Hamilton takes Spanish pole
Lewis Hamilton snatched his third pole position of the season for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton was the star performer on Saturday during qualifying at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, taking top spot on the grid by 0.6secs to give McLaren their 150th pole in Formula One.
The surprise is the man alongside him in Pastor Maldonado in his Williams, the Venezuelan's best qualifying performance of his F1 career to date.
Hamilton's session, however, ended with him stopping on track, ordered to do so by his team, but that did not detract from his obvious delight in clinching his 22nd pole in F1.
Behind Maldonado are Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and the Lotus duo of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, with Sauber's Sergio Perez a fine sixth.
Mercedes' pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher start seventh and ninth, sandwiching Sebastian Vettel who blew both of his runs in Q3.
Kamui Kobayashi will start 10th as a hydraulics issue saw his Sauber grind to a halt at the end of Q2 and unable to take part in the closing 10 minutes.
The middle 15-minute session caused a stir as both Jenson Button and Mark Webber failed to make the final shoot-out as just one second covered the top 13 places.
Button will start 11th in his McLaren, with Red Bull's Webber directly behind him, their worst grid positions since the races in Belgium and China in August and April last year.
Button said: "I don't know where it went wrong. All day I've struggled with balance.
"I thought we would be reasonably competitive and at least get into Q3, but that's not the case.
"That final run, I had a lot understeer. We're out in Q2 and it doesn't help because we don't have any option tyres left for tomorrow."
Force India still clearly have work to do on their package they had hoped would propel them into the top 10 as Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg start 13th and 14th.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo will start 15th and 16th, whilst there was more misery for Felipe Massa in his Ferrari as the Brazilian is 17th, his worst grid slot since lining up 24th in Singapore in 2010.
Bruno Senna earlier brought the curtain down on the opening 20-minute session in ignominious fashion.
Pushing to make it into Q2, the Brazilian spun his Williams into the gravel at the right-hander turn 12, stopping just short of a tyre barrier.
The error means Senna will start 18th, finishing 1.6secs behind team-mate Maldonado in Q1, the Venezuelan fifth quickest in the opening stint to underline what was possible.
On the 10th row of the grid are the Caterham duo of Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen, followed by the Marussia pair of Charles Pic and Timo Glock.
Only one HRT qualified, however, with Pedro de la Rosa lining up 23rd as team-mate Narain Karthikeyan suffered technical issues, finishing nearly three seconds outside the 107% time.
It means the stewards will now determine whether Karthikeyan will compete on Sunday if they believe there are legitimate grounds for him to do so.
Hamilton was unable to explain why he was told to stop, instead simply stating: "It was a fantastic qualifying session, probably one of the best I've ever had.
"I want to say a huge thanks to all the guys here and back at the factory, and for the upgrades the team have made.
"I don't know what happened with Jenson, but he has great strength and I'm sure he'll make his way up the grid.
"As for the race, this is one I really want to win. We've looked after our prime tyres which is the better tyre for the race, and also the option.
"It's going to be a massively tough race tomorrow."
Maldonado produced a stunning performance in qualifying, going quickest in Q2 before being beaten by a sterling Hamilton at the end.
Maldonado said: "We've made a good step forward for this race and now we need to keep pushing.
"There is a great atmosphere in the garage and the factory, so a great feeling to be here, my first time in the top three.
"Hopefully it will continue like that."
In front of his home fans, and after previously qualifying no higher than eighth this season, Alonso was naturally delighted to break into the top three in a car whose upgrades are clearly working for him at least, unlike team-mate Massa.
"It was impossible to even dream of being in the top three in the first four races," said Alonso.
"The grip is better now, we've improved a few tenths (of a second) and that means a big step forward in position.
"I'm extremely happy with the lap. Hopefully we can capitalise on this good starting position with a good result."
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