Hamilton wins, then loses, pole for Spanish GP
UPDATE: Hamilton has lost pole position and will start dead last on Sunday (See Hot News). Pastor Maldonado will therefore start the race from pole position with Fernando Alonso on the front row.
The surprise was the performance of Williams Renault driver Pastor Maldonado who slotted in 2nd to pip local hero Fernando Alonso's Ferrari off the front row in the final seconds.
The Lotus duo of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top-5.
Hamilton parked his car on the circuit on his cool-down lap. Hamilton looks set to keep his pole position in Spain, despite stopping on the track whilst returning from parc ferme at the end of qualifying.
The McLaren driver was told on the radio to park the car immediately due to a problem, but his engineer would not immediately explain the nature of the issue.
"I was told to stop. I have no idea why," the 2008 world champion told reporters in Barcelona.
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh told British television Sky that the problem is not engine or gearbox related, meaning that grid penalties will presumably not apply.
Whitmarsh however acknowledged that McLaren is yet to fully "understand" the problem. "It's a little bit of a worry," he admitted..
The Spanish GP has been won from pole almost every year except 2011 when Vettel won from 2nd.
Jenson Button will start Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix from 11th on the grid, having been left frustrated and confused as his car would not respond properly in qualifying. To rub salt into the wounds, McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton seized the team’s 150th pole position at his first at the Circuit de Catalunya.
When asked what caused his problem, Button told BBC Sport:
“I don’t know. All day I’ve struggled with the balance. Yesterday the car was fantastic, we were quickest on the Soft tire in second practice and I thought we’d be reasonably competitive and get into Q3. I’ve just been struggling with the balance, the car is very different I don’t know why that it.
“I had a lot of oversteer and then on that final run I had a lot of understeer, so I don’t know what’s going on with the car. So there you go; I’m out in Q2 and we don’t have any Option tires left. The speed with Lewis’ car is there but I don’t really know what’s going on with mine.”
Button will share Row 6 with Mark Webber, but the Red Bull driver has saved no less than four sets of new tires. Between them, the Englishman and Australian had collected the previous three F1 pole positions on offer in Barcelona.
Sebastian Vettel (8th, No Time): "A pretty different session today; it was extremely tight. From Q1 onwards we decided to go on the soft tires. The first run in Q2 wasn't good enough, so I had to go again and it was clear then that if we made it to Q3, we wouldn't have any new soft tires left. I think we got the maximum at the end there in Q3, we saved some sets of tires, which we thought going in to qualifying would be crucial, but we didn't have the pace of the top five cars today. Tires will be important tomorrow, so let's see what we can do."
Mark Webber (12th, 1:22.977): "I'm pretty surprised by that; the guys did a good job with the car and were pushing hard all weekend. We were quick, but the track kept getting faster and we got caught out. My first timed lap in Q2 wasn't fast enough. I was P2 after the first lap and we thought we had done enough, but in the end it wasn't. I didn't use two sets of tires in Q2, which it turns out wasn't the right thing to do. I was told not to go out again, but the way that the track improved was a surprise to all of us. We were very strong in the first part of Q2 and I was happy with how I drove my lap. It's the way it goes sometimes."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A difficult session, obviously everyone ended up having to use the soft tire in Q1. In Q2 we thought we had done enough with Mark, we knew it was going to be tight, but we thought the time was enough and were keen to take a new set of treys into Q3, but it didn't work out and we missed the cut with him. We knew we had to run again with Seb and he did just enough to make it into Q3, but he'd used all his sets of soft tires, at which point it became a game of tactics. Mercedes were in the same position as us with tires and were the only one we could potentially out qualify. We performed an out and in-lap to make sure we were the first to do that and then started a timed, but Seb was down compared to Rosberg - the only other scrubbed tire user - so we aborted the lap and will start in P8. We have four new sets of tires for Mark and three for Sebastian, which can be extremely valuable in the race."
Cyril Dumont, Renault: "It was disappointing today. With Mark, we thought he didn't need to run again in Q2, but unfortunately his time was not enough - we should have gone out again, which prevented him from going to Q3. With Seb, we used all the new soft tires in Q1 and Q2, so we only had scrubs left for Q3, which was not ideal. We decided to do an out and in-lap, so we can change the tires for tomorrow."
