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FORMULA 1: Lewis Hamilton out to 'prove critics wrong' in...

Lewis Hamilton insists his decision to move to Mercedes has been vindicated after claiming pole for today's Chinese Grand Prix.

The speedy Briton posted a time of one minute, 34.484 seconds around the Shanghai International Circuit. That saw him qualify a quarter of a second ahead of Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen in second and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in third.

It was Hamilton's first pole with his new team after he controversially left McLaren. He was accused of leaving the team, with which he won the 2008 world championship and where he'd been since he was a child, simply for more money and stalling any chances he had of further glory because of it. But having stormed to the front of the grid, Hamilton was in the mood to remind his critics of his insistence he moved for racing reasons, and not cash.

"It's an incredible feeling, so happy to have our first pole for some time," the said. "I'm just ecstatic really, the lap was great. I can't answer [critics] with one result but bit by bit, as we progress and improve, they will have to stand corrected.

"I am so grateful because it could have gone the other way. It was such a big choice for me and a big step for me but I made the right call." In what was a cat-and-mouse qualifying session all runners restricted their time on the track to save sets of tires for the race, with the top 10 having only one flying lap in the third and final shootout. McLaren's Jenson Button and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel both elected to do their flying lap on the harder of the two tire compounds, sacrificing grid position so they can have a longer stint at the beginning of the race. Button earned eighth, while Vettel was ninth.

Of the top three runners, Hamilton will likely have to pit first, as the Mercedes has quickly degraded the soft tire throughout the race weekend, and his times are likely to start dropping after as few as two or three laps. He was putting faith in his team in

the decision to start on the softs and not follow the example of championship leader Vettel in choosing a lower grid spot but longer first stint on Sunday.

"I have really good strategists and I just trust them and their decisions and stand by it," Hamilton said. "No matter what strategy you are on, everyone will struggle on the option tire whether it's high or low fuel."

Raikkonen came up just short of his first pole in five years, set when he was with Ferrari. "Second is not too bad. It's the best I've achieved with the team. I would rather be in first place but we don't have the speed," Raikkonen said.

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 13, 2013
Words:479
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