Hamilton had been fastest in all three practice sessions and on Friday he had a dig at his “moaning” fellow drivers who had complained about the difficulties posed by the new circuit.
But when it really mattered in qualifying he twice had difficulties before clipping the wall and conceding pole position to arch-rival Nico Rosberg for Sunday’s grand prix.
Hamilton will start in 10th place. But the consolation for him is that there are plenty of over-taking opportunities on the long straight. “I had fantastic rhythm yesterday and rhythm today,” he said. “Now it’s about damage limitation.”
It could not have been a better afternoon for Rosberg, who has seen his race lead cut from 43 points to nine following Hamilton’s victories in the last two races. “It was one of the more challenging sessions but it was great,” he said afterwards.
Sergio Pérez set the second fastest time but will be hit by a five place grid penalty because he crashed at the end of FP3 and required a new gearbox.
Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel set identical times but the Red Bull driver will start on the front row because he got his time in first.
Jenson Button became the first McLaren driver this season to go out in Q1. He said: “We were a bit unlucky. To be fair I made a mistake at Turn 15 and locked it up and went off. I did a doughnut and that’s not good for tyres.
“We should have put on new tyres. It is what it is. There’s only one place to overtake and that’s the main straight –we found it difficult on our long runs yesterday but we’ll try our best to overtake.”
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