Lewis Hamilton (1st, 1:21.707):
Jenson Button (11th, 1:22.944):
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal:
Fernando Alonso (3rd, 1:22.302): "This third place is not what we had expected. We were counting on making a step forward that would allow us to get into Q3 with less difficulty than in the first races of the season and we managed it. But we certainly did not think we could be so high up the grid. I don't know if this position is a true reflection of our car's performance - it's definitely not normal for a Red Bull and a McLaren to be eliminated in Q2 and that the other Red Bull gets into Q3 with no sets of new Soft tire available - but what is certain is that the new parts we have brought here have resulted in us taking a step in the right direction: sure, it's not yet enough to fight for the very top places. It's a good basis to start from for this weekend, but the points come tomorrow. We will try and get a good start, especially as some of my main opponents in the title fight start behind us and we must try and make the most of that. Tire performance will be a critical factor: we will have to be careful, because the forecast is for different temperatures to today and that could throw up some surprises. Racing in front of this amazing crowd always gives me some extra motivation!"
Felipe Massa (17th, 1:23.444): "When qualifying is as close as this, it is vital to manage to have everything fall into place on a clean lap and I never got that chance. On my second run in Q2, I came across at least seven or eight cars that were preparing their tires for their timed lap and the time I lost definitely cost me dear. It's a real shame to start seventeenth in a race in which our car has shown it has made a step forward in terms of performance, as could be seen from Fernando's result. The new aerodynamic parts which we introduced on the F2012 seem to have worked well - we have a bit more aerodynamic downforce and a bit less drag - but we are well aware that there is still a lot to do. Tomorrow, on a track as hard as this one on the tires, strategy will be crucial: let's hope I can make it into the points."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "The session was very closely contested and packed with surprises. Finally this year, we managed to get to Q3 in a condition that meant we could show our worth, at least with one of the drivers. Fernando did a fantastic job from the first to the final lap of the session, constantly improving and, once again, getting all the potential out of the car. Felipe fought hard, but on his lap with new Soft tires in Q2, he had a lot of traffic and lost a few tenths that would have brought him close to tenth place. We had a lot of new parts on the F2012 and the aim was to make up at least part of the gap to the best in terms of pure performance. We have made a step forward, this is a fact. Tomorrow's race seems very hard to predict and tire performance will make the difference. The weather could also play an important role, given we have already seen that a few degrees more or less can change the cards on the table."
Pat Fry: "A good result with Fernando, who managed to qualify third, the best performance of the season. A shame for Felipe, who suffered because of traffic on his quick lap in Q2: right now, I cannot say if he would have made the cut out of Q2, but it definitely cost him some places. We brought various updates here, especially aerodynamic ones: some worked well, meeting our expectations, others less so: looking at this afternoon's result we can say we have made a step forward, but it's clear that there is still a lot of work to do to always be at the same level as the best. However, third place is a confidence boost and it is down to everyone who, these past weeks, back home and at the track, has worked hard to reach this objective. Now we must confirm this progress in the race as well. The forecast is for slightly lower temperatures tomorrow and that could have an effect on tire behavior. We have seen various choices in terms of tire management: now we will see who made the right choice."
Nico Rosberg (7th, 1:23.005): "That was a tricky Qualifying session this afternoon, and seventh position was about the most that we could have achieved. It was a challenge to find the right set-up for the tires and some of the others did that better than we did today. However with a good strategy tomorrow, we can hopefully gain some places. This has been a mixed up season so far and it's interesting to see that there are some new guys on the front row tomorrow."
Michael Schumacher (9th, No Time): "We wanted to save tires this afternoon, which dictated how we managed Q3. I did not complete a timed lap, and now I still have the choice of what tires to start on tomorrow. Equally, I thought it was better to start from ninth on the grid than eighth, and be on the clean side. It's clear that some teams have taken a step forward after the three-week break. And I would also say that the field is now even closer together. It's going to be a tight race tomorrow, although the forecast says it should be cooler, and it will be interesting to see if our choices today pay off at the end of the race."
Bob Bell: "We completed useful race preparation work this morning, showed some improvement and went into qualifying expecting an interesting session due to the desire to save tires for the race. The story of qualifying indeed turned out to be one of managing tire use, and it certainly delivered a unique session. From a team perspective, we got two cars into the top ten and both drivers will start from the cleaner side of the grid, while our positions were probably as good as we could have achieved with the way we chose to use the tires. Tomorrow's forecast is still for cooler temperatures, and with what we have seen both this weekend and this season so far, we know that a difference of several degrees in track temperature can make a huge difference to how different cars perform. We can expect a very interesting race."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "A qualifying dominated by tire saving which most of the teams did and we were no exception. Some sessions are tight, like Q2 when 0.048s separated P5 from P10, others are not, as Lewis' impressive qualifying time more than half a second ahead of P2 proved. Having said that, it is most likely that we will see changes in the top ten order from today at the end of the race tomorrow. Our target will be to score points with both cars posting consistent lap times as Nico did during his long run at the end of the final practice session this morning."
