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Massa claims first pole since near-fatal crash

AN emotional Felipe Massa proved fairy-tales do happen when he claimed pole for the first time since the 2009 crash that almost claimed his life.

Felipe Massa celebrates his qualifying on pole in the Austrian Grand Prix               Photograph: Getty
Felipe Massa celebrates his qualifying on pole in the Austrian Grand Prix Photograph: Getty

After setting the fastest lap in qualifying for today's Austrian Grand Prix, the Brazilian clambered from his Williams to hug and kiss wife Raffaela and son Felipinho, then just as he was about to turn away, he gave his son one more kiss.

It was the first time the four-and-a-half-year-old had watched his father take top spot on the grid. He was born six months after Massa's skull was fractured by a spring that had worked loose from Rubens Barrichello's car in qualifying in Hungary and subsequently saw him smash his car into a tyre wall.

Massa needed life-saving surgery, in which a titanium plate was inserted into his skull. He returned to Formula One in 2010, but there was always the feeling he has never been the same driver since.

However, his move to Williams from Ferrari this year has reinvigorated him and, on F1's return to Austria after an 11-year absence, he took full advantage of two costly errors by Lewis Hamilton to spearhead a Williams front-row lockout, the team's first since the 2003 German Grand Prix.

The 33-year-old clocked a fastest lap of one minute 8.759 seconds to line up alongside Valtteri Bottas (1:08.846) at the front of the grid. They are followed by the Mercedes of championship leader Nico Rosberg (1:08.944) and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso (1:09.285).

On the reunion with his family afterwards, he said: "It was a great moment because my son had never seen me in first place. It always makes a father feel good that your son is looking at you in first place.

"For sure he is part of my motivation, part of everything I'm doing in my career. I hope I can now have a great race with him watching.

"I'm so happy with what's happened with us, our team. My last pole position was in Brazil 2008, so this is an incredible moment. After a long time not being on pole I hope this is the start of some great possibilities to be here again.

"I'm so happy, very emotional, and I'm sure Williams feel similar. They've had an incredible career in the past, and now they are back to the top, back in the fight. There is still a lot to do, but the work is heading in the right direction. I hope I can now have a great race with him watching, my wife, and all family as well from home."

Hamilton, who qualified ninth, was on course to comfortably claim pole when he made an error on entry to the turn eight right-hander and was forced to take to the run-off area.

On his second hot lap, and again fastest in the first sector, the 29-year-old spun on the approach to turn two.

The Mercedes driver concedes he now faces a damage-limitation exercise. "They were just two not very good laps - or one-and-a-quarter-laps as I didn't finish my second," Hamilton said. "The feeling was there in the car, it has been good all weekend.

"My first lap was looking good, but I went wide into the second to last corner. I think that lap would have done it [claimed pole].

"But I've swallowed that pill many times. We're going to be strong tomorrow, but it's going to be very, very hard from where we are."

Fellow Briton Jenson Button starts 11th in his McLaren.

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