Lewis Hamilton takes pole in Spanish Grand Prix qualifying

spanish gp

Lewis Hamilton secured a sensational pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix, beating Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg into second place.

Max Verstappen was fourth, 0.407 seconds behind Daniel Ricciardo having looked set to beat his team-mate.

It was nevertheless a highly impressive debut for the 18-year-old after his transfer to the Red Bull senior team.

Ferrari disappointed as Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth, more than a second slower than the Mercedes.

The Finn's team-mate Sebastian Vettel was sixth, 0.2secs behind.

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Wow - Hamilton is back

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Analysis: 'Incredible' lap puts Hamilton on pole

It was Hamilton who stole the headlines, finding stunning pace in qualifying when he had appeared to be struggling all weekend.

The Briton had been unable to match Rosberg in the tricky final sector of slow corners throughout the practice sessions and in the first part of qualifying.

But in the second part of qualifying he found a massive amount of time, lapping 0.6secs quicker than Rosberg.

Hamilton was on course for an even quicker lap on his first run in the top-10 shoot-out, setting fastest times in the first two sectors of the lap, only to brake too late for the hairpin at Turn 10 and leave himself third, behind Rosberg and Verstappen.

It added extra pressure he really did not need, coming into this race 43 points behind Rosberg in the championship after a difficult first four races.

But in his final run he went faster in the first two sectors, and added the final part of the lap as well this time, to take pole by 0.280secs.

A smiling Hamilton said: "I'm very, very happy with getting the lap. Nico has been very strong all weekend so it has been one step at a time trying to bring the pace together."

He emphasised it was "three out of three" for him in terms of pole positions - because he had not been able to compete in final qualifying in the Chinese and Russian Grands Prix as a result of technical problems.

A star is born

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Max power: Verstappen lost out to Daniel Ricciardo, but was impressive throughout qualifying

For a long time, it appeared as though Verstappen would be the star of qualifying, the teenager consistently edging Ricciardo by 0.2secs throughout qualifying.

But the Australian saved the best for last, producing a stellar final lap to comfortably beat his team-mate, whooping with delight over the team radio as he finished it.

Ricciardo said: "Max was doing really well - and we're both on the second run, which is really awesome. It took a bit of time to come. I knew I had the pace but I had not got it altogether, but I did what I had to do."

Verstappen said he had not expected to be so competitive and said he was not disappointed to be pipped by Ricciardo.

"I was very pleased," he said. "I think we both pushed each other, which is good for the team."

He said that, despite being ahead for much of qualifying, he "did not think" about the possibility of beating Ricciardo, adding: "I was just enjoying it. I was just happy with the progress I was making. It was clearly not the limit, but to be honest I still don't know where the limit is."

Team boss Christian Horner praised Verstappen's performance, saying it justified the decision to promote him and drop Daniil Kvyat to the Toro Rosso team.

The Russian managed only 13th place, with team-mate Carlos Sainz eighth, behind Williams' Valtteri Bottas and ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso, who put a McLaren-Honda in the top 10 for the first time since their new relationship started in 2015.

'Sorry boss' - again

spanish gp
Ferrari need to get their act together, according to their president - and judging by this picture, their fans

There will be an inquest at Ferrari, whose president Sergio Marchionne said before the race the team need to start winning.

Instead, they were further away than they have been for some time - Raikkonen was 1.113secs off the pace and Vettel even further off.

Vettel said: "We have proved in all sessions that we were quite competitive and currently we don't understand," he said. "Something made us fall out of the window. We lost quite a lot of competitiveness.

"The lap was a bit messy but for a reason - the car didn't feel as good as this morning and we need to understand why. We lost performance."

Ferrari said their tyres fell out of the correct operating-temperature window but they did not understand why.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is one that provides arguably the toughest test of a car's all-round capabilities, especially aerodynamics, and the results suggest the Italian team are as far away as ever from being able to match the teams with the best chassis.

Finally, McLaren - finally

spanish gp
And breathe: Alonso reached the top 10 shoot out for McLaren for the first since their difficult switch to Honda power

Alonso had the edge on team-mate Jenson Button all weekend, and he revelled in the McLaren's cornering prowess on this track, where engine performance is not as crucial as on the first four of the season.

It demonstrates the performance improvements made by both McLaren and Honda this season - and justified their confidence that both cars can be in the top 10 at the next race in Monaco.

Button said: "I had a floaty rear all weekend, which is not a nice thing and I had to adapt to it. I'm not used to it.

"It got it all right in the end but Fernando has been very quick all weekend and did a top job to get into Q3."

Spanish Grand Prix qualifying results

Spanish Grand Prix coverage details

mercedes and red bull poles
Mercedes have now overtaken Red Bull on all-time pole positions achieved, with 53. Source: Forix
ferrari
Raikkonen only qualified fifth, but still beat team-mate Vettel
spanish gp
"Here" being the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona

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