Romain Grosjean (4th, 1:22.424): "It was a good performance from the team, especially as I didn't run in FP3 because of a fuel pressure problem. For the set-up we went from what we'd found out yesterday and it worked pretty well. Everyone did a good job to get the car ready for qualifying after the problems of the morning. We can be happy with what we have achieved - of course you always want more but this is the result for today. I think that I could have been a little bit quicker, not too much more. Tomorrow is going to be long; our race pace did not look too bad but, of course, we'll have to manage tire degradation."
Kimi Raikkonen (5th, 1:22.487): "I think we had a chance to be in the top three but we've been fighting with the set-up quite a bit today. We changed the car for qualifying and actually it was the correct call in the end; it was just a few small mistakes which cost me some time on my Q3 lap. We'll see how it goes tomorrow in the race; the car has usually been better on Sunday than it has been on Saturday, so if that's the case tomorrow we'll be pretty happy. A lot of small details will decide the race and the tires are one aspect of course. Our long runs were promising yesterday, so we're not looking too bad. Hopefully we get a reasonable start and we can be up at the right end and go for it. I think we've got a good car and that's the main thing."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Today went relatively smoothly for us... Today went relatively smoothly for us. In Q3 I think we could have had a little bit more from both drivers' laps. For Romain in particular - after missing this morning's practice - it was an exceptional effort. Having the hard and soft tires as opposed to two compounds which sit alongside each other (the medium and soft used in Bahrain for example) meant we had to approach qualifying differently as we all needed the softer tire to progress through Q1, limiting the number of soft tires available for the next two sessions. We saw different approaches to this; we'll have to see in the race whose was correct. Our long run pace yesterday looked good so we can be reasonably confident heading into the race. Our target for today was to get both cars into the top six; we've got both in the top five so let's try and exceed expectations once again tomorrow. We used three sets of soft tires to go through qualifying, but we have two new sets of the hard compound Pirelli tires. We are very flexible on tire strategy for tomorrow and we'll be spending a lot of time now looking at all the possible permutations. There's certainly no clear solution shouting out at us at this stage, so we have a lot of number crunching to do. We'll be starting both cars on scrubbed soft tires, after that it is still to be decided."
Paul di Resta (13th, 1:23.125): "It has been quite a difficult weekend so far trying to get the car dialed into the circuit. In fact, it was only during the my final qualifying run that we made a change to the aero balance and I felt that the car was really hooked up. It's close throughout the field once again, but we've been fairly aggressive on set-up and our pace over longs runs has looked quite competitive so far this weekend, which gives us a reason to be optimistic for the race. The goal will be to make up ground tomorrow and I think it will be a big achievement if we can pick up some points."
Nico Hulkenberg (14th, 1:23.177): "I'm pretty satisfied with my final lap in Q2 because I don't think we could have achieved much more from the session today. That's just where we are at the moment in terms of qualifying pace. We are still getting to understand the upgrades we have on the car, but it's also clear that everyone else has made a step forward here and so the midfield remains extremely tight. The races so far this year have shown that grid position is not as crucial as it used to be with a lot of movement in the races, so I think we can still have a good race."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "The team has done an excellent job over the last few weeks to push through our upgrade package and get it on the car this weekend. But it's still early days and I'm sure that over the coming races we can fine-tune things further and extract even more performance. With than in mind I think we can take encouragement from our qualifying showing today with both Nico and Paul just a couple of tenths shy of squeezing through to Q3. We've been pleased with our tire wear and the performance over long runs suggests we are in good shape for a competitive race tomorrow."
Sergio Perez (6th, 1:22.533): "After the free practice sessions hadn't been so easy for me, in qualifying the car really felt good. I think the result is what we were hoping for and perhaps a little bit better than expected. The competition is so close that a tenth of a second can really make a big difference, and you always think you could go a bit faster. In this regard it is almost frustrating having finished sixth, because a slightly better position was within reach. However, I think we can have a strong race performance. A lot will be down to tire degradation tomorrow, which is quite high here. I want to do a perfect race and get the maximum possible points, or even come home with a nice surprise."
