Turkish Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton is left frustrated by Red Bull

• McLaren driver qualifies fourth, team-mate Button sixth
• Vettel and Webber qualify first and second for Sunday’s race

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton steers his McLaren to fourth place on the grid in Istanbul during qualifying. Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton‘s pessimism when he arrived in Istanbul was partially justified when once again he was kept off the front of the grid by the Red Bull pair of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in a disappointing qualifying session.

With Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes taking third place in the line-up for the Turkish Grand Prix, Hamilton was forced down toended up fourth on the grid. His team-mate, Jenson Button, is in sixth place and the McLaren pair were split by Fernando Alonso, who qualified fifth, as he has done for every race this season, prompting his Ferrari principal, Stefano Domenicali, to suggest he must have taken a lease out on the place.

“It’s not pole position but it’s better than nothing,” said Hamilton, the winner in the last outing in China. “I would have hoped for a little bit better. We are in the fight. We don’t have an extra set of soft tyres for the race and we’ve seen that Mercedes and Ferrari have picked up their pace.”

At least Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal, was upbeat about the performance. “It’s very tight, very competitive, at the sharp end of the grid this year – and it’s worth noting that, had Lewis managed to string together his three best sector times in a single lap, he’d have been second-quickest,” he said. “As things turned out, he was fourth-quickest, and Jenson was sixth-quickest, but they’re both fantastic racers and they’ll approach tomorrow’s race with all the controlled aggression that we’ve come to expect from them.”

Button, the winner here two years ago and last year’s runner-up, was also looking for positives. “Sixth position isn’t great, but we can still do well,” he said. “Mark Webber had a good race from 18th in China, so we can definitely have a good race from sixth.”

“Maybe I should have just done a single run for Q3 because my second run wasn’t any faster than my first – and you tend to lose time if you push these tyres too hard. But, to be honest, I couldn’t get a really good balance in qualifying.”

Vettel, however, looked problem-free, even though his car sustained serious damage in practicehere yesterday morning. This was his 19th pole position, and his fourth in four races this season equalled the record of McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen in 1999. “We had a good day today,” the Red Bull driver said, smiling, as he apologised to mechanics and engineers for yesterday’s mishap, which compromised the team’s preparation for the weekend. “It was not the perfect option,” he said. “But I found the rhythm of the track quickly and had a good Q1 and Q2 so we felt confident going into Q3.”

But qualifying, which has proved better than the actual race on some occasions, has lost much of its lustre. For one thing, pole means less these days, with overtaking increasing through tyre degradation and DRS, which reduces drag, not to mention the bursts of acceleration KERS allows. And for that reason the teams are now approaching the Saturday afternoon hour more cautiously. It is now all part of the tyre-conservation strategy, for the top 10 drivers must start with the same tyres they used in qualifying.

The most heartening result probably came from Mercedes, though, with Rosberg capping a good two days with third place. But Michael Schumacher, in eighth, was less content. “I’m not happy at all to be so far off,” said the seven-times world champion. “We couldn’t reproduce what we did this morning. The more I pushed the more things went wrong and I had no grip left.”

  • guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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