Spanish Grand Prix qualifying: Lewis Hamilton triumphs in ongoing intra-team Mercedes duel as gearbox issues see Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel grind to a halt

Hamilton takes pole for the third straight race as he looks to continue his dominance over his closest rival Rosberg

Catalunya, Barcelona

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg might still be in a class of their own despite all the work their rivals have put into catching Mercedes this weekend, but the intensity of their ongoing intra-team duel for supremacy turned yesterday’s final qualifying session for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix into another humdinger.

The Englishman had drubbed his German partner in Friday’s practice sessions, but yesterday the tables were turned until right at the end as small changes made to Hamilton’s car overnight had blunted its edge.

“I didn’t know how we’ve done it, but we’ve made this car worse…” he told his crew over the radio as he struggled with massive oversteer during the first session of qualifying and ended up a half second down on Rosberg. The gap was down to 0.2sec in the second, setting up the battle royale for the final session.

Again, Rosberg set the pace with 1min 26.561sec on his first run, but Hamilton took back the initiative with 1:26.288. Then Rosberg did 1:25.400 on his second and final run, before Hamilton responded in the final seconds with 1:25.232.

It was the Englishman’s fourth pole in five grands prix this season. Afterwards Hamilton explained how it had become such a close-run thing. “Often when things are as good as they were on Friday you don’t want to change the car at all, but we did some small things, half a millimetre here and there, in the hope of going faster. But today the track conditions deteriorated and this morning and then during the first two qualifying sessions I had lots of oversteer and the car was inconsistent from corner to corner.

“There’s nothing you can do to change the car during qualifying because of the time available so I was struggling, but in the end I did it by the skin of my teeth without changing anything beyond making small tweaks.

“It was a tough day, and Nico has been driving really well, so I didn’t know whether I’d be able to get pole, but right at end I had to eke everything out of the car.”

Hamilton has been unstoppable in the past three races Hamilton has been unstoppable in the past three races Mercedes’ rivals had expected to make inroads into their advantage here, and at one stage Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was within 0.3sec of Hamilton, but both Mercedes drivers redressed that, with Hamilton reopening the gap to the usual second.

It was another bittersweet day for the world champion team, however, as Sebastian Vettel’s woes continued. The man who used to dominate the sport didn’t participate in final qualifying after his car’s transmission failed, and will start only 15th after a five-place penalty for changing his gearbox.

In between the Red Bulls, Ferrari also endured more hardship with Kimi Raikkonen and home hero Fernando Alonso in only sixth and seventh places after being upstaged by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.

Vettel suffered another reliability issue in the final stage of qualifying Vettel suffered another reliability issue in the final stage of qualifying

Fears over two teams’ future and Russian GP

While things looked rosy out on the track, storm clouds continue to swirl around the paddock. There is increasing unease at the idea of racing in Russia in October, though Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley admitted: “I think unless the British Government advise otherwise and then from that obviously the FIA and FOM, then we are obliged to go, we are contracted to go.”

Right now the smaller teams are more concerned with threatening what action they can to persuade the big six – Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Williams – who vetoed the idea, that some sort of cost cap isn’t just desirable but essential if they are to survive.

Maldonado's Lotus is retrieved after he crashed in first qualifying Maldonado's Lotus is retrieved after he crashed in first qualifying Sauber’s hopes of doing a deal that would see upcoming Russian Sergio Sirotkin enter F1 next year have been hurt by the economic sanctions levied by the west, and team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said: “There is an overall feeling to reduce costs significantly but now it’s time that we really had concrete steps and of course there are different positions on the table. But it’s important that we find a solution now and implement it.”

At least two teams are struggling to complete the season.

Final Positions after Qualifying:

1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 25.232secs,

2 Nico Rosberg(Ger)Mercedes GP 1:25.400,

3 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus)Red Bull 1:26.285,

4 Valtteri Bottas(Fin)Williams 1:26.632,

5 Romain Grosjean(Fra)Lotus F1 Team 1:26.960,

6 Kimi Raikkonen(Fin)Ferrari 1:27.104,

7 Fernando Alonso(Spa)Ferrari 1:27.140,

8 Jenson Button(Gbr)McLaren 1:27.335,

9 Felipe Massa(Bra)Williams 1:27.402,

10 Sebastian Vettel(Ger)Red Bull No Time,

11 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger)Force India 1:27.685,

12 Sergio Perez(Mex)Force India 1:28.002,

13 Daniil Kvyat(Rus)Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:28.039,

14 Esteban Gutierrez(Mex)Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.280,

15 Kevin Magnussen(Den)McLaren No Time,

16 Jean-Eric Vergne(Fra)Scuderia Toro Rosso No Time,

17 Adrian Sutil(Ger)Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.563,

18 Max Chilton(Gbr)Marussia 1:29.586,

19 Jules Bianchi(Fra)Marussia 1:30.177,

20 Marcus Ericsson(Swe)Caterham 1:30.312,

21 Kamui Kobayashi(Jpn)Caterham 1:30.375,

22 Pastor Maldonado(Ven) Lotus F1 Team No Time

Note: Jean-Eric Vergne has a ten-place grid penalty, but will start 21st as Pastor Maldonado did not set a time.

PA

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvSpoiler alert: It has been talked about for months
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?