Kamui Kobayashi (10th, No Time): "We really had a good performance in qualifying, and I could feel I had not extracted the maximum potential out of the car yet. In Q1 I had a bit of traffic and also on my fastest lap in Q2 there was still room for improvement from me. I believe I could have been fighting for a top five position, and this was what I was looking forward to. But then, after the checkered flag at the end of Q2, I was told on the radio that I had to stop the car because of an hydraulic problem. Nevertheless the team did a great job here to get both of us in Q3, and I am very positive for tomorrow's race."
Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO: "We are very happy with this result. After the Mugello test, which was quite encouraging, we hoped we would be able to get both cars into Q3, and it's good to see that this worked out. P6 is a great result for Sergio. We are sorry for Kamui who had to stop after Q2 due to an hydraulic leak, but I'm very optimistic for the race."
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering: "We are quite pleased with the outcome of qualifying. From an engineering point of view it was very positive that the good results from the Mugello test were confirmed on this track. Both drivers did a very good job, driving fast and consistent. It's a shame we had an hydraulic leak on Kamui's car. We decided that he should stop the car immediately in order not to do more damage. Now the important part comes tomorrow, and I'm confident we can achieve a very good result in the race."
Jean-Eric Vergne (15th, 1:23.265): "I have mixed feelings about this qualifying, because from a personal point of view, I feel I did a better job than I have done in the other sessions this year and for the first time this year, I have out-qualified my team-mate. On the other hand, I think we were lacking something from the car side. Everyone in the team has worked hard to bring updates for this race, but the others have done the same and apparently a bit more than us. We still have some work do to, but on the positive side, we improved the car from yesterday and I feel that our pace over a long run is pretty good, so we will have to see what happens tomorrow. I don't feel it is too unrealistic to try and aim for some points."
Daniel Ricciardo (16th, 1:23.442): "This was not an ideal session for me. From yesterday I felt we were trying to chase a better balance front and rear on the car and although we made a substantial change overnight, it did not have as much of an effect as we had hoped for in terms of lap time or feeling in the car. In Bahrain I had a great Saturday and a poor Sunday, so let's hope it's the other way round this time. I'm not going to dwell on today's performance and now I'm just focused on having as good a race as possible."
Laurent Mekies, Chief Engineer: "It is clear from today's classification that, even if we were able to make improvements to our car overnight, it was enough to be up with the quickest guys. It's true that it is very tight in this part of the grid, but we were not able to get into Q3 and we can expect an equally tight fight in the midfield in tomorrow's race. The pace of development is very high for everyone so we now need to push even harder to catch up. As far as the race is concerned, we have managed to produce something even from lower down the grid, so hopefully we can pick up a bit of pace and deliver a good performance."
Pastor Maldonado (2nd, 1:22.285): "We have been working so hard all year to understand these tires and with the updates we have brought to this race we have made a very good step forward. The car is very consistent and its race pace is good so I am really looking forward to the race tomorrow. There has been a really positive atmosphere in the team all season and this is a great result for them and Venezuela."
Bruno Senna (18th, 1:24.981): "It was a disappointing qualifying for me and I had back luck with traffic when on the soft tire. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow if I want to score any points but I have had good races from the back before and our car is looking competitive this weekend."
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: "Pastor's qualifying performance was stunning today with a collection of very strong laps throughout the session which allowed us to save a set of soft tires to fight for a decent qualifying position in Q3. To finish P2 is a great boost for the whole team and gives us a very good position from which to push hard in the race for decent points and hopefully a further belated 70th birthday present for Frank. It is obviously disappointing for Bruno to have crashed out of Q1 but we expect the race pace to be strong so points are still possible from P18."
Vitaly Petrov (19th, 1:25.277): "I am very happy with today's performance. It feels great to have it all come together in qualifying today and I want to thank the team for doing a great job and helping me put together a final lap like that. There was even more time to come as I made a small mistake in sector two that maybe cost me two or three tenths, but between FP3 and qualifying we found a good balance on the softs and a KERS map that I could really get everything out of, so it's great to see it pay off with that sort of performance. Tomorrow's going to be an interesting race. I think a lot of it will come down to who uses the rear tires best and as we've already seen earlier this season, we can fight with the cars ahead on Sundays, so hopefully we can carry through this afternoon's performance to tomorrow, and who knows what could happen."
Heikki Kovalainen (20th, 1:25.507): "I'm not unhappy with today's performance but we could have definitely got more out of the car this afternoon. I made a mistake in turn three that cost me some time but overall I've not really been able to find a setup I'm happy with all weekend. We've tried a few different things to find a decent balance but for some reason we just couldn't find a compromise for qualifying today. We'll put that behind us now and move on to tomorrow where we'll aim to maintain the sort of race pace we've shown in the first four Grands Prix this season. If we can look after the tires I think we'll be ok."
