Rosberg in Final Practice.
“Coming here this weekend, I didn’t know where everyone would be. But I see the development and work that has gone on to get the car ready and it inspires me. A big thank you to the team. To have the kind of performance we have, I have never really known that before. I’m overwhelmed, so happy,” added the 2008 champion, whose dominant team have taken every pole and won all four races so far this year.”
Rosberg summed up his afternoon, “Very disappointing, yes. I don’t particularly enjoy coming second to Lewis. In the end it was a good lap. Lewis just did a better job. It’s still all to play for tomorrow. Second is only a little away from optimum. All it takes is a good start tomorrow and I’m in the lead again and it’s still all to play for.”
Ricciardo, who will head up row two, said afterwards, “I think we did OK today but it’s not quite good enough. We’re a second off – I expected a closer gap than that. We’ve made improvements this weekend but so have Mercedes. We’re a clear third today and that’s not bad but we want to be closer to the top two.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, winner in front of his home fans last year, qualified seventh and behind team mate Kimi Raikkonen in sixth.
Alonso is not expecting a repeat of his triumph 12 months ago, “It will be a tough race – we have been fighting all weekend. We have low grip, but it has been the same for everyone. We didn’t manage to get some comfort in the car. Starting from seventh is not easy but hopefully tomorrow we can recover some places.”
“The rear end we have made four, five or six set-up changes this weekend and we need to be in a position to have a solid rear end and get the confidence back,” added the Spaniard.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas starts fourth for Williams, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean fifth for Lotus.
Bottas said, “It feels really nice, it was quite a tough weekend until Qualifying. We made some big set up changes for Quali, and it really made a big difference. I had much more confidence in the car. I’m happy with P4. Here it’s difficult to overtake, so I’m looking forward to it. Mercedes are unbeatable, Red Bull look quick but after that it should be a good race.”
Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel will line up in 10th place on the grid after stopping on track in the final phase of the session.
Vettel has switched to a different chassis for the start of the European season after a difficult opening four races in Asia and the Middle East but his luck has, if anything, taken a turn for the worse.
He managed only four laps in Friday practice before being sidelined by an electrical problem and on Saturday the gremlins returned at a crucial point.
“I left the garage and lost second gear,” he said. “It was clear there was a problem but I still had third gear and above so I thought I’d try without second gear. But by Turn One, I’d lost all the other gears,” said the 26-year-old, who has been overshadowed by new team mate Ricciardo.
“It was a tricky day today, the track is very slippery out there. It’s very close after Mercedes, I think I needed more and more laps. I was getting in a rhythm and I thought I could be shooting for P3. I think we have that in the car, but [we] never got that far,” mused the German.
McLaren, without a point from the last two races, also had problems with Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen unable to set a lap time in the second phase due to a power unit problem and qualifying 15th. Team mate Jenson Button will start eighth.
Qualifying was twice red flagged, the second stoppage triggered by Vettel’s failure and the first coming right at the start when Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado speared his Lotus into the wall.
Maldonado will be at the back of the grid, along with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne who has a 10 place penalty after an unsafe release from the pits on Friday. (GP247-Reuters)
Subbed by AJN.
Report in progress…Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying at Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya – Saturday, 10 May 2014
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:28.053||1:26.613||1:26.285||16|
|10||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:27.958||1:27.052||11|
|11||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.155||1:27.685||13|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.469||1:28.002||16|
|22||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||No time||2|
|Q1 107% Time||1:32.837|