F1 Raceweek: Hamilton primed to extend championship lead?
Lewis Hamilton will expect to extend his advantage at the summit of the Formula One world championship standings on Sunday.
Not since the opening race in Australia had Lewis Hamilton taken pole, but after Saturday's fine showing in qualifying he will have that honour again at the Spanish Grand Prix.
It is a race where the pole-sitter often wins – it has happened on 20 of the previous 27 occasions – and, fresh from his victory in Azerbaijan, the Mercedes driver will be confident of maximum points again.
But team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel were sufficiently close to Hamilton's track-record lap of 1:16.173 to give the Briton some cause for concern.
He won at this track in 2017, though, and with Mercedes locking out on the front row, Hamilton can hope for some assistance in keeping Vettel at bay.
The 33-year-old, who sealed his 74th career pole, leads the German by four points in the world championship standings, but will be expecting to see that advantage extended on Sunday.
74th career pole
Third pole in a row in Spain
New track record
A fine day indeed for @LewisHamilton
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 12, 2018
VETTEL: THINGS WERE LOOKING UP, UNTIL I LOOKED UP...
It is a sign of how well Hamilton is driving in Barcelona that fellow four-time champion Vettel, not far from his own best, still could not overhaul him.
Vettel felt sure he had done enough to get the better of Hamilton with a stunning final lap, but still came up short and is anticipating "an interesting race".
"I was happy with the lap. The first run was not so good, but the last lap I was happy," he said.
"It was feeling good until the end, when I looked up at the tower and my name did not go to the top.
"But Mercedes have looked strong. I think it will be an interesting race."
TOP SIX IN CLASS OF THEIR OWN
While the top three in qualifying were separated by barely a tenth of a second and the rest of the leading six also set a hot pace, the gap beyond was vast.
Haas' Kevin Magnussen was over 1.5 seconds down on Hamilton, finishing narrowly ahead of home favourite Fernando Alonso as McLaren enjoyed a more positive outing.
A contented Alonso suggested a podium finish may not be beyond him, albeit with a playful smile on his face.
"Normally we make up six places every race, so starting eighth, if we keep up that tendency," he said.
"It's going to be hard. Probably the key point of tomorrow is the weather, there is some rain around and if that happens I think the race is going to ve very different.
"Hopefully we see some action and we take benefit from that."
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 70
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 66
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 48
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 40
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 37
1. Ferrari 114
2. Mercedes 110
3. Red Bull 55
4. McLaren 36
5. Renault 35
2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Max Verstappen
2015: Nico Rosberg
Temperatures look set to cool on Sunday but the threat of rain will add another challenge for the teams and drivers to ponder.