Ottawa Citizen

Hamilton quick study on Montreal circuit

- BY RANDY PHILLIPS

Rookie Lewis Hamilton MONTREAL • wrote another chapter in his dream season in Formula One by securing pole position for the Grand Prix of Canada.

The 22-year-old Briton with Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes beat teammate and reigning double world champion Fernando Alonso in qualifying yesterday to become the first driver in F1 history to earn his first pole in Canada. He’s also the first rookie to do it since former Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya at the German Grand Prix in 2001.

What took recently retired, seventime world champion Michael Schumacher 42 races to do, Hamilton has done in six, highlighti­ng a debut in which he has rewritten records for a rookie with podiums in every race this season, second-place finishes in each of the past four.

Today, with Alonso right beside him on the front row, Hamilton will try to complete the dream with a victory at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the 39th edition of race.

“As you can see, I’m just delighted,” Hamilton said. “It was an amazing day.

“To come to Canada my first time, it’s been tough,” he continued. “It’s not an easy circuit to learn and Fernando has been extremely quick, as well the BMWs and Ferraris. But we dialed in the car (yesterday) and I had an opportunit­y to go out and try to put it on pole. I took the opportunit­y, grabbed it with both hands and did the best job I could do.

“I’m absolutely, 100 per cent over the moon to claim my first-ever Formula One pole position and at a circuit where I have never been before.”

Hamilton clocked a time of one minute, 15.707 seconds — the only driver to crack 1:16 — in the final minutes of a dramatic final-third of the hourlong qualifying. Alonso, who won from pole here last year with Renault, was second in 1:16.163, just ahead of the BMW-Sauber of Nick Heidfeld in 1:16.266.

The Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkonen and Felipe Massa, not as strong as had been anticipate­d for this weekend, will start fourth and fifth, respective­ly.

“We certainly cannot be happy with this result,” said Massa, who trails Alonso and Hamilton, each with 38 points in the championsh­ip, by five points. “But let’s wait for the result to produce a true picture of the situation.”

It’s an all-McLaren front row for the second consecutiv­e race and third this season. Alonso won from pole in a 1-2 finish with Hamilton at the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Hamilton credited the work of his team for making adjustment­s to his car in the later stages of morning practice, after which he said “the car was sweet.”

He also noted that having “a twotime world champion hunting you down” didn’t make qualifying an easy task. “But I did it. I stayed strong and I owe it to the team,” he said.

Alonso appeared to be on his way for the pole for the third time this season early in the final third of qualifying. But the 25-year-old Spaniard found himself four-10ths of second behind Hamilton after the latter’s final run.

Alonso was fastest in the first two sectors on his final attempt, but got a little loose in the final chicane, blowing a shot to improve his time.

Hamilton’s performanc­e was all the more amazing considerin­g all he knew about the track before this week had been gleaned from brief time spent on McLaren’s state-of-the-art simulator.

“I did about five laps because we had a meeting to go to,” he said. “I got here Wednesday, went out (Friday for practice) and it was just like learning a new circuit. So even if I was playing a PlayStatio­n, it wouldn’t really have made much difference.”

The Montreal Gazette

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