World champion Lewis Hamilton claimed his first pole position of the season as McLaren locked out the front row of the grid for Sunday’s European Formula One Grand Prix in Valencia.
The Briton, fresh from winning his first race of the season last time out in Hungary, posted a time of one minute 38.498 seconds to beat team-mate Heikki Kovalainen to top spot by less than a tenth of a second. Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello claimed third place having led the way in Q2, although the Brazilian fared better than team-mate and championship leader Jenson Button, who took fifth position. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel salvaged fourth place from what had been a difficult two days of practice, although his team-mate — and Button’s nearest title challenger — Mark Webber, is only ninth. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took sixth on the starting grid ahead of Williams’ Nico Rosberg. Home favorite Fernando Alonso will be disappointed with eighth place for Renault while BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica completed the top 10. Raikkonen avoided going out in Q2 by just four hundredths of a second, BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld instead the unlucky man to drop out from 11th place.
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Adrian Sutil’s rapid practice pace failed to convert into anything more than 12th on the grid for Force India, while Toyota’s Timo Glock took 13th position. Romain Grosjean did well to haul himself into the second session on his debut for Renault but found the going too tough in the battle to make Q1, settling for 14th ahead of Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi. Veteran Italian Luca Badoer, back behind the wheel of a grand prix car for the first time in a decade, will start the race on the back of the grid. The Ferrari test driver was unable to get to grips with the cut and thrust of F1 after so long away and without any testing prior to this weekend. The 38-year-old has been told by Ferrari he will remain in the seat until Felipe Massa is back to full fitness, but on current form his bosses at Maranello will be forced to look elsewhere if they have any designs on securing third place in the constructors’ championship. “I was hoping for better, but that more or less was the range,” an upbeat Badoer told the BBC. “We were expecting this. One year without driving and a new track, what could I do “This race is a test. I have to be better in the next race.” Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima was unlucky to bow out having looked strong in practice yesterday and this morning. A car failure out on the circuit meant the Japanese was unable to improve his time in the closing minutes, and he was duly gobbled up by the pack and will start 17th. That is at least one place better than Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, who has struggled for pace all weekend at the twisty Valencia track and could only finish ahead of Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) and Badoer. Veteran Giancarlo Fisichella completed the rogues’ gallery of Q1 drop-outs, finishing 16th in the second Force India.