Mark Smith, Technical Director: "I think we probably got close to extracting as much performance out of the cars as we could this afternoon. Both drivers may have been able to find a couple more tenths but I am pleased with the performances they put in and now the focus moves to tomorrow's race. Tires will be the defining factor in the race. We have already shown that we can fight with several cars ahead on Sundays and I think that careful management of the tires and good pitstop strategy should give us a chance of putting in a good performance."
Pedro de la Rosa (23rd, 1:27.555): "The day went very well, especially this afternoon, so I'm very happy with what we achieved. We completed two very good laps in qualifying, getting under the 1.28 mark which we hadn't achieved neither yesterday nor this morning. I know that our position seems the same as always but, in terms of performance, we have progressed and that's what I'll take away with me. As I always say, we've still got a lot of room for improvement but we're on the right path and that's what matters. Tomorrow's race won't be easy because it's a tough track and the rear tires wear out a lot. We have to get off to a good start, give the Marussias a good fight and finish the race in front of all our fans."
Narain Karthikeyan (24th, 1:31.122): "It's been a very unlucky weekend for me so far. In the morning everything went smoothly but in the afternoon, with the first set of tires I was pushing really hard and spun on turn 3 and, as a result, I flat-spotted a tire so I had to come back in to the garage. We were going to go on the second set of tires but we discovered some problems and due to safety concerns, not only for myself but the others, we decided that the best thing was to not go back out. It seems like my bad luck continues to follow me this weekend and, although I'm disappointed about that, there's nothing else I can do but keep giving it my best shot."
Toni Cuquerella, Technical Director: "We had mixed fortunes today. Pedro was able to continue with his program and we were able to confirm that everything works fine and, as anticipated, the upgrades gave us an improvement. But we can't stop, we have to continue progressing. For qualifying, the car's balance improved a little bit more and Pedro completed two very good laps. With Narain the target in the practice session was to do as much mileage as possible and he did a fantastic job, but we weren't lucky in qualifying as he spun on the first set of tires and wasn't able to set a good time, and when he was about to go out with the second set we had to abort as there was a problem with the fitting of the on-board camera which made it dangerous to go back out. He wasn't able to get in the 107% but I'm confident that, given the performance he showed this morning, there won't be any trouble for him to start tomorrow's race."
Charles Pic (21st, 1:26.582): "I am quite happy to be honest. I think for me all round it is quite a good qualifying. We managed to improve the package for this weekend, but the gap to the cars in front today did not reflect that. I don't think we really know where we are yet because the car was not 100%. I feel there is more to come for sure. We always seem to be better in the race versus our competitors and I hope that will be true for tomorrow. For now though I am happy with my position and I look forward to the race."
Timo Glock (22nd, 1:27.032): "A much better day today than yesterday. I think we got on top of the problems a little bit and in Free Practice 3 this morning I had a good feeling. Unfortunately qualifying wasn't great for me. I made a mistake on my first flying lap, which was then not quick enough, and on the second flying lap on the first set of tires I ran into yellow flags at turn 3 where one of the HRTs spun, so I couldn't do much on first set of tires. On the second set of tires I just couldn't get the lap together. The first sector was good; in the second sector I got a bit of traffic; and for some reason I dropped tire performance in the last sector. It just didn't come together today and I will have to sit and analyze it and hope for better things in the race tomorrow."
John Booth, Team Principal: "We approached Free Practice 3 this morning somewhat hesitantly. For the last two race weekends we have found, on Timo's car in particular, that a good balance on Friday has somehow translated into a car that is not behaving as it should have done for the rest of the weekend. A lot of analysis has taken place over the past week - and at the Mugello test prior to that - and some new parts that we brought to both cars seem to have solved these problems. Timo reported a much improved balance on the car today, even with respect to Friday. Given this, our confidence built in FP3 but was then knocked slightly by a mechanical issue on Timo's car at the end of the session. We quickly diagnosed the fault on what was a new part and were able to apply a fix to both cars in readiness for qualifying. Unfortunately for Timo, he never really found his rhythm in the qualifying session, so I'm sure there's a lot more to come from him tomorrow. Charles on the other hand performed brilliantly, as was the case last week, and he is certainly exceeding all the expectations that we had of him for this stage of his debut season. The guys in front still have a little margin on us if we put our best laps together, so tomorrow we will perhaps not be able to enjoy the fight we had hoped for. However, by setting the clear goal of trying to be as close to them as we possibly can, we will at least be able to learn more about where our car development needs to go from here."
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