Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he did not expect to deprive McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso of pole position at the United States Grand Prix, especially after the Woking team had to change his engine.

The Briton confirmed that his engineers had been busy swapping motors before third free practice - the last point at which the change could take place without penalty - but showed no sign of allowing the new unit to bed in as he took two laps good enough for top spot in the third and final session of qualifying. The Canadian Grand Prix winner also confirmed that he had struggled to come to terms with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, while Alonso had defied earlier form to blitz all previous practice and qualifying sessions.

"It was quite a surprise, to be honest," Hamilton said of his pole achievement, "Going into qualifying, we hadn't really found the best set-up and I knew that Fernando is obviously extremely quick here. But it's great to see that the team is so quick - and ahead of the Ferraris obviously.

"Going into that qualifying session, I just had to pull it all out and my two last laps in Q3 were spot on - I think I just beat my best lap at the end. So I couldn't be happier. I didn't really expect to be on pole. Yeah, they had to change the engine - I think it was an assembly problem or something - but the new engine performed very well, so I'm ecstatic. I am very very pleased and happy for the team."

The rookie, who goes into the USGP eight points clear in the world championship standings, admitted that this pole had been just as exciting as his first in Montreal, because he had had to work hard for it.

"Getting my second pole is even better than last week - when I came across the line and the team told me I had P1, I was screaming in my helmet," he said, "Through the whole lap I was just extremely ecstatic. The crowd here has been fantastic - I can see, outside my garage, over in the grandstands, someone has a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes sign with Lewis on it, so it's great to see. There are a lot of British flags out there, but also a lot of support from the Americans.

"Going into qualifying, I'm always trying to find that little bit more, little bit more. And, each time I go out, I improve and improve. Sometimes you go out and you don't improve, but you learn from it. Going through the whole of qualifying, I was finding bits of time through my driving, and saw certain places where I could find time. Going into my qualifying lap in Q3, the car felt very good. I made certain adjustments on my steering wheel and the balance was very good and I managed to get a very clear lap.

"Then, going into my second Q lap, I knew that Fernando would obviously be pushing extremely hard, as well as everyone else. But I managed to pull out, I think, it was a tenth in the first sector, but I lost it in the middle sector, so I was a bit nervous about that. But I managed to gain some of it back going across the line, so a little bit faster again. I was just surprised to see that Fernando didn't match it or do better."

Hamilton admitted that the technical middle section of the lap had been the hardest to learn, and where he had been dropping time to his team-mate.

"Experience is everything here, so the more and more I get out on the track, the faster I get," he reasoned, "I think, yesterday, straight away I got into the first sector and the last sector, which are not the hardest sectors to do, but I was still losing, I think, half a second or something in the middle sector. So that's where I've really had to work away and chip away at it step by step. It's got better and better. As you saw, I didn't do purple sectors but I just was very, very consistent. That's the key obviously."

 

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