Saturday, June 11, 2011


Sebastian Vettel's grip on the Formula One season is beginning to resemble a stranglehold after he took pole position for the sixth time in seven attempts.
Even Vettel's crash into a wall during Friday's qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix did not sufficiently damage his car or his confidence to prevent him coming out on top again, ahead of the Ferrari pair of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
"Thank you, thank you. Thanks for fixing the car on Friday after I stuffed it into the wall," he screamed at this Red Bull pit crew. "We made up some ground from last year. Now I feel comfortable here."
It was in Montreal last year that Red Bull lost out on pole for the first time in the season. This is not considered to be one of their best circuits, which must be deflating for everyone else.
It was a disappointing afternoon for the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamiltonand Jenson Button, traditionally so strong on this challenging circuit. Hamilton was fifth, with Button two places behind in seventh. The Mercedes of Nico Rosberg divided the British pair.
This, though, was hardly a disaster for McLaren, because their cars were set up for a wet race, with rain as well as strong winds forecast for race day.
Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner said : "We've gone for a set-up which covers both eventualities. We didn't expect to get pole here, so it's a surprise to get it at one of our weakest circuits. A fantastic performance from Seb."
The only disappointment for Red Bull was that Mark Webber had more issues with Kers and missed the morning practice session. He will start from fourth on the grid.
This old-fashioned track, with long straights, challenging chicanes and slow corners, plus lots of tyre wear due to heavy breaking, usually suits McLaren, who finished one-two last year, with Hamilton edging out Button.
"This is a circuit where McLaren have always gone well," Button said. "Monaco really showed that we have a strength on mechanical circuits. We should be good here. Lewis is always very, very fast here. His team-mates have never out-qualified him here. It was great last year. I really enjoyed the race, fighting with Fernando Alonso [of Ferrari] and ending up second just behind Lewis. There will be a lot of stops, four or five stops."
For Button, tracks like this present a different challenge from some of the newer circuits. "On some tracks you can hammer it down to the corner, brake where you think it's right, even if it's a little bit late, lock up and you can run wide and get away with it. But here there are quite a few places where you don't have the run-off, you don't have the escape if you've made a mistake. But that's great. Monaco is great for that, within reason, and here's the same.
"It brings some of the excitement back, because you have to work up to the limit. It's a different way of driving. And Suzuka is a little like that too.
"The old style circuits will bite you if you are too confident. You could say the same for Spa and probably Silverstone. Even though they've got more run-off they're still the same. Even Hungary. We all find the limit in the end, it's just how we go about it."
For Hamilton, who also won his first grand prix here in 2007, it is tracks like this that allow the outstanding drivers to separate themselves from the good.
"You can excel more than others at tracks where you are prepared to take more risks," he said. "It's whether, in your own mind and heart, you are prepared to take more risks than the driver next to you.
"On another circuit, with more space, everyone can take the same risk, or go to the 100 per cent line. But on circuits like this, their limit is lower than others.
"It's the chicanes here, mostly, bumping over the kerb and having the confidence to get back on the power knowing you're not going to spin into a wall. Every time you get back on the power you think shoot, I could be in the wall. I think I touched the wall last year. It's very easy to do when the track is as slippery as this, but when you can pull it off it's time in the bag. If you can get on that power a little earlier it makes all the difference."
For a moment, Hamilton seemed anxious to say how well McLaren were doing this season. "It's easy to say that these are hard days for us. But you have to pull away from it and put things in perspective. We're second in the championship and we're the second quickest team. It's worse for people further behind. So we're not in a bad position."
But two minutes later Hamilton's competitive instincts emerged. "I love winning, I need to win. It's not the records necessarily. They come automatically when you win. It's winning. I want to win more. I don't win enough.
"That's what I wake up for, it's the only reason I train and eat healthily. It's the only reason why I keep my mind set on the game. It's to win. I don't want to finish anywhere else. I feel I'm one of the top drivers here.
"I've been at the top for the past five years. But I want the world championship. I want to be considered a world champion."
After winning two of his three races here, Hamilton is one of the favourites to win on Sunday. And he must do so to maintain his slim chances of a second title.

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