Webber: A ‘hollow’ pole position

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Mark Webber has said that pole position for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix feels slightly “hollow” after teammate Sebastian Vettel encountered a KERS problem in Q3.

However, the Australian has said that he is happy to have grabbed the opportunity with both hands to score his first pole of the season, with his last start from P1 being at last year’s Korean Grand Prix.

“Sebastian had a problem in qualifying, so a little bit of a hollow pole position if you like, because he still did a phenomenal lap, but I’m happy to be on pole,” Webber explained. “You’ve got to grab the opportunities when you can and still put the laps in.”

Webber was also pleased to have claimed pole position in his final Japanese Grand Prix ahead of his retirement at the end of the season. Webber joins a list of illustrious names including Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Nigel Mansell who have all started on pole at Suzuka.

“Very, very nice farewell for me to have pole here on my last attempt at Suzuka on a really phenomenal circuit,” Webber said after qualifying. “I’ll never forget the first sector today. That’s what us guys strive for and yeah, our profession is all about that so it was a real highlight for a lot of us out there today.”

Webber’s pole position is Red Bull’s fifth in a row at Suzuka, and it also sees Renault overtake Ferrari for the record number of pole positions for an engine supplier. He will be hoping to convert this into his first win of the season tomorrow as the Australian driver looks to bow out of the sport in the best possible fashion.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.