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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hat-trick-hungry Hamilton on pole in Hungary

Lewis Hamilton has put himself in fine position to take his third consecutive race by nailing pole for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Teammate Heikki Kovalainen took second to give McLaren the front row on the grid.

“The team have done a great job in improving the car again, even from the last race and so the pace of our car is great and I think it is a great day to have me and Heikki one two,” Hamilton said. “I think it is about time we did that for the team. I think we have both done a great job.”

All the signs were there in the morning practice session as Hamilton set a time of 1:20.228 to easily best Felipe Massa, and qualifying confirmed McLaren still have an advantage over rival Ferrari.

Massa will start third.

“I think we are pretty strong. We didn’t seem to be pretty strong until this morning, but then looking at the lap times from Q1 and Q2 I think we are there,” Massa said. “For sure we are not where we were especially in the race in Hockenheim and Silverstone was a big lottery but I think we are there and I think I can push these guys tomorrow.”

Complicating matters for the Prancing Horse was another disappointing quali from world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who will start sixth. On the heels of a post-German investigation into the team’s performance, Team Principal Stefano Domenicali was not pleased with either outcome.

“Obviously, we cannot be happy with this result,” he said. “Especially when our main rivals have the front row to themselves.”

Some of the most exciting action was between Robert Kubica and Timo Glock, with the BMW Sauber driver taking fourth on the grid and the young Toyota driver showing no after effects from his crash at Hockenheim to take fifth.

“I am really happy with the result. This was certainly one of my best qualifying sessions so far this season,” said Kubica. “I was not expecting to start from fourth as the car has been quite difficult to drive over the entire weekend”

For Glock, his best-yet grid position was especially good medicine.

"That was a very good qualifying session for me and I'm obviously delighted,” he said. “I'm happy with P5. We are in a great situation for tomorrow. It's good for all of us and after Hockenheim this is the perfect answer for the faith I have in the whole team."

Fernando Alonso (Renault), Mark Webber (Red Bull), Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and Nelson Piquet (Renault) round out the top 10.

Perhaps the surprise of the day was Kubica’s teammate Nick Heidfeld being eliminated at the end of Q1. The German felt he was held up by the STR of Sebastien Bourdais. The stewards agreed, and the Frenchman will receive a five-spot grid penalty.

“I'm totally disappointed. It looked quite good at the end of yesterday's practice and also this morning. But on my last lap in Q1 I had four cars in my way,” said Heidfeld. “Towards the end of the lap I had one car in front which was on an out lap. He saw me and accelerated. He then overtook Sebastien Bourdais before the last corner, and then Sebastien was right in my way. I was hoping it was so obvious he would be penalised right away and I could still get into Q2.”

Joining Heidfeld on the sidelines were Kazuki Nakajima (Williams), Rubens Barrichello (Honda), and the Force Indias, who reverted to their old gearbox this weekend.

It was a particularly difficult day for Williams, as what was hoped would be a promising weekend turned sour. With Nakajima eliminated, the team’s hopes fell to Nico Rosberg, but a hydraulics issue sidelined him before he could turn a lap in Q2.

“Nico obviously could have delivered more, but a hydraulic problem kept him in the garage for the whole of Q2,” said technical director Sam Michael. “There was no sign of it during the last run in Q1, but it became apparent when we fired up for the second session. We’re investigating the cause now and will resolve the problem in time for the race.”

Rosberg joined STR’s Sebs, Red Bull’s David Coulthard and Jenson Button’s Honda on the outside looking for the shootout.

Hot and dry is forecasted again tomorrow. Hamilton knows how to win in here, and makes no bones about what kind of result he wants from the Hungaroring.

“It would be great, again as I said before, to have a one-two for the team,” he said. “The team deserve it and me and Heikki have been pushing very, very hard, so we both deserve it.”

The Hungarian Grand Prix kicks off at 2 pm local time. TV coverage in the states begins at 7:30 am ET on Speed.

The Grid

  1. Hamilton, McLaren
  2. Kovalainen, McLaren
  3. Massa, Ferrari
  4. Kubica, BMW Sauber
  5. Glock, Toyota
  6. Raikkonen, Ferrari
  7. Alonso, Renault
  8. Webber, Red Bull
  9. Trulli, Toyota
  10. Piquet, Renault
  11. Vettel, Toro Rosso
  12. Button, Honda
  13. Coulthard, Red Bull
  14. Rosberg, Williams
  15. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
  16. Nakajima, Williams
  17. Barrichello, Honda
  18. Fisichella, Force India
  19. Bourdais, Toro Rosso
  20. Sutil, Force India
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