Saturday, 9 June 2007

News and Analysis: Hamilton grabs Montreal pole

Lewis Hamilton has secured his first career pole position in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix this afternoon after his team-mate and chief rival for the front spot Fernando Alonso made a costly mistake in the final stages of his flying lap.

The Britain stormed to pole going some four tenths faster than Alonso’s existing benchmark lap. Alonso was unable to respond after he got out of shape entering the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’s final chicane. The Spaniard backed off to avoid being collected by the notorious ‘wall of champions’.


The Mclaren duo locked out the front row while BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld – who put in a stunning lap to go third quickest – separated the silver cars from the slightly off-pace Ferraris.

Hats off to Hamilton, this will be a huge psychological bonus after the turmoil of Monaco. Okay, so Alonso looked the quicker of the two Mclarens today. But at the end of the day, Lewis was supreme through the final chicane; Alonso wasn’t.

I sense we are nearing a point where ITV Sport and the rest of the British media will lump the same pressure on the Britain as they did with Button with debates about ‘when is he going to win?’ So it’s good that he’s got this monkey off his back before the media has had time to start getting fed up with Alonso out qualifying him.

I notice that Alonso likes to hold back a bit in Q3 to wait and see what the other drivers can deliver. Elsewhere the Spaniard has enjoyed the advantage of knowing exactly what is required of him. But today he faced the problem of knowing that what was required was more than he was prepared to risk; Hamilton was blinding in the last sector, particularly the last chicane, and I’m sure Alonso would have been told this on the radio.

So far this season Mclaren have tended to run Hamilton with a couple of laps more fuel than Alonso. There is some reason to suggest that this is the case here given that Alonso looked the faster of the two Mclarens in Q3 despite being on par with Hamilton in Q2. So Hamilton should be in good shape come race day.
Incidentally, can anyone explain to me why Alonso was swerving about on the line when he completed his lap?

And where on earth were the Ferraris? It was generally expected that the straight and brake characteristics of Montreal would afford the Italian based outfit with a performance edge over Mclaren. But not even Massa, who we have grown accustomed to springing a last minute surprise, could inflict any damage on Mclaren. Seven tenths of a second is a massive deficit that not even a differing fuel load could account for. Any suggestions for their lack of pace?

Behind the top five lie Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg in sixth and seventh who were as much the stars of qualifying as Lewis Hamilton. Let’s hope Webber’s Red Bull lasts the race – he has retired from the last three races with gearbox related problems. I really want him to shrug of this ‘great qualifier, poor racer’ image that has in my view been wrongly attributed to him. The same goes for Trulli in ninth.

Further down the grid and Sato in eleventh is another driver to have caught my eye in qualifying. Once again he seems to have the advantage over Davidson which is not good news for the Englishman if he is to impress the front end teams.

Once again Honda had a disappointing day with Rubens Barrichello lining up in twelfth and Jenson Button in fifteenth. Button seriously needs to get his act together. Through most of last year he had the advantage over his Brazilian team-mate but recently Barrichello seems to have been gaining an edge. Is this down to a demoralized Button or an improving Barrichello? Discuss.

And finally, there’s Ralf who lines up a disappointing eighteenth. Will he be in Formula One next year? No is the quick answer, not on these performances.

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