By Alan Baldwin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton looked forward to ending Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg's seven-race winning streak after denying