Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday's Spanish GP from pole position ahead of Pastor Maldonado having claimed McLaren's 150th pole position.
The McLaren driver put in a dominant display in front of Williams' Pastor Maldonado, who achieved his best qualifying position ever in P2.
Hamilton and Maldonado put an end to Spanish dreams as, prior to their flying laps, it was Fernando Alonso who was in the P1 slot. Romain Grosjean finished fourth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Nico Rosberg.
The sun was beating down on the Circuit de Catalunya with am ambient temperature of 28C and the track at 41C - the wind had increased from the morning practice session which saw strong running from the Williams and Sauber teams.
After a long delay, with teams reluctant to be first on track, Paul DiResta headed out and set a slow benchmark time of 1:25.675 (running wide at Turn 9), which was immediately beaten by Romain Grosjean's 1:25.025. Fernando Alonso then reduced that to a 1:24.326, Sergio Perez edged below with a 1:24.261 and Lewis Hamilton used his hard tyres to set a 1:24.143.
Teams had opted to run multiple laps on the harder Prime tyre before going onto the softer Option tyre. Unusually for the 2012 season, because of the wide gap between the hard and soft tyres at Barcelona, many were expecting to use up a set of softs in the opening session. As it turned out, everyone had to use a set of soft tyres.
With eight minutes left Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber had not taken to the track, as Lewis reduced the P1 time to 1:23.989. Seconds later the Williams of Pastor Maldonado set the timing screens to purple with three fastest sectors en route to a P1 time of 1:23.380. Pastor had done this on soft tyres and rather than use up a set of hard tyres, the Red Bull Racing cars went straight onto the softs.
With four minutes of the session to run the positions were: 12.Senna, 13.Hulkenberg, 14.Vergne, 15.Ricciardo, 16.DiResta, 17.Petrov, 18.Kovalainen, 19.Pic, 20.Glock, 21.de la Rosa, 22.Karthikeyan, 23.Vettel (no time), 24.Webber (no time).
It was time for everybody to bolt on a set of soft tyres as the two Red Bulls made themselves safe in the top ten. Romain Grosjean then reduced P1 to 1:23.248 and Lewis Hamilton produced a scorching run of 1:22.583 - 1.4 seconds quicker than his previous time.
As the clock ticked down to zero, Bruno Senna failed to improve his time and stayed P17. When Jean-Eric Vergne put his Toro Rosso into P17 and pushed Senna into the exit seat of P18, along with the Caterhams, Marussias and HRTs, Bruno had one lap to make a difference. Pushing on his final lap, he was already behind on time going through Turns 11/12, hooked up too much kerb in Turn 11 and threw the car into the gravel at Turn 12. Senna was out in P18 while his team-mate was sitting in P3.
So out of the session went: 18.Senna, 19.Petrov, 20.Kovalainen, 21.Pic, 22.Glock, 23.de la Rosa, 24.Karthikeyan (not inside 107%). Karthikeyan's car looked almost undriveable at times and given the traffic congestion in practice it may well be that he fails to get into Sunday's race.
Again Paul DiResta started off the session, first on track for Force India. Many of the teams were running the soft tyres they had used to escape Q1. DiResta's time was easily beaten by Kamui Kobayashi with a 1:24.031 which was in turn beaten in a flurry of times, Sergio Perez 1:23.753, Nico Rosberg 1:23.401 and then Jenson Button with a 1:23.319.
This was then put into proportion by Lewis Hamilton's first run which was almost a second quicker than Button's time, a 1:22.465. Over team radio Button complained that he was "struggling with the rears".
Going into the final four minutes the danger positions were skewed by the lack of running from the Lotus and Toro Rosso teams: 6.Schumacher, 7.Alonso, 8.Perez, 9.Maldonado, 10.Kobayashi, 11.Hulkenberg, 12.Massa, 13.DiResta, 14.Raikkonen (no time), 15.Grosjean (no time), 16.Ricciardo (no time), 17.Vergne (no time). Notice - no Button or Webber on there.
Raikkonen promptly delivered a time good enough for P2, Vergne jumped to P5, Grosjean to P2 - which pushed Fernando Alonso into P11. Felipe Massa's second lap wasn't nearly good enough, the Brazilian managing just P10 with many cars still on faster laps.
Daniel Ricciardo slotted into P9 and then the Barcelona crowd could breath again as Fernando Alonso put his Ferrari safely into P4. This now pushed Sebastian Vettel out of the top ten to P11. It also pushed Button and Webber closer to the dropzone.
That dropzone became all the more real when Paul Di Resta set P6 and Vettel P5. Jenson Button responded by grabbing P6 but Mark Webber was still in the garage, the team having judged he would be safe.
Even though he had run again Button's time was not good enough, Kobayashi grabbed P6 off him, Perez took P3 and then Pastor Maldonado set a new P1 time with a blistering 1:22.105.
The two Mercedes cars made themselves safe - Rosberg P6 and Schumacher P9, but both Button and Webber were out.
So out went: 11.Button, 12.Webber, 13.DiResta, 14.Hulkenberg, 15.Vergne, 16.Ricciardo, 17.Massa.
The difference between Kimi Raikkonen in P5 and Mark Webber in P12 was just a tenth of a second. Webber had been on pole for the last two years and now he would be starting in P12. Button's team-mate looked capable of pole and he was just P11, while Felipe Massa had struggled yet again in comparison to his team-mate.Qualifying 3
For some reason Sebastian Vettel was out early for Q3 and waiting patiently at the end of the pitlane for a minute until the lights went green before putting in a slow, touring lap, and then back into the pits. No time set. Lewis Hamilton set off on a fast lap on a used set of softs while everyone waited.
Lewis's provisional pole time was a 1:22.560. With three minutes of the session left only one car had set a time.
Nico Rosberg then went out and put in a 1:23.005. With one minute of the session left only two cars had set a time.
Finally everyone took to the track in (quite literally) a last minute dash. Fernando Alonso set Spanish hearts thumping with a brilliant lap to take provisional pole away from Lewis Hamilton, a 1:22.302. Kimi Raikkonen looked as though he would go faster but crossed the line in P2.
Sergio Perez put his Sauber up into P3 before the second Lotus of Romain Grosjean came up a tenth short of Alonso in P2. However right at that moment, armed with a set of new Option tyres Lewis Hamilton was tearing up the track. With three purple (fastest) sectors he set a 1.21.707 - 0.6 quicker than Alonso.
Helping Frank Williams to celebrate his 70th birthday Pastor Maldonado then put his Williams onto the front row of the grid alongside Hamilton with a 1:22.285. Although Vettel went out again, as did Schumacher, neither would set a time. It was Hamilton's first pole in Spain and Mclaren's 150th since Peter Revson in the Yardley Team Mclaren back in 1973 at Mosport, Canada.
In the last 21 races, 20 of them have been won by a car on the first row of the grid at Barcelona. But with tyre degradation being key in the race, no-one is really expecting that trend to be reinforced tomorrow.
01 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:21.707 17 laps
02 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:22.285 0.578 14 laps
03 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:22.302 0.595 15 laps
04 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:22.424 0.717 14 laps
05 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:22.487 0.780 13 laps
06 Sergio Perez Sauber 1:22.533 0.826 14 laps
07 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.005 1.298 17 laps
08 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 14 laps
09 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 15 laps
10 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 14 laps
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1:22.944 0.060 13 laps
12 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:22.977 0.093 8 laps
13 Paul di Resta Force India 1:23.125 0.241 14 laps
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:23.177 0.293 13 laps
15 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:23.265 0.381 11 laps
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:23.442 0.558 11 laps
17 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:23.444 0.560 12 laps
18 Bruno Senna Williams 1:24.981 2.398 8 laps
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:25.277 2.694 8 laps
20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:25.507 2.924 8 laps
21 Charles Pic Marussia 1:26.582 3.999 8 laps
22 Timo Glock Marussia 1:27.032 4.449 8 laps
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:27.555 4.972 6 laps
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:31.122 8.539 4 laps
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