Sao Paulo: Lewis Hamilton will start his 110th and final race for McLaren from pole position in Sunday’s showdown Brazilian Grand Prix after he and team-mate Jenson Button upstaged the title fighters by locking out the front row.
Hamilton produced a dramatic and fast final lap in Saturday’s qualifying to outstrip all his rivals and maintain his end-of-season domination as McLaren delivered their fourth lockout of the year.
In his final qualifying session for the team before leaving to join Mercedes next year, the 27-year-old Briton clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 12.458 seconds to outpace compatriot Button by one-tenth of a second.
“I am grateful to be able to put the car on the front row and to have a one-two for McLaren in my last qualifying is just great. The team did a fantastic job,” said Hamilton.
The dazzling performance from the two McLaren men left championship contenders, defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull down in fourth and his title rival, two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari in eighth.
Both of them were out-qualified by their team-mates, Mark Webber, who was third for Red Bull, and Felipe Massa, who was fifth-fastest on his home track for Ferrari.
“It was not quick enough and I know I could have done a little better,” admitted Vettel.
“But let’s wait and see what happens tomorrow.”
A cagey Alonso, who may have run in a set-up that may suit Sunday’s forecast wet weather better than the dry, said: “It is more or less what I expected… We didn’t gamble and only made minimal changes.”
Pastor Maldonado was sixth for Williams ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Force India with Kimi Raikkonen taking ninth spot on the grid for Lotus ahead of Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.
Rosberg’s team-mate and German compatriot seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, and heading into retirement after his final race on Sunday, was down in 14th place.
Hamilton’s pole was his first in Brazil, his seventh this year and the 26th of his career and helped the team to a record 67th front row lockout in Formula One.
He had pledged he would do all he could to depart McLaren with a win in his 110th and final race and did all he could to set it up.
After a humid final free practice in the morning, topped by Button’s McLaren, qualifying began in damp and treacherous conditions following a rain-storm that left areas of surface water on the asphalt.
This may have raised spirits at Ferrari where Alonso was relaxing before his entry into the fray along with the rest of the front-runners.
The Spaniard, memorably, was on pole at the two previous wet qualifying sessions this season at the British and German Grands Prix.
Massa was also determined to shine on home soil, as the only man since 1999 to have won the race from pole position in support, in his role as flanker for Alonso.