Lewis Hamilton grabbed McLaren’s 150th Formula One pole yesterday in a Spanish Grand Prix qualifying that left him well-placed to become the fifth different winner in five races.
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado secured his first front-row start with second place on the grid for former champions Williams.
Hamilton’s pole was his third of the year, but celebrations were short-lived as his team told the Briton to stop the car immediately because of an unspecified problem.
“It’s a little bit of a worry,” team principal Martin Whitmarsh said.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso secured third spot for his home race — one that has only once in 21 years been won by a driver starting off the front row, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean alongside for Lotus.
“I think it’s one of the best ones I’ve ever had,” Hamilton, runner-up last year, said of his afternoon’s work. “This has always been a great place for me.”
Maldonado, who had rocketed to the fastest time in the second session, was delighted to shake up the order at the front with Williams’ first front-row start since Nico Hulkenberg’s surprise pole in Brazil in 2010.
“We have been working so hard trying to understand these tires and to develop our car around these tires, we did a very good step forward for this race,” he said.
Red Bull’s double world champion and series leader Sebastian Vettel qualified eighth without setting a lap time in the final session.
Vettel’s Australian team mate Mark Webber saw his hopes of a third Spanish pole in a row disappear when he failed to make the cut for the final session and qualified 12th.
That was one place behind Hamilton’s British teammate and 2009 champion Jenson Button, who will also be able to change his car’s setup with tires saved for the race.
Kimi Raikkonen starts fifth for Lotus, with Mexican Sergio Perez sixth for Sauber. Nico Rosberg qualified seventh for Mercedes, with teammate Michael Schumacher ninth.
At the slow end of the pack, Indian Narain Karthikeyan had his fate left in the hands of race stewards after failing to qualify for HRT with the required lap time.