Spanish GP Qualifying – Hamilton pips flying Maldonado

May 12, 2012 8:32 pm

(L-R) Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado

Lewis Hamilton took his third pole position of the 2012 Formula One season today at the Circuit De Catalunya in Spain.

The real story of qualifying, however, was that of Venezuelan hero Pastor Maldonado who pushed Hamilton all the way to snatch 2nd on the grid.

After Friday’s free practice things looked increasingly unpredictable as hometown hero Fernando Alonso and then Mclaren driver Jenson Button took their turns at topping the timesheets. On Saturday morning reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel blitzed the track to stake his claim to be fastest man of the weekend. Overnight Mclaren took the inexplicable decision to replace the braking system from Jenson Button’s car after using him as a guinea pig during Friday for testing new Hitco brakes. Although the Englishman was fastest of the day in the afternoon his car was modified for Saturday as he was forced to turn to the Carbon Industries variant usually favoured by team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton put his setup to good use, rarely looking in doubt for the pole position throughout the qualifying hour. The usual suspects fell during the first twenty minute session, but Frenchman Charles Pic provided a surprise by out-qualifying Grand Prix winner Heikki Kovalainen and his somewhat illustrious team-mate Timo Glock, himself a previous

Lewis Hamilton took his 3rd pole of 2012

podium winner in the sport. Bruno Senna, nephew of the legendary Ayrton blotted his copybook in this session by spinning his Williams to a halt on the outside of turn 12 by grabbing too much kerb on the entry, pitching the already apparently unstable car into a fatal spin. His chances ended there and then as he became the first big-name victim of the day.

Into the second crucial part of qualifying BBC analyst and ex-Grand Prix driver Jaime Alguersuari had expressed concerns for Jenson Button as the 2009 World Champion was still attempting to find a correct setup for his Mclaren following his change of brakes, and sure enough the Briton sat precariously close to the drop-zone at the midpoint in the session, complaining of ‘massive understeer.’

Pastor Maldonado meanwhile had no such problems as he usurped Lewis Hamilton from the top of the timesheets with a lightning quick lap that really marked him out as a serious threat to the Englishman as the afternoon unfolded. Felipe Massa on the other hand continued to slide into oblivion as he struggled round with his Ferrari to line up 17th, bitterly disappointed with yet another lacklustre day. His future at the illustrious Italian team looks increasingly untenable, as he failed to even out-qualify Ferrari customer team Toro Rosso, whose two young chargers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne qualified 15th and 16th, themselves not satisfied with their efforts. Scot Paul Di Resta once again beat his German team-mate Nico Hulkenberg to start 13th, but the two greatest victims to fall by far were the struggling Button and Australian Mark Webber who was denied a second potentially faster laptime by his Red Bull team. Misreading the situation, they elected to keep the under the weather Aussie in the pits as the clock ran down, eventually paying the price as he dropped out of contention whilst those on the track grabbed faster laptimes.

Mark Webber is suffering from a cold - 12th on the grid won't improve his health.

In the final shootout for pole position, Kamui Kobayashi was unable to set a time as his car broke down at the end of qualifying two. Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel chose not to set a laptime and thus save tyres for the race tomorrow in the hope this will grant them a strategical advantage. Nico Rosberg, winner in Shanghai, was unable to even match the pace of Mexican hero Sergio Perez who slotted into 6th in his Sauber, behind the somewhat disappointed Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. In the final seconds of qualifying the indomitable Fernando Alonso took provisional pole to the delight of his loyal Spanish fans, only to be beaten seconds later by the flying Pastor Maldonado. His turn was itself short-lived as Lewis Hamilton blew the opposition away with a lap of 1:21:707, almost half a second quicker than Maldonado.

Nevertheless, 2nd was a huge reward for the somewhat unlucky Maldonado who claimed the first front-row start for a Renault powered Williams since 1997, a special birthday present for team patriarch Sir Frank Williams on his 70th birthday. Hamilton ground to a halt on his inlap, with what team sources have called a ‘technical problem’. Should the defective component, whatever it may be need replacing he could face a grid penalty ahead of the race tomorrow but as of yet this is unclear.

‘I feel fantastic.’ Hamilton said speaking to the BBC after qualifying. ‘You can always be happy with pole but you’re always looking for that perfect lap, and I really felt I got everything out of the car. Everything was really sweet, I didn’t miss any apexes and that’s an incredible experience, but tomorrow is going to be a tough race. It’s going to be about looking after your tyres and getting the right pit stops and being patient.’

Can he do that and become the 5th different winner of 2012? We will know this time tomorrow afternoon.

Anthony French


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