Rollercoaster thrills Hamilton

After another drama-filled week, grabbing pole position is the sweetest riposte yet to detractors

There was a time, earlier this weekend, when pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix seemed as remote a dream for Lewis Hamilton as a world championship without political intervention is for weary fans of Formula One. That was when his quest for a rookie title was in danger of being derailed by yet another penalty levied by the FIA. It was small wonder that he was more than a little bemused until the threat was finally lifted late on Friday evening. To push through after all that was, indeed, sweet for the 22-year-old Englishman.

"This weekend has been a bit of a rollercoaster and quite an emotional trip," he admitted. "After a great weekend in Fuji I came here nice and early on Thursday and found out they were investigating me for what happened behind the safety car. I thought immediately that I was going to get a penalty, otherwise why would they investigate? Thankfully with the team's support I got through it. It was not easy yesterday to forget about the threat that I might get points taken away, but it was a good decision by the FIA last night."

Indeed it was, but the entire episode did not reflect well on a sport that has already been sullied by all the political machinations this season. The governing body stood accused of stirring things up, at a time when the imminence of Hamilton's championship was surely good enough publicity.

Whoever was responsible, the situation was milked through Thursday and all of Friday as race officials, led by the permanent steward Tony Scott Andrews, studied so-called "new evidence" that came in the form of amateur film footage from the YouTube website. This purported to show that Hamilton was responsible for the incident behind the safety car in which the Toro Rosso rookie Sebastian Vettel shunted into the back of his Red Bull stablemate Mark Webber, eliminating both.

Quite why it took so long to sort out remains a mystery that did little credit to the sport's powerbrokers, but eventually the stewards decided that no action was necessary and Hamilton could breathe again.

Whether that decision was influenced at long range by harsh criticism of the FIA remains a moot point. A highly critical letter was recently sent by the 1996 world champion Damon Hill to Autosport magazine, in support of triple champion Sir Jackie Stewart whom FIA president Max Mosley recently described as a "certified halfwit".

"Last week I was amazed and appalled to read Max Mosley's comments about Sir Jackie Stewart," Hill said. "In the last few months the administration of Formula 1 has come in for a great deal of attention, not least because its decisions could have a significant bearing on the outcome of the drivers' championship. Without becoming diverted from my point in writing, by becoming embroiled in my own personal views of the folly of that whole episode, it is quite clear that Sir Jackie is owed a public apology by Max.

"It is well known that Sir Jackie is dyslexic and has struggles (as many thousands do) to cope with the all too easily made judgement that they are less intelligent than "ordinary" folk. This is in fact more often than not quite the opposite, and many dyslexic people are highly intelligent and extraordinarily gifted, as I believe is the case with Sir Jackie. To call him therefore a 'certified halfwit' would be on the first level unkind, but on another level, indeed the level at which Mr Mosley would like us to understand he operates on, is nothing other than a wicked joke designed to visit the utmost humiliation on its victim.

"Regardless of whether or not he was alluding to his dyslexia, what he said was a gross insult to one of the sport's leading figures over the last four decades and a thrice world champion. Not only is it bad manners, it also brings into question the character and judgement of the man who represents motorsport throughout the world through the august institution of the FIA. It was conduct most unbecoming of an FIA president and brought the sport into disrepute, a crime he recently seems so keen to eradicate. I would like to emphasise that my motive for writing is sheer indignation and outrage at what I see is abuse."

The decision to exonerate Hamilton was a major victory for common sense, and he made the most of it to give himself the best starting position for a race that could see him crowned champion at the first attempt.

After he outran Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, and McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, his closest rival, Hamilton said: "I went into final qualifying not sure which tyre was the best, the soft or the hard, so after I did the first run on the harder one I decided let's go for it and take a risk on the soft. The car was good. I got a cushion to warm them up; with my other poles I've always been the last to cross the line, this way gives you breathing space and time to relax, and I did it a little bit better."

Of the 90 per cent threat of similar conditions to those in which he won in Fuji, he simply said: "After my experience there I'm not bothered whether it's wet or dry. It'll be tricky either way but I'm in the best position to start the race and feel very optimistic. I will approach it in the same way I approach every race: I want to win. If I do that it might be a good day for us."

Grid positions

1 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1min 35.908

2 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:36.044

3 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:36.221

4 F Alonso (Sp) McLaren 1:36.576

5 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Renault 1:37.619

6 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:38.013

7 M Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault 1:38.153

8 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:38.455

9 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:38.472

10 J Button (GB) Honda 1:39.285

11 V Liuzzi (Ita) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.862

12 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.891

13 J Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:36.959

14 H Kovalainen (Fin) Renault 1:36.991

15 A Davidson (GB) Super Aguri-Honda 1:37.247

16 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:37.483

17 R Barrichello (Bra) Honda 1:37.251

18 G Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1:37.290

19 A Wurz (Aut) Williams-Toyota 1:37.456

20 T Sato (Jap) Super Aguri-Honda 1:38.218

21 A Sutil (Ger) Spyker-Ferrari 1:38.668

22 S Yamamoto (Jap) Spyker-Ferrari 1:39.336

Watch Hamilton in the Chinese GP live on ITV1. The race starts at 7am, with a full rerun at 11.30am

Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game