Lewis Hamilton beats Sebastian Vettel to Spain pole by 0.051s, Fernando Alonso stars
Spanish Grand Prix - Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton beats Sebastian Vettel to Spain pole by 0.051s, Fernando Alonso stars

Lewis Hamilton pipped Sebastian Vettel to pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix by just 0.051s as Mercedes and Ferrari continued their close battle for this year's title.

Hamilton topped Q1 and Q2 before Mercedes came under real pressure from Ferrari at the end of Q3, but Vettel was just shy of finding the time he needed for a second straight pole position.

Hamilton's lap was all about the final sector in which he held a 0.5s advantage over Vettel and a 0.2s margin over teammate Valtteri Bottas. Vettel was faster than Hamilton in the opening two sectors, but the Mercedes' rear tyres appeared to be in a better operating window by the third sector, which helped negotiate the final chicane and nail the exit of the last corner onto the pit straight.

Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen made it an all-Finnish second row, even though Raikkonen set the fastest first sector of all. Max Verstappen underlined Red Bull's improvement in Spain with a time just 0.557s off Hamilton and 0.469s ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. But the star of the session was Fernando Alonso, who dragged his McLaren-Honda to seventh place despite missing half of Friday practice following an engine failure. The Spaniard was 1.8s off pole position, but the lap exceeded all expectations for the struggling team in Alonso's last qualifying session before he heads to the U.S.A. for the Indy 500.

Sergio Perez took eighth place in the updated Force India ahead of Williams' Felipe Massa and teammate Esteban Ocon.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen dropped out in Q2 after failing to match Alonso's remarkable lap time in the second session. Carlos Sainz was pleased with his lap in the Toro Rosso and will start 12th on the grid ahead of Renault's Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean in the second Haas and the Sauber of Pascal Wehrlein.

Marcus Ericsson missed out on a place in Q2 by less than a tenth of a second to Sauber teammate Wehrlein but will line up ahead of Jolyon Palmer's Renault and the Williams of Lance Stroll. Stoffel Vandoorne, who is the only driver not to make it out of Q1 this year, was 19th fastest in the McLaren-Honda ahead of a disappointing showing from Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat in 20th.

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