Hamilton “overwhelmed” with fourth pole of 2014

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Lewis Hamilton has said that he is “overwhelmed” to have secured his fourth pole position of the 2014 season during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix today.

The Mercedes driver edged out teammate Nico Rosberg by one-tenth of a second at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and secured his fourth pole position in five races, as well as his first at the circuit.

“I’m overwhelmed to get pole position because I’ve had a pretty tough day in the car, particularly after yesterday went so well,” Hamilton explained. “I was really happy on Friday and we changed a couple of small things overnight, just the tiniest of tweaks, but it was a real handful today because track conditions had changed.

“On that final run, I really had to eke out everything and more from the car and myself to get pole and I’m so happy that I managed it.”

Having won the last three races, the momentum in Formula 1 certainly lies with Hamilton, but he was quick to heap praise upon the team. The W05 Hybrid car has been totally dominant in the sport so far this season, scoring three one-twos and four wins so far.

The introduction of upgrades for other teams at this race did threaten Mercedes’ advantage, but the team has instead extended its lead over the rest of the field.

“The hard work from the team and the development step we have made this weekend are totally inspiring for me,” Hamilton said. “I haven’t experienced this level of performance before.”

From pole position, Hamilton will unquestionably be the favorite to win a fourth race in a row tomorrow, but with his teammate snapping at his heels in second place, we are likely to see another great intra-team battle at Mercedes tomorrow.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.