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Thu Apr 17 20:40:38 SAST 2014

Dominant Hamilton gives McLaren 150th pole

Brian Homewood, Reuters | 29 July, 2012 09:150 Comments
McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain waves after taking pole position for the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit near Budapest July 28, 2012
Image by: Leonhard Foeger / REUTERS

Lewis Hamilton gave McLaren their 150th pole position after dominating qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday at a circuit where his team have won four of the last five races.

Hamilton, who has won twice at the Hungaroring, took his third pole of the season to help McLaren reach the landmark and left himself with an excellent chance of reviving a campaign that has threatened to fizzle out.

His team mate Jenson Button will start on the second row after producing the fourth fastest time in hot sunny conditions as McLaren’s recent performance upgrades appeared to take effect.

Sandwiched between the two Britons were Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, who starts on the front row for the first time, and Germany’s Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull following the first dry qualifying since Valencia three races ago.

World championship leader Fernando Alonso was sixth, showing once again that his Ferrari is not the fastest car in dry conditions despite his 34-point lead at the top over Australia’s Mark Webber.

Webber failed to make the cut for the third stage of qualifying and finished 11th. Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher also failed to make the third stage on a circuit where he has won four times, the first in 1994.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh described their 150th pole as an “important milestone.”

"It shows how long we have been around,” he said.

“Twenty-five years ago, Ferrari was a major brand and we were a small team.”     

  UPGRADES WORKING

Hamilton added: “It is great to finally see the upgrades working and I have been able to put the car where I want to this weekend.

“We are not saying we are relaxed, we know we have a lot of work to do, starting this weekend,” added Hamilton, forced to retire at Hockenheim one week ago after suffering an early puncture,” added the 2008 world champion.

Vettel, third in the championship, said: “Lewis was out of reach today, it’s not too bad to start third here.”

“It has been more a case of it being difficult getting everything to work properly,” he said.

“The speed is there but it has been a struggle to get the balance. I think with the progress we have made we should be in a good position tomorrow.”

Alonso, who has scored in all 10 races this season, said his priority on Sunday would be to score more points than Webber although his chances of winning would increase if it rained.

“In the dry, we are not yet able to fight for the very top places, and we are well aware of that,” said Alonso.

“Usually, in the race, the situation improves and so we hope we can finish in the top four or five when it’s time for the chequered flag. 

  NOT QUICK

“We will see what we can do tomorrow, it doesn’t look like we are quick enough to win the race but we don’t need to win the race, we need to do our maximum and score as many points as we can,” he said. “If we cannot win, we will understand.

“We said after Germany... that we are not happy with the performance of the car and this is another demonstration.

“We keep repeating this message but it seems everyone keeps forgetting we are not quick.”

Alonso’s team mate Felipe Massa was seventh fastest while Williams got both cars into the top 10 with Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna.

Mercedes had a terrible time, Nico Rosberg finishing 13th and Schumacher 17th.

Sauber also had an unhappy experience with Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez both outside the top 10.

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