Lewis Hamilton, with a chance to clinch the drivers' championship in his rookie season, took pole position yesterday for the Chinese Grand Prix, with title rival and McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso qualifying fourth.
Kimi Raikkonen, who led all three practice sessions before qualifying, was second, with his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa third.
"We are in the best position to start the race," Hamilton said.
"I feel very optimistic about it. We have a good car. I know the team will do a great job. I approach tomorrow the same as every race. I want to win, I want to do a good job for the team and if I do that it might be a good day for us. Fingers crossed," he said.
Hamilton had a time of one minute, 35.908 seconds on the 5.5km Shanghai International circuit, and barely 0.6 seconds separated the top four. Raikkonen did a 1:36.044, with Massa at 1:36.221. Two-time defending champion Alonso was fourth at 1:36.576 ahead of today's 56-lap race.
It will be the sixth time Hamilton has started from pole -- in Hungary he did so after Alonso won pole in qualifying but was demoted as punishment for hampering Hamilton in a pitstop. In four of his previous five pole starts, Hamilton won the race, with the only blemish being in the British GP, when he ran third.
Hamilton performed strongly yesterday despite enduring a stewards investigation on Friday about his driving in last weekend's Japanese GP. He was cleared of wrongdoing.
"This weekend has been bit of a rollercoaster and quite emotional trip," Hamilton said. "I got here on Thursday and found out they were to investigate me for the way I was behaving behind the safety car. I thought immediately I would get a penalty."
"Thankfully with team support we pulled through it," he said. "A good decision by the FIA."
Hamilton turned around his performance from practice, when Alonso looked the quicker of the two McLarens.
"I kept chipping away at it and I am absolutely thrilled to get the pole position, because going into qualifying I didn't have the pace of Fernando," Hamilton said.
He heads into today's race with 107 points, a 12-point lead over Alonso. Hamilton will become the first rookie to clinch the title if he finishes ahead of Alonso, or maintains at least an 11-point margin with only one race to go.
Alonso was surprised he did not finish closer to Hamilton.
"When I crossed the line with the first set of tires, I was very, very happy with the lap and I asked what are the positions at the moment. They told me fourth and I was surprised," Alonso said.
"Then we put on the soft tires. I improved another two-tenths and the lap was extremely good again and the car balance was very good. I expected to be fighting for the pole or a very good position and then I realized I was still in fourth and even a bigger gap to pole position," he said.
The good news for Hamilton's pursuers is that weather, rather than grid positions, may be the key to today's race.
Storms are predicted over the weekend, with Typhoon Krosa smashing into Taiwan yesterday. If it stays on its current path, the eye of the storm was expected to strike land about 300 km south of Shanghai late today, bringing strong winds and heavy rain.
"I am not bothered by whether it would be wet or drying," Hamilton said. "The experience in Fuji [gave] me a lot of confidence in the wet."
Late on Friday Hamilton was cleared by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) after a hearing and review of an incident in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton was accused of accelerating and decelerating behind the safety car during a caution period on the 46th lap, spraying water from a wet track and causing Webber and Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel to collide.
Uncertainty grips next year’s postponed Tokyo Olympic Games: Will there be fans or empty stadiums in 14 months? How will thousands of athletes, staff members and technical officials travel, be housed and stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic? And the Tokyo Games are not the only event. China, where COVID-19 was first detected, is to hold three mega-sports events in the year after the Tokyo Olympics are set to close. The World University Games in Chengdu, China, are to open, with up to 8,000 athletes, only 10 days after the Tokyo Games close. Next come the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning on Feb. 4, 2022,
PANDEMIC HYGIENE: Players had their temperatures checked, carried their own equipment and towels, and tapped rackets to congratulate the match winners Alison Riske and Danielle Collins of the US and Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic were among the winners on Friday, the opening day of a women’s tennis mini-tournament in Florida that offered professional players an opportunity to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The WTA women’s tennis tour canceled four more events this week and is not to resume until at least July 20. However, four women ranked in the top 60 in the world turned out for the UTR Pro Match Series event in Palm Beach, which followed a similar event for men two weeks ago. World No. 51 Collins toppled 28th-ranked compatriot Amanda Anisimova
The Rakuten Monkeys remained atop the CPBL table, despite a 5-7 loss to the Uni-President Lions in Taoyuan yesterday, while the CTBC Brothers fell to the Fubon Guardians at the Taichung Intercontinental Stadium. The visiting Guardians blasted three home runs in their 7-3 triumph, helping Dominican pitcher Henry Sosa pocket his second win of the season. Improving his record to 2-2, Sosa sailed through seven innings, allowing six hits while striking out five. He gave up one earned run in the opening frame, with two Brothers relievers mopping up the final two innings. Fubon’s marquee stars, designated hitter Hu Chin-lung and first baseman
Georgian tennis star Nikoloz Basilashvili, ranked 27th in the world, was on Sunday charged with physically assaulting his ex-wife, prosecutors said. A court in Tbilisi charged Basilashvili with perpetrating “violence against a family member committed in the presence of a minor,” before releasing him on US$30,000 bail, prosecutor Natia Guruli said. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty. Basilashvili’s ex-wife, Neka Dorokashvili, on Sunday told Mtavari TV that Basilashvili “physically assaulted” her on Friday in the presence of their five-year-old son. Basilashvili denied the charges, his lawyer Irma Chkadua said. The 28-year-old won his second ATP Tour title at the China