The McLaren driver left it late to claim his third pole of the season but the Englishman looked completely at ease throughout the hour long session. With a healthy half second advantage to Pastor Maldonado, and having saved a set of tyres in Q2, Hamilton is exceptionally well placed to make it five different winners from the opening five races.
Maldonado’s qualifying effort was undoubtedly the highlight of the session with the Williams’ driver showing a tremendous turn of pace throughout each qualifying sector. The Venezuelan twas fastest in Q2 having comfortably made the cut off in the opening 20 minutes.
The Williams has looked fast over the course of the weekend but it has also looked very “lively” with both Maldonado and Bruno Senna having some moments in the first two days of action. Maldonado however was able to cure his handling problems and wring the neck of the Williams to give the team their first front row start since Brazil 2010.
Fernando Alonso thrilled the home crowd by setting a blistering lap to claim third. Having been one of the first drivers to set a time in the closing stages of qualifying the expectation within the crowd reached fever pitch as the likes of Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez and Nico Rosberg failed to better Alonso’s time before Maldonado and Hamilton asserted themselves.
Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher and Kamui Kobayashi all failed to set a lap time with the Japanese driver having pulled off to the side of the road at the end of Q2.
Jenson Button and Mark Webber will have a hard day tomorrow if they are to make it to the front of the field. Both missed the cut in Q2 and will start from the sixth row of the grid. While Button used four sets of Pirelli tyres Webber made do with only two sets of boots throughout the day. With lots of fresh tyres, and the softer option compound worth in the region of 0.75s per lap, Webber could be able to make his way through the pack but it will be a difficult day for the Australian.
With Alonso showing the potential of the upgraded Ferrari there was an expectation that Felipe Massa could start to recapture the form that saw him challenge for the world championship four years ago. With the Brazilian only managing to set the 17th fastest time those days seem even longer ago.
His compatriot, Senna, fared little better with an off at the end of the Q1 relegating him to 18th on the grid. With Maldonado on the front row it was a day of contrasting fortunes for the Williams’ drivers.