Hamilton captures first career pole in Montreal

Given his torrid start to his rookie campaign in Formula One, it was only a matter of time before Lewis Hamilton would score his first pole position. With a time of 1 minute, 15.707, Hamilton beat teammate Fernando Alonso by a full four and a half...

Given his torrid start to his rookie campaign in Formula One, it was only a matter of time before Lewis Hamilton would score his first pole position. With a time of 1 minute, 15.707, Hamilton beat teammate Fernando Alonso by a full four and a half tenths, becoming the first driver to score his first pole at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Alas, Alonso's win from pole last year was the first at the circuit since 2000, a statistic that doesn't bode well for Hamilton. But given McLaren's pace and Hamilton's run of unprecedented success to begin his F1 career, you could just as easily throw logic out the window. The kid is good as everyone knows and will win sooner rather than later.

When Hamilton emerged from the car in the post-qualifying press conference, it was almost as if he had just exited a candy store, with his infectious smile stretching across the room. "It's been a fantastic day and weekend," Hamilton said. "As you can tell, we have the pace on everyone else. But it's not easy with a two-time champion tracking you down!"

Despite this being his first time to Montreal, Hamilton has learned the circuit quickly and maximized the potential of his car. "It took a while to learn, as it is quite demanding physically and mentally, and very technical," he commented. "It was a very neat lap, and you come up to the last corner and think, 'Shoot, don't mess it up.' I went quicker than I've ever been, and nearly hit the wall on exit. But it was fantastic when the team told me I was P1."

Hamilton's run to pole was not without incident. Q1 kicked off with a flurry of activity and off-course excursions, usually David Coulthard at the Senna esses to kick off the circuit. Heikki Kovalainen's disastrous weekend continued as he smacked the barrier off turns three and four, losing his rear wing. Perhaps it was an attempt to bypass FIA regulations and try an innovative low-downforce setup, since nothing else was working for the Finn.

Nonetheless, Kovalainen should be buying his crew a round of drinks later on this evening after they put his wrecked car together in six and a half minutes enough for him to make an attempt to advance to Q2. It came up short and he will start shotgun on the field anyway, following a massive engine detonation that shortened the morning's practice session and suffering a ten-spot grid penalty.

Q1 also saw the demise of Anthony Davidson, the underperforming Ralf Schumacher, Alex Wurz and the Spyker pairing. While Schumacher blamed traffic for failing to advance, Wurz did what all drivers should and owned up to it. "It's the driver falling short, as I just didn't get the lap," Wurz quipped. "The machine was better than the driver today." Wurz may start 19th tomorrow but at least he earns points for honesty, if not for results.

Interesting to note Kimi Raikkonen was quickest in Q1, at a time of 1:16.468, just edging Alonso and Hamilton. It was the first time the presumptive pre-season championship favorite has topped any session since Melbourne.

Q2 as usual saw the fastest lap times, Hamilton doing best at a 1:15.486, the quickest lap of the weekend. Nick Heidfeld had an interesting session as his fastest time was deleted by the stewards, dropping the German to 16th. But he made up for it in a big way by posting a 1:15.960 as the gun expired, third in the session and enough to advance to Q3. Takuma Sato, Coulthard, the two Hondas and Toro Rossos were eliminated after Q2. Once again it was Sato in his Super Aguri quickest of the four-car Honda brigade.

Q3 saw the drivers burning off fuel the first half of the 15-minute session and then the times came down. Mark Webber was first to drop the hammer, at a 1:17.261, but within moments was down to 7th as the McLarens, Ferraris, and Nico Rosberg's Williams all went quicker. Alonso had provisional pole with a time of 1:16.163 ahead of Hamilton and Raikkonen.

Following tire changes, Hamilton set the standard with his eventual pole lap, then waited as Raikkonen, Heidfeld and Felipe Massa all fell short. Alonso was all that stood in the way, and after having a tenth or so up through two sectors, it all fell apart on the final chicane.

He wiggled a bit into the corner, losing valuable time, and seemingly limped the car to the finish line, almost as if he was out of fuel. "I went off line, put marbles in the tires and lost three tenths," Alonso noted. "I just completed the lap safe enough. Tomorrow we have a chance to win the race as we have been developing the car. Definitely it has improved from the first two-three races."

Heidfeld put in another quick lap towards the end of the session, a 1:16.266, to take 3rd spot on the grid ahead of the two Ferraris. "I'm very satisfied, especially as I lost a lot of time in P3," the German said. "I only had one lap, then I had a hydraulics problem. We could only hope we would be strong here. This proves we are, and Indy is similar in terms of downforce."

Raikkonen starts 4th and ahead of Massa for the first time since the season opener in Melbourne. Webber kept up his impressive pace this weekend, edging Nico Rosberg by only a few thousandths for 6th on the grid. Robert Kubica in the second BMW and a pair of Italians, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli, complete the top ten. Look for Fisi to have a good race tomorrow as he traditionally has done very well in Canada.

The race may not be as straightforward as Monaco. No doubt Hamilton is hungry for his first win and is in a prime position to get it. But Canada does throw up a surprise every now or then, particularly with safety car periods, and strategy will likely be key to victory. The championship battle will also be interesting to watch, as the Ferraris will be keen to get around Heidfeld and go after the McLarens. But the silver cars appear to be the ones to beat on Sunday.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Anthony Davidson , Fernando Alonso , Alexander Wurz , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Gilles Villeneuve , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams