Hamilton leaves lasting impression

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:48 PM ET

MONTREAL — The lasting image of Saturday’s qualifying session for the Canadian Grand Prix will be that of Lewis Hamilton pushing his McLaren Mercedes down to the finish line on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The 25-year-old Briton had run out of gas just moments after he set the fastest lap — one minute 15.105 seconds — in the final qualifying session to claim the pole for Sunday’s Formula One race.

Rather than just steer his MP4-24 to the side of the track, Hamilton got part way out of the cockpit and sat there patting the side of the Mercedes as if he were a jockey and his car was the winning horse at the Kentucky Derby.

But when it became clear there wasn’t enough gas for him to complete the circuit even at idling speed, he jumped out and began his push, literally, to the finish line.

It was evident that Hamilton was enjoying the moment, as he waved to the crowd who were cheering him on in his slow victory lap.

“The fans in Canada have always been so supportive of me,” Hamilton said. “I thought I would just take the moment to wave to them as a sort of thank you for their support.”

But he was deadly serious only moments before when he became aware that he had only one lap to top his chief rival — Red Bull’s Mark Webber — who had just completed a then-fastest lap of 1:15.373.

Webber’s Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel was sitting second with a 1:15.373.

Hamilton said it was time to fight for the pole and put some pressure on Webber, currently F-1’s leading driver.

He accomplished just that in his blistering final attempt.

“It’s game on for the championship,” Hamilton said. “It comes down to who is the toughest and strongest in the mind. It is all about mental strength.”

Webber and Vettel both went with a harder compound Bridgestone tire for qualifying in the belief that it would be a better choice for Sunday’s start and that Hamilton’s team was gambling that an early full course yellow would allow a switch from the softer option tires early in the race.

F-1 requires that teams start the race on the tires they qualified.

“We thought we could still do a pretty good job in qualifying on the harder tire,” Webber said. “We knew we still had a crack at the front row. McLaren is on the option tire, it is a long race tomorrow and we are planning to do the best job we can.”

Hamilton, however, said that his team’s strategy wasn’t much of a gamble.

“Of course if a safety car comes around it could help, but we will see how long (the softer tires) last and do the best job we can,” he said. “You never know what strategies are (Sunday) and it will be interesting to see everyone’s strategies.

“I am not worried right now, I am enjoying the fact that we got pole position. We will look at it and analyze the different situations we can find ourselves in . The best way is not to panic and do the best job we can.”

But Red Bull’s Webber was equally confident his team had made the right choice.

“We think it is something that will be beneficial to us,’ he said. “With the odd safety car here and there, there are many ways this race can unfold. We stuck to our guns, Seb and I are in the top three again.”

The 70-lap race around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’s 4.361-km road course gets underway at 1 p.m. Sunday.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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