BARCELONA, SPAIN (AP) - McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was fastest in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday, racing past Pastor Maldonado to deny the Venezuelan a first Formula One pole position.
Hamilton used his final lap to edge the Williams driver by over half a second for his third pole position of the season. The Briton, who won with a quickest lap of 1 minute, 21.707 seconds, is seeking his first victory at Catalunya Circuit. That would ensure a fifth different winner this season for the first time since 1983.
Overall leader and two-time defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel will start eighth after opting to save his tires and failing to set a qualifying time.
While 10 of the past 11 races have been won from pole, the high temperatures and quickly degrading nature of the tires could shake up the finishing order of Sunday’s 66-lap race.
“I’m definitely surprised to have such a big gap,” Hamilton said after securing McLaren’s 150th pole. “(It’s) probably one of the best ones I’ve ever had. It’s going to be a massively tough race tomorrow.”
Sergio Perez of Sauber starts sixth, Nico Rosberg of Mercedes goes from seventh with teammate Michael Schumacher and Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber completing the top-10 after the latter pair also didn’t run in Q3.
The leading teams showed contrasting fortunes as Jenson Button _ fastest in practice on Friday _ failed to reach the last qualifying session to start 11th for McLaren. Mark Webber, who had won pole here the last two years for Red Bull, goes 12th.
“I struggled with the balance all day,” Button said.
Felipe Massa’s poor campaign continued as the Brazilian will start a season-worst 17th for Ferrari, which will be buoyed by Alonso’s best starting position of the season.
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