Hamilton had a lap time of 1 minute, 35.820 seconds _ 0.222 seconds faster than Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the German star who wrapped up his second straight F1 drivers championship last weekend in the Japanese Grand Prix. McLaren’s Jenson Button was third, followed by Red Bull’s Mark Webber.
“I’m happy to be here and very proud of what the team has been able to achieve over the course of the last few races,” Hamilton said. “For Jenson to win the last race and for us to be on the front again and the only ones competing with Red Bull, I’m very happy.”
“To be honest, McLaren looked competitive yesterday and though the conditions were completely different today, they were a fair chunk ahead of everyone including us,” Vettel said. “In the dry this morning they were extremely quick but once again we pushed them very hard in qualifying, perhaps more than they expected and I think we did a good job in qualification.”
McLaren topped the timesheets in all three practice sessions for the team’s 700th Grand Prix.
Hamilton, the race winner in China in April and Germany in July, took his 19th pole and his first grid-topping performance since Canada last year.
Webber was fourth after aborting his final lap of qualifying. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was fifth, followed by teammate Fernanando Alonso.
As happy as he was with pole, Hamilton was focusing on the race. The British star finished second in South Korea last year behind Alonso and is hoping to change his luck after a disappointing series of results, including fifth-place finishes in the last two races in Singapore and Japan.
“To be back on pole is a great feeling but tomorrow is the most important day,” Hamilton said. “We’ve had some difficult races in the past but we hope we can redeem ourselves tomorrow.”