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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hamilton takes pole in China

Lewis Hamilton put himself in prime position for his title challenge, taking pole for the Chinese Grand Prix.
"I think coming from some positives from the previous race we came here very strong, very determined and with a good frame of mind and we have been very competitive all weekend," Hamilton said. "The practices have gone very well and the qualifying was one of our best. My first Q3 lap wasn’t so great but I managed to pull it together on the last lap and it was as close as I could get to a perfect lap."

Felipe Massa will start third for Ferrari, while Robert Kubica faces a tall order, sitting 11th on the grid.

"It is quite difficult to put everything together and it looks like the McLaren guys have got a little bit easier car to put a lap together," Massa explained. "We don’t know how it is going to be in the race. We had a similar result in the last race but then quite a very strong pace in the race. I hope to have a strong pace in the race and maybe try to see if we can improve our car a little bit, especially on the long stints."

Massa's teammate Kimi Raikkonen again finds himself on the front row, one week after he clashed with Hamilton at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, the resurgent Fernando Alonso starts fourth.

But while Massa will have the help of his teammate, Hamilton looks to be on his own as the best Heikki Kovalainen could do was fifth.

Mark Webber was sixth, but took a 10-spot penalty for an engine change, and Nick Heidfeld was seventh before a penalty for impeding David Coulthard dropped him three places.

Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso), Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) round out the top 10.

Heidfeld's penalty came for holding up David Coulthard, who found himself eliminated with the Nakajima, Button and the Force Indias in Q1. A tough result for the Scot in his second to last Grand Prix.
"I'm extremely disappointed with what Nick Heidfeld did at the end of Q1: he passed me on the inside into the last corner just as I was about to start my flying lap," Coulthard said. "It was very unlikely he was going to do a better lap on prime tyres and he was on the dirty side of the track, so he wouldn't have done a faster lap by squeezing through the inside at that point - and he came in before the end of that lap anyway. He would have known he was in the top 10 already, so for me it was very unsportsmanlike behaviour, as all he did was screw up my last flying lap - there wasn't any intention of him doing a quicker time."

Kubica's thin championship hopes got a lot longer as the Pole suffered his worst qualifying session of the season, never comfortable with his BMW Sauber, and joining Q2 eliminations Rosberg (Williams), Barrichello (Honda), Glock (Toyota) and Piquet (Renault).
"I was struggling with the balance of the car all weekend." Kubica explained. "We made some changes before qualifying, but they had a negative effect. The car was difficult to drive and I couldn't push as I wanted. I expect a tough race because now we are not allowed to change the set-up."

But Hamilton was the real story. The Briton has faced criticism this week over his driving style, but has said he will do his talking on the track. He appears to have done just that, pole never in doubt as he topped all three sessions.
"It is great, you know. I have got a huge amount of support from back home and across the world. Especially from my team and my family as well," Hamilton said. "My family are here which is so important to me. I really have to thank the team, they have done a fantastic job coming off not such a great weekend in Fuji. Just thanks to those guys for staying so strong and doing a solid job this weekend. Hopefully we can continue with it tomorrow. We definitely will give it our best shot."

The race kicks off 15:00 local time.

How Hamilton can win the title (thanks to the BBC)

  • Hamilton wins, with Massa lower than fourth
  • Hamilton is second, with Massa lower than sixth
  • Hamilton is third, with Massa out of the points, and Kubica does not win

The grid

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

* = demoted three places for impeding
** = demoted 10 places for engine change

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