x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Hamilton shines in Shanghai

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton give his Formula One title hopes a huge boost and takes pole position.

The McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in action in Shanghai today as the Briton claimed the 13th pole position of his career.
The McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in action in Shanghai today as the Briton claimed the 13th pole position of his career.

Lewis Hamilton gave his world championship hopes the perfect fillip as he put himself in an ideal position to have a chance of winning his first title today in Shanghai. The Briton showed nerves of steel in yesterday's qualifying session for the Chinese Grand Prix as he put together a sensational late lap to clinch pole. His lap of 1min 36.303secs in his McLaren saw him find more than a second on his previous effort, and he moved up from a provisional fifth to take top spot and crucially start ahead of chief rival for the championship Felipe Massa. The Brazilian was half-a-second off Hamilton's pace in third spot, with his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen taking second spot on the grid. A buoyant Hamilton said: "We have been competitive all weekend. Practice went well and qualifying was one of our best. "The first [qualifying] run was not that great, but the last lap was as close as I could get to a perfect lap." Hamilton has come in for a lot of criticism following his ragged performance in Japan last week, but he said he was confident he had moved on from the mistakes he made in Fuji. "To be honest I didn't have anything hanging over me, or anything on my mind except doing my lap," he said. "I was relaxed, happy with the balance of my car, I knew I could do it. He added: "I think you can see from our result that we are dealing with it [the pressure] quite well and it is great. I have a huge amount of support from the world, from my team, my family, which is so important for me." Hamilton will start today's race with a five-point lead over Massa in the standings, and he can win the title if he wins and Massa is outside the top four, or if he finishes at least third and the Brazilian does not score any points. Raikkonen will be aiming to disrupt Hamilton's race to aid his teammate's title bid. The Finn looked to be much lighter on fuel than Massa. It looks like being a two-way tussle for the title as Robert Kubica's slim hopes were dented as he could only qualify 11th. The BMW Sauber driver needs to score at least three more points than Hamilton to stay in contention going into the final round in Brazil. Fernando Alonso's Renault will start fourth on the grid, ahead of Hamilton's teammate Heikki Kovalainen, who was a disappointing fifth quickest. The Finn had been fastest with two minutes of the session left, but failed to find much improvement in his final run. Mark Webber's Red Bull was sixth, but a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change means he will line-up 16th. Nick Heidfeld's BMW was given a three-place penalty for holding up David Coulthard and he now starts ninth. Sebastian Vettel's Toro Rosso is sixth, ahead of Jarno Trulli's Toyota, with Vettel's teammate Sebastien Bourdais in eighth position. gcaygill@thenational.ae