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Hamilton reaches milestone with F1 Spanish GP pole position but Vettel splits Mercedes

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Hamilton reaches milestone with F1 Spanish GP pole position but Vettel splits Mercedes
May 13, 2017, 2:53 PM

Lewis Hamilton earned the 250th pole position for a British driver in Formula 1 but Sebastian Vettel split the two Mercedes, denying them a fifth c...

Lewis Hamilton earned the 250th pole position for a British driver in Formula 1 but Sebastian Vettel split the two Mercedes, denying them a fifth consecutive qualifying one-two.

It was Hamilton's third pole of the season and in Spain and his 64th career pole, meaning the next one puts him level with Ayrton Senna. The margin was tight, just 5/100ths of a second between the Mercedes and the Ferrari despite all the upgrades brought to both cars.

The star performer however, was Fernando Alonso, who was playing tennis during FP1 after another engine failure, but who managed to qualify in 7th place, despite the Honda powered McLaren being 12km/h slower on the straights than Esteban Ocon's Force India, which he beat!

Russian GP winner Valtteri Bottas went for two flying laps, his first affected by a mistake on the final corner as he ran wide on the outlap; the second putting him 0.224 seconds behind Hamilton for third.

“Amazing job by the team. So proud that we can finally get back there with a better weekend so far. The first Q3 lap was very, very good...the last lap was so-so,” said Hamilton, who has been top of all sessions this weekend apart from FP3.

Vettel felt that he could have had pole, but for a mistake in the final corner. Ferrari couldn't build on its one-two in FP3, a session this morning in which Kimi Raikkonen (fourth for the race) went fastest with a lap of 1m20.214s, 0.242s ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel's SF70H sprung a water leak with 10 minutes remaining of practice and a new power unit, his third of the season, was installed before Q1.

Early in Q1 his engineer told him to switch the engine off urgently, but he questioned the call and his caution proved correct, as the programming programme resolved itself and he was able to continue with the session. A less experienced driver might have switched it off and lost everything. Vettel was full of praise for the mechanics, getting his car ready in a hurry, with Raikkonen's mechanics helping out Vettel's in a true team effort.

“They did an engine change sub-two hours. It's a miracle that they got me out. It would've been nice to get them the pole,” said Vettel.

When asked if Mercedes' high-profile upgrades for Spain had be matched, Vettel replied, “We have [upgrades] as well. Maybe less 'bling' than theirs!

"Some things you can see, some things you can't see.”

Trouble wasn't reserved exclusively for the Ferrari frontrunner with Russian GP winner Valtteri Bottas suffering electrical problems, having managed just seven laps in FP3 this morning.

The pair of Red Bulls somewhat closed the gap on the leaders, but Max Verstappen (fifth) was still more than half a second off pole – team-mate Daniel Ricciardo nearly another half-second slower.

Most importantly for the home fans, Fernando Alonso reached Q3 for the first time this season and will start seventh on the grid for McLaren. Yesterday, he retired to his hotel for a game of tennis after FP1's engine failure.

His time of 1m21.048s was enough to beat Force India's Sergio Perez (eighth) by 0.022s and Felipe Massa and Esteban Ocon, ninth and tenth respectively.

“Running in the ovals, maybe I learned how to go quicker on the straights as well. P7 is a gift, and we'll see what we can do tomorrow from here.

“Everything went perfect today. Yesterday we had the potential and we saw the potential but we had strange sessions.

“Conditions are quite tricky, quite windy here but my car gave me the confidence I needed to push.

“To be P7, to be...around the grid, around the cars we should be fighting [against] for top positions will be a nice boost for the boys,” said a markedly more positive Alonso.

Williams' Massa struggled in 14th place after Q1 but recovered to ninth.

Early on he said, "I'm struggling a lot to make the tyres work, very tricky. It's fortunate [being in Q2] because it was pretty difficult."

His team-mate, Lance Stroll, qualified 18th but more surprisingly, Renault's Jolyon Palmer couldn't build on his eighth-place FP2 finish, also failing to make it to Q2. Neither Renault made it to Q3 after a strong start to the weekend - Nico Hulkenberg will now start 13th.

Both Saubers made it to Q2, but no further. Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson qualified 15th and 16th, respectively.

“Our car wasn't drivable today. Something is wrong with it 100%,” said Daniil Kvyat, who will start from the very back for Sunday's race behind McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne.

Prospects for the Race

The soft tyre is two seconds a lap faster than the medium, so the key is to spend as long as possible on the faster tyre in the race. It's likely the medium will be used only for the last 20 laps or so.

There are different ways to do the race, with three stops the fastest, but that requires an overtake on a two stopping car in the final stint, which could be tough. The key to it will be the final corner.

We have seen cars struggle to exit it behind another and mount an attack - think Raikkonen on Verstappen last year in the closing stages - but with these higher downforce cars, some can follow out of that corner more effectively, among them the Ferrari. So an overtake, with DRS, could be more feasible.

But the Mercedes long run pace looked strong and their degradation on the soft tyre was low, so they are in a strong position. But Vettel may try an undercut at the pit stop if he is behind in the opening stint and may throw in a three stop plan to try to draw Mercedes into a race they don't want to have.

There is likely to be a train formed behind Alonso, which will make the midfield race very tricky and will also open a gap for the front runners to pit into, making their lives easier and increasing the options.

Ocon had very low soft tyre degradation in the long runs and so is a good prospect for a strong result, but getting clear of the Alonso train will be key.

Have your say in the comment section below or on JA on F1's Facebook Page.

Spanish Grand Prix, Grid:

POSITION

DRIVER

CAR

TIME

GAP

1

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes

1m19.149s

-

2

Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari

1m19.200s

0.051s

3

Valtteri Bottas

Mercedes

1m19.373s

0.224s

4

Kimi Raikkonen

Ferrari

1m19.439s

0.290s

5

Max Verstappen

Red Bull

1m19.706s

0.557s

6

Daniel Ricciardo

Red Bull

1m20.175s

1.026s

7

Fernando Alonso

McLaren

1m21.048s

1.899s

8

Sergio Perez

Force India

1m21.070s

1.921s

9

Felipe Massa

Williams

1m21.232s

2.083s

10

Esteban Ocon

Force India

1m21.272s

2.123s

11

Kevin Magnussen

Haas

1m21.329s

2.180s

12

Carlos Sainz

Toro Rosso

1m21.371s

2.222s

13

Nico Hulkenberg

Renault

1m21.397s

2.248s

14

Romain Grosjean

Haas

1m21.517s

2.368s

15

Pascal Wehrlein

Sauber

1m21.803s

2.654s

16

Marcus Ericsson

Sauber

1m22.332s

3.183s

17

Jolyon Palmer

Renault

1m22.401s

3.252s

18

Lance Stroll

Williams

1m22.411s

3.262s

19

Stoffel Vandoorne

McLaren

1m22.532s

3.383s

20

Daniil Kvyat

Toro Rosso

1m22.746s

3.597s

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