Hamil­ton rushes onto pole

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT -

LEWIS HAMIL­TON sur­passed Ayr­ton Senna’s ca­reer haul of 65 pole po­si­tions in Formula One as he edged Mer­cedes team mate Valt­teri Bot­tas in a fi­nal lap shootout to se­cure top spot for today’s Azer­bai­jan Grand Prix.

Hamil­ton (pic­tured) ban­ished mem­o­ries of a dis­mal qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion in Baku last year, when he clipped the bar­rier and had to set­tle for 10th place on the start­ing grid, to grab pole with a time of 1:40.593 de­spite run­ning wide at Turn 16.

He will be joined in an all-Mer­cedes front row by Bot­tas, who was pipped at the death when Hamil­ton out­paced him in the fi­nal lap af­ter the ses­sion had been paused by a red flag.

“That was one of the most ex­cit­ing laps that I’ve had all year,” he told Sky Sports. “A lot of pres­sure.

“The first lap I had the time but I made a mis­take,” he added.

“(There was) a lot of pres­sure be­cause of get­ting tem­per­a­ture in the tyre but the lap just got bet­ter and bet­ter. Com­ing out of the last cor­ner I was just ‘think­ing please be enough’.”

The Bri­tish driver is now just two be­hind Michael Schu­macher’s over­all record of 68 poles in Formula One.

“That’s how qual­i­fy­ing should be,” Hamil­ton added. “Tomorrow will be a long hard race but we’re in the best po­si­tion to start.”

Se­bas­tian Vettel had his cham­pi­onship lead cut to 12 points when Hamil­ton won in Canada ear­lier this month, and now faces an up­hill strug­gle to fend off his ri­val again af­ter qual­i­fy­ing fourth.

“The re­sult is okay but I’m not en­tirely happy,” the four-times Formula One cham­pion said. “This morn­ing didn’t help but it’s not an ex­cuse. “I’m no fan of ex­cuses.” Vettel was beaten to third by team mate Kimi Raikko­nen in an all-Fer­rari sec­ond row.

Max Ver­stap­pen dom­i­nated Fri­day prac­tice but Red Bull failed to have the an­tic­i­pated im­pact as he qual­i­fied fifth and his team mate Daniel Ric­cia­rdo was down in 10th af­ter hit­ting a wall, prompt­ing the red flag which led to the last-lap shootout.

“It’s not re­ally nice to be in fifth,” Ver­stap­pen con­ceded. “In Q3 on my fi­nal lap, where it all counts, I was two tenths faster but then had a prob­lem with my gear sync, so on the straights I was los­ing a lot of lap time.

“That was very painful,” he added. “We need to get on top of that be­cause it shouldn’t hap­pen.”

Cana­dian young­ster Lance Stroll, in eighth, out-qual­i­fied his fel­low Wil­liams driver Felipe Massa, who was ninth.

Force In­dia duo Ser­gio Perez and Este­ban Ocon fin­ished sixth and sev­enth re­spec­tively.

McLaren’s Fer­nando Alonso, al­ready hit with a 40-point grid penalty, failed to ad­vance past Q1 for the first time this sea­son, while Jolyon Palmer did not take part in qual­i­fy­ing af­ter a fire in his car dur­ing Satur­day morn­ing’s prac­tice. – Reuters

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