Hamilton Takes Maiden Pole

Lewis Hamilton’s impressive rookie campaign got even better Saturday afternoon in Montreal, Canada.

Battling teammate Fernando Alonso and a surprising Nick Heidfeld, the 22-year-old Englishman captured his first career pole position, running a fast lap of 1:15.707 to take the top spot for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

After getting his first glimpse of the 2.709-mile circuit yesterday, Hamilton went out and took pole position by almost half a second over his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes teammate Alonso, who last year won both the pole and the race while driving for Renault F1 Team.

"It’s been a fantastic day and already a fantastic weekend," said Hamilton, who comes into the Canadian event tied atop the championship standings with his teammate. "It came down to this and had to pull it out at the last minute. It is not easy, especially when you have a two-time World Champion hunting you down. I am very happy.

"It took a while to learn yesterday. Even though it looks quite a simple track, it is actually quite demanding physically, mentally and it’s quite technical."

It was the second time today that Hamilton finished on top in a session, setting the fast mark in the early morning final practice as well.

After running the fastest lap in the session in the final seconds of the third and pole deciding session, Hamilton had to wait for confirmation as Alonso was finishing his final lap and was on pace to beat him. However, the two-time defending World Champion faltered in the final chicane and finished with a best lap of 1:16.163, which was still good enough for second on the starting grid.

"It was at the hairpin in Turn 10, I was running a bit off line and put some marbles on the tire and lost the grip there and lost three tenths in that corner," Alonso said. "At the last chicane there was no point to risk and I brought car home. The first row will be enough for today and tomorrow we have another chance to win the race."

Starting just behind the McLaren duo tomorrow will be BMW Sauber’s Heidfeld, who was able to hold off Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.

"I am very satisfied with that, especially as I lost time this morning with only one timed lap and then in the end I had a hydraulic problem," Heidfeld said. "Being P3 is nice whatever fuel I have.

"I am quite sure we made a step forward, I hope we can continue like that for the rest of the season. So far so good I would say."

Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli complete the top 10.

In a frantic finish during the first 15-minute qualifying queue, Raikkonen paced the field while several drivers flirted with early elimination. In the end, however, it was Anthony Davidson, 2001 event winner Ralf Schumacher, Heikki Kovalainen, Alexander Wurz, Adrian Sutil and Christijan Albers who were purged early and listed as qualifying in positions 17-22 respectively.

For Kovalainen, his result is the least of his problems this weekend. During his initial qualifying attempt, the rookie made contact with the wall and lost his rear wing in Turn 4, bringing out the red flag with less than nine minutes remaining in the period. The ING Renault F1 Team was able to get the damage repaired, allowing Kovalainen to go back out and set the 13th fastest time with less than a minute left in the session, but he was unable to progress to round 2 as several drivers, including Jenson Button, Scott Speed and David Coulthard, completed faster laps before the end of session.

Earlier in the day, the Finnish born driver also suffered an engine failure, which will force him to start from the rear of the field as a penalty. Yesterday, he also made contact with the wall during the second practice session which made him go to a backup chassis.

"The first thing I want to say is thank you to my mechanics: they have worked so hard all weekend, changing chassis overnight, the engine this morning, and then making repairs during the first part of qualifying after I hit the wall. They have done a really incredible job, and I am just sorry that I couldn’t pay them back with a better qualifying performance," said Kovalainen. "I went into the session knowing that I would have an engine penalty, but I was determined to push right to the limit to get as far up the grid as I could. I hit the kerbs hard in turn 4 on my timed lap and lost the rear end, which damaged the wing and the floor. The team repaired as much as they could, but it was hard to have full confidence in the car after that. I hoped I had done enough to get through to the second round, but it wasn’t to be.

"There is no point pretending that it won’t be a tough afternoon tomorrow, but we knew I would be starting a long way back, and adjusted the set-up accordingly. I will have to be aggressive all through the race, and try to make up as many positions as I can."

In qualifying period 2, Hamilton set the fastest lap of the weekend (1:15.486) while the bottom "drop zone" featured Takuma Sato, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Rubens Barrichello, Coulthard, Button and Speed. Those eliminated will start from positions 11-16 respectively.

The Canadian Grand Prix is scheduled to take the green flag at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. Live coverage of the 70-lap event will be available on FOX.

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Grand Prix of Brazil

@ Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sunday, November 24, 2013

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