Hamil­ton snatches pole for Mercedes

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY ALAS­TAIR HIMMER

World cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton roared to pole po­si­tion in Satur­day’s qual­i­fy­ing for the Chi­nese Grand Prix, just pip­ping Mercedes team­mate Nico Ros­berg.

Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, who stunned the Sil­ver Ar­rows to win in Malaysia two weeks ago, will start from third on the grid for Sun­day’s race along­side the Wil­liams of Felipe Massa.

Hamil­ton, who won in Shang­hai for the third time last year, clocked the quick­est time of one minute, 35.782 sec­onds to main­tain his per­fect qual­i­fy­ing record at the sea­son’s first three races.

“We have a tough race ahead of us,” Hamil­ton told re­porters. “The Fer­raris are strong on long-run pace so it’s not over by any means.”

Ros­berg lapped just four hun­dredths slower than the Bri­ton, and when in­formed he had just missed out on pole, he yelled over the ra­dio: “Oh come on, guys!”

Clearly ir­ri­tated, the Ger­man shook hands with coun­try­man Vet­tel but blanked Hamil­ton as the top three posed for pho­to­graphs in the pit lane.

“The lap is never 100 per­cent per­fect, but four hun­dredths is the blink of an eye so that’s even more an­noy­ing,” fumed Ros­berg. “It was very, very close but I think I’ve still got a de­cent chance to­mor­row.”

Hamil­ton has dom­i­nated all week­end, his only real dis­com­fort com­ing from an over­heat­ing cock­pit on Satur­day, but Ros­berg’s pace should make for an ab­sorb­ing battle in China be­tween the two Mercedes, who feuded bit­terly last sea­son.

Vet­tel clocked 1:36.687 ahead of Massa and the sec­ond Wil­liams of Valt­teri Bot­tas as Fer­rari failed to get both cars on the sec­ond row, Kimi Raikko­nen only sixth fastest in smoggy con­di­tions.

Vet­tel ‘happy’

“We knew it would be tough in qual­i­fy­ing to be re­ally, re­ally close,” said Vet­tel. “But we are fairly happy to be right be­hind them. Ob­vi­ously we want to close the gap to­mor­row but for now we can be rea­son­ably happy.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ric­cia­rdo and Ro­main Gros­jean’s Lo­tus were next and the Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Mar­cus Eric­s­son rounded out the top 10.

How­ever, there was more dis­ap­point­ment for McLaren as Jen­son But­ton and Fer­nando Alonso lan­guished back on the ninth row, 17th and 18th re­spec­tively.

Alonso, who ground to a halt in the morn­ing’s prac­tice with smoke pour­ing from his car, stormed past me­chan­ics and into the garage af­ter his lat­est set­back, while McLaren boss Ron Den­nis stared grimly at his pit screen.

Both But­ton and Alonso, suf­fer­ing a wretched run of mis­for­tune on his re­turn to McLaren from Fer­rari, failed to fin­ish in Malaysia to leave them with­out a sin­gle point from the first two races.

Mercedes racked up 16 vic­to­ries in 19 races last year and again pul­ver­ized their ri­vals in this sea­son’s opener in Australia, be­fore Vet­tel stopped the rot in Sepang to give Fer­rari a first win since 2013.

Se­cu­rity for Sun­day’s race has been tight­ened af­ter a fan in­vaded the track dur­ing Fri­day’s free prac­tice, vault­ing the pit­lane wall and de­mand­ing to test drive a Fer­rari be­fore be­ing tack­led by ste­wards and handed over to po­lice.

AP

Mercedes crew mem­bers pre­pare to change tires for their driver Nico Ros­berg, of Ger­many, dur­ing the third prac­tice ses­sion for the Chi­nese For­mula One Grand Prix at Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit in Shang­hai on Satur­day, April 11.

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