Spanish Grand Prix: Hamilton takes pole ahead of Vettel

"I think everyone was struggling". They were on the tires that they would also use in the first stint of the race.

However, he was unable to improve on his second run, and that nearly let Ferrari in, although in the end Vettel crossed the line and was 0.051secs down - and 0.173secs up on Bottas.

After finishing behind Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain and Sochi, Hamilton will be desperate to get his world championship bid back on track on Sunday. "I had it, I had it", he said ruefully over the radio.

"Amazing job by the team and super proud we can get back up there and have a better weekend", said Hamilton after claiming the 250th pole by a British driver in Formula One. He was so when he joined.

"It's tough. I really thought this weekend could be good but today it's all come crashing down". "He will remain competitive all season". And Hamilton will attempt to emulate the Finnish driver as he sets about slashing Vettel's 13-point championship lead. Bottas, who replaced retired champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes this season, is another 10 points adrift.

It was the team's first big upgrade of the season and seemed to have cancelled out two upgrades Ferrari brought to Russian Federation and this race, which were smaller individually but seem to have been worth about the same amount overall. But he was happy with how things turned out given the circumstance, and managed to keep the one Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen behind.

Hamilton, meanwhile, is eager to bounce back from a fourth-place finish in the previous race. "We have grown from the experience, of having won with a strong auto (for Bottas) and a vehicle that struggled".

When asked after qualifying if it had been the difference, Vettel said: "I'm afraid it was, yeah!"

Vettel, for his part, was trying to cling to the role of an outside threat to Mercedes' three-year title reign.

Vettel, whose Ferrari team were forced to change his engine on Saturday morning, added: "The team did a phenomenal job". "Mercedes are still the team to beat".

In lovely spring sunshine and under a attractive blue sky north of Barcelona, the teams spent the session evaluating the upgrades they have brought to this race.

It is too early to make any conclusions about relative pace, not least because Vettel's session was disrupted by a gearbox problem on the pit straight.

He could at least thank his lucky stars, or years of experience, to get that far after being told to stop the vehicle soon after qualifying had started.

Despite missing out on a first pole in nine years - the French Grand Prix in 2008 was his last - Raikkonen is encouraged by Ferrari's pace and the performance of its Barcelona upgrade. A year later, Hamilton must now compete on multiple fronts.

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