BARCELONA (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton seized pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday in a Mercedes one-two that ended Sebastian Vettel’s bid for a fourth in a row.
The Briton, leading his Ferrari rival by four points after four races, put in two blistering final laps at an overcast Circuit de Catalunya to take the top slot in a track record one minute 16.173 seconds.
Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas was second, in 1:16.213, with Vettel third and 0.132 off the pace.
“I needed this pole, I haven’t had a pole for a while. It’s a Mercedes one-two,” said Hamilton, whose last pole was in the Australian season-opener in March.
“It was important for me to get back into a good position with qualifying, as it’s usually a strength of mine.”
The four-times world champion’s time, on a track that has been smoothed and resurfaced since last year, was nearly three seconds quicker than his 2017 mark of 1:19.149.
The Briton has now been on pole in Spain for three years in a row and four of the last five. Saturday’s was the record 74th pole of his career and came at a track that has historically favoured the top qualifier.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen qualified fourth with the Red Bull pairing of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo lining up fifth and sixth for their first race since they collided in Azerbaijan two weekends ago.
“I was happy with the lap... I was feeling good. I looked at the tower and I saw my name didn’t go up, but we expected Mercedes to be strong so we will see what happens tomorrow,” Vettel said.
Danish driver Kevin Magnussen qualified seventh for Haas, ahead of Spaniards Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz for McLaren and Renault respectively.
That marked the first time Sainz had outqualified his German team mate Nico Hulkenberg this season and left Alonso as the only driver on the grid with a 5-0 record over his team mate, Stoffel Vandoorne.
It was also the first time a McLaren, now with Renault engines and with an eye-catching new nose and front wing, had reached the decisive final session this season.
“The top guys are still too high up so we need to close that gap, but I’m pleased that all the updates we brought here seem to be delivering as we expected,” Alonso said.
“We just need new parts as soon as possible and to keep going in this direction.”
Frenchman Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10 for Haas.
New Zealand’s Brendon Hartley did not take part in qualifying for Toro Rosso after crashing heavily in final practice.
“I’ll have a good sleep and come back tomorrow fresh, anything is possible,” he said.
His absence saved former champions Williams the embarrassment of filling the back row of the grid with Russian Sergey Sirotkin and Canadian Lance Stroll in 18th and 19th.
Sirotkin has a three-place grid penalty, however, as a result of a collision in Azerbaijan.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond