Hamilton nets Valencia pole with new McLaren

With a new chassis at his disposal, Hungary GP winner Lewis Hamilton on Saturday netted his first pole of the 2009 season, while his McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen completed a front row lock-out for the resurgent British outfit. "The...

With a new chassis at his disposal, Hungary GP winner Lewis Hamilton on Saturday netted his first pole of the 2009 season, while his McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen completed a front row lock-out for the resurgent British outfit.

"The McLarens were very quick and impossible to catch," said championship leader Jenson Button, just fifth and two places behind his Brawn teammate Rubens Barrichello after qualifying at Valencia.

Kovalainen, in more of a Budapest-spec McLaren, actually should have had pole but he made a mistake on the final corner in Q3, leaving McLaren patting themselves on the back for deciding to go with a new shorter-wheelbase version of the MP4-24 in Hamilton's hands.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said the new car is really designed for higher speed circuits like Spa and Monza. "We are still pushing hard on this year's car," he confirmed.

It was a less impressive day for title chasers Red Bull, but boss Christian Horner said they were not expecting to have a stellar weekend on the stop-start Spanish streets.

"This (track) should play to their (Brawn's) strengths. So we think if we can hang on to them and potentially beat them here, then we are looking in really strong shape," he told the BBC.

Sebastian Vettel is fourth on the grid after a morning engine failure, meaning the German is now using his sixth out of a maximum allocation of eight Renault V8s for the 2009 season.

His teammate Mark Webber, second in the championship behind Button, qualified a lowly ninth, in the midst of a bad weekend for the Australian.

Horner said Webber "has not been too happy" at Valencia, and when asked if he likes this urban layout, the 32-year-old driver answered plainly: "No."

None fared worse than Luca Badoer, however, who had F1 statisticians in overdrive to determine if a Ferrari has ever been qualified dead last on the grid on merit.

Felipe Massa's Italian replacement was nearly 3 seconds slower than the sister car of Kimi Raikkonen, and 1.5 seconds off the pace of the nearest car, driven by teenage newcomer Jaime Alguersuari.

Debutant Romain Grosjean did a much better job in axed Nelson Piquet's place, as he looked only a couple of tenths off Renault teammate Fernando Alonso as he sped into the Q2 session.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Luca Badoer , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Kimi Raikkonen , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Nelson Piquet , Heikki Kovalainen , Sebastian Vettel , Romain Grosjean , Jaime Alguersuari , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Ferrari , McLaren