Lewis Hamilton broke Fernando Alonso's monopoly of the 2007 US Grand Prix practice and qualifying sessions to claim pole position for Sunday's seventh round of the Formula One world championship.

Despite not looking as comfortable on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's road course as he did on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal last weekend, the Briton improved throughout the qualifying session to ease ahead of his Spanish team-mate when it mattered most.

Alonso headed the first two parts of qualifying, beating Nick Heidfeld and Hamilton into second accordingly, but the Briton was first out of the blocks in Q3, setting the pace during the fuel-burning phase, before upping the ante on both of the new tyre runs. Unlike most of their rivals, the two McLaren drivers opted to use the softer of the two Bridgestone tyre choices, Alonso lowering the benchmark to knock interloper Felipe Massa off P1 with half the session gone.

Hamilton, however, was not to be out-done, and, taking advantage of Alonso's brief lock-up in turn nine, crossed the line shortly after the double world champion to shave a tenth and a bit off the target. At that point, Massa and Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen occupied the second row, ahead of BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, and, with none of the expected challengers improving on the third and final run, it was left to the two Silver Arrows to battle over pole.

Alonso was again the first on track but, perhaps under pressure from Hamilton's split times in his wake, carried too much speed into turn eight and then suffered an oversteery moment in ten, effectively blunting his challenge. As if resigned to his fate, the Spaniard deviated from the usual 'fast' line down the main straight, swooping instead towards pit-wall - as he had done in Canada - to start sweeping some of the detritus away from second spot on the grid.

Hamilton, although guaranteed pole by his team-mate's mistakes, continued to press on, unaware of the situation, eventually crossing the line in an improved 1min 12.331secs, shaving 0.05secs from his previous best.

With the next three drivers having failed to improve, there was a chance that rows two and three could change in the closing moments, but Massa, Raikkonen and Heidfeld remained untroubled by those behind.

That may have been due to the relative youth of their closest opposition, with Heikki Kovalainen building on his strong Montreal result to steal sixth spot at the death. The Finn thus joined Heidfeld on row three, denying the German's rookie team-mate Sebastian Vettel the chance to continue the two-by-two formation. Kovalainen also out-gunned Renault colleague Giancarlo Fisichella, the Italian propping up the final ten, six-tenths off his team-mate.

That put the veteran behind not only Kovalainen and Vettel, but also Jarno Trulli - who had squeaked into the final session - and Mark Webber, who had to settle for ninth after again making it to the top ten shootout.

The Australian will line-up directly in front of Red Bull Racing team-mate David Coulthard, after the Scot was denied a shot at the top ten by a fraction of a second in Q2. He joined Nico Rosberg in missing the boat, the German perhaps the biggest name casualty of the second session after recent strong runs from the Williams team.

Rosberg was dumped into the bottom six in Q2 by Fisichella's late improvement, and was then unable to climb higher than 14th on his own last attempt. That left him to join Williams team-mate Alex Wurz on the sidelines after the Austrian missed out by a hundredth of a second in Q1, one of a few to complain about unpredictable handling and grip.

Rosberg and Coulthard were joined in the Q2 drop zone by both Hondas, Jenson Button finishing ahead of Rubens Barrichello, Toyota's Ralf Schumacher and the second Super Aguri of Anthony Davidson, who admitted that it was disappointing to finish 16th after taking tenth in Q1, but reckoned that the slightest mistake had proved costly in a tightly-packed midfield.

Team-mate Takuma Sato had already been unable to carry any of his magic from the Canadian Grand Prix into the opening qualifying session, headlining the first six drivers to miss the cut, alongside Wurz and both Spykers, while Scott Speed failed to draw any extra inspiration from the home crowd, ending the day in 20th spot, one behind Toro Rosso team-mate Tonio Liuzzi.

 

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