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September 27, 2009

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Rubens crash hands pole to Hamilton

MCLAREN'S world champion Lewis Hamilton will start tonight's Singapore Grand Prix on pole position after title contender Rubens Barrichello crashed in the dying seconds of last night's qualifying.

The Briton lapped the floodlit 5.067-kilometer Marina Bay street circuit in one minute 47.891 seconds to top the time-sheets, with the final session red-flagged with just 26 seconds remaining on the clock.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Williams' Nico Rosberg will start second and third, respectively, after Barrichello's crash prevented them from trying to beat Hamilton's time.

Hamilton earned his third pole in four Formula One races. It was the 16th pole of his career, equal second among current drivers.

"The car over the weekend got better and better," Hamilton said. "We will see what happens with the strategy but we are in the best position, starting from the front row.

"We really didn't expect it, so it's a surprise."

Vettel will start from second tonight, relishing a return to a high downforce circuit. The front-row slot gives the German a chance to close the gap on the Brawn GP pair of Jenson Button and Barrichello, who fill the top two spots in the drivers' championship.

"We are not giving up, we are here to attack," Vettel said.

Rosberg was third fastest - his best qualifying performance since 2006 - ahead of Mark Webber of Red Bull, who also retains slim championship hopes.

"We're not 10th - we're fourth, so we can do something from there," Australian Webber said.

Though Barrichello crashed, he was fifth fastest, but will start from 10th after a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.

"I couldn't afford to lose any time so I went for it," Barrichello said. "The car bottomed out and I lost control. It just bounced off the wall. I hope the chassis is okay."

Championship leader Button, 14 points ahead of Barrichello with four races remaining, qualified 12th. The Briton made an error late in the second session of qualifying and, on a circuit where it is difficult to pass, he faces an uphill task to collect points tonight. "The car hit the ground and then I locked the wheel and it cost me a lot of time," Button said. "I'm starting 12th, so it's not a good position to be in."

Ferrari, which has given up further developing its current car and is concentrating on 2010, predictably struggled. Kimi Raikkonen qualified 13th and Giancarlo Fisichella 18th.

Earlier, Hamilton took a swipe at the street circuit, calling the city-state's track "very dangerous."

The McLaren driver, out of contention for this year's title, complained that the road circuit was dusty and bumpy and that improvements promised last year had not been implemented.

"It's such a bumpy track and the ride on our car was quite poor," he told reporters in the paddock ahead of qualifying.

"It's shaking so much. The car is bumping and bouncing and sliding. It's still very bad. I don't really think it's changed at all to be honest."

Hamilton also hit out at changes made to the chicane on turn 10, where curbs had been built up.

"It's a lot worse than last year," he said. "Last year, it was a weird little corner anyway but it was quite good - a quick left, right, left. Now it's big, fat curbs and there's no runoff, so it's very dangerous.

"I'm sure in the race someone will crash there. If someone blew a tire and had an over-steer moment and slid and hit one of those curbs, they would fly. It's not very safe."


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