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Lewis Hamilton behind Felipe Massa

Lewis Hamilton kept up his inaugural title challenge by posting second place on the grid for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix behind Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.

Felipe Massa in French qualifying

Main rival Fernando Alonso could do no better than 10th after mechanical problems and may start at 20th if he needs to change his engine.

Massa headed championship leader Lewis Hamilton of McLaren to pole with a lap of one minute 15.034 seconds. The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen will start third.

Hamilton missed out to Massa by 0.07secs in Q3, although at least separated the Ferraris.

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Lewismania at Silverstone

Such is the success of Lewis Hamilton in winning both North American Grand Prix, after a string of podium finishes in his first season in Formula One, the commentators are forecasting “Lewismania” at Silverstone in early July.

The McLarens

He has already been likened to “a cross between Ayton Senna and Alain Prost” and remains the one to beat in Sunday’s French Grand Prix.

With a 10-point advantage over McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, Hamilton is sure to start his home GP as leader in the Drivers’ Championship whatever the result in France. One British newspaper says, “He is the hottest ticket not only in motor sport, but arguably in any sport”.

Given the notorious lack of reliability of British sportsmen over the years, one might expect Hamilton to buckle under the weight of expectation. Somehow, though, we know he won’t. Temperament is everything at the top level, and those comparisons with Senna and Prost — two drivers known as Sr. and M. Cool — we expect Hamilton to sail through his biggest test yet.

Team boss Ron Dennis is well aware of his role : “It’s a new experience for all of us.I’m just trying to use common sense to make sure we handle everything the right way. We’ve all had a bit of skirmish in the early races. … They [Alonso and Hamilton] have to be extra careful how they talk about each other in the press. We want to be thinking about what a great achievement this is rather than waiting to put the next fire out.”

Hamilton was at Silverstone this week where the team will have three days of testing ahead of the two back-to-back GPs in France and Britain.

Dennis said, “It is going to be a great season for us. They will have every opportunity to compete. It’s stressful but manageable. Alonso is behind but in the fortunate position of being in a car that can win.”

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Lewis Hamilton does it again

The question on all our minds yesterday was, could Lewis Hamilton make it first past the chequered flag at Indianapolis, despite his lack of experience, and the undoubtedly fierce challenge from Fernando Alonso?

This morning, the top of the Formula One drivers’ championship looks like this :

1 Lewis Hamilton GB 58
2 Fernando Alonso Spa 48
3 Felipe Massa Bra 39
4 Kimi Raikkonen Fin 32
5 Nick Heidfeld Ger 26
6 Giancarlo Fisichella Ita 13
7 Heikki Kovalainen Fin 12
7=Robert Kubica Pol 12
9 Alexander Wurz Aut 8

The ten point gap at the top will tell anyone who has been paying attention that Lewis Hamilton won his second Grand Prix back to back in North America yesterday.

Hamilton is only 22, driving in his first F1 season. Already he performs as if victory is inevitable, much as Ayrton Senna did in his pomp.

Hamilton started in pole position, scuffled with Alonso early on, but held his lead in the face of a determined challenge from his Spanish team mate.

After establishing a winning margin, he lost it, but then re-established it in alpha style. None of the other drivers on the grid knows what to do about him, not least twice Word Champ, Fernando Alonso.

Apart from his precocious talent, Hamilton’s greatest asset this season has been the reliability of his McLaren car, which has yet to let him down. Despite rumours of massive offers from Ferarri, he was right to stick with his current package, which has all the hallmarks of a runaway winning season.

The story of the US GP is neatly encapsulated in a passage from Daily Mail journalist, Jonathan McEvoy : “It was the beginning of lap 39 at the famous old Brickyard and Lewis Hamilton showed the world what he is made of. Fernando Alonso, pursuing the British rookie from second place, put his foot flat on the accelerator at 200mph and demanded of the young pretender: ‘Hold me off if you think you’re hard enough.’ The world champion wriggled level with the race leader. The wheels of their McLarens came within inches of touching and car-smattering implications. Hamilton stayed cool, pushed Alonso to the left and dived round the righthander fractionally in front. ”

The rest is yet more history for the cool dude that is Lewis Hamilton.

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Lewis Hamilton pole position in US GP

Lewis Hamilton has snatched pole position for the second week in succession.

Fernando Alonso at first dominated the United States Grand Prix practice and qualifying sessions until Hamilton made his late move with awesome ease.

Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren

Hamilton produced two flying laps at the death to take front spot on the grid for this afternoon’s race.

“I knew Fernando would go for it on his last lap and I’m surprised he didn’t go quicker,” said the young Hertfordshire driver after finishing 0.2sec ahead of the Spaniard.

“I really thought Fernando would get pole here. He has been quicker all weekend. My last two laps were spot-on, though — perfect. Getting my second pole was even better than last week and it’s great to see so many British flags.”

Alonso replied, “Being on top in practice makes me confident for the race. I have the pace. I still think I’m in a strong position.”

There was some confusion after Hamilton changed his Mercedes engine, but he will not suffer a grid penalty as it was fitted before final practice.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa will start third alongside team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

David Coulthard is in 11th spot for Red Bull, two places ahead of Honda’s Jenson Button.

This circuit is not Alonso’s favourite track. The best he has come here is 5th. Nevertheless, his pace in practice suggests he will be hard to beat this time.

If anyone can do it, though, you’d back Lewis Hamilton, who is beginning to take on the same mantle of near-invincibilty once held by Ayton Senna — perhaps the greatest of them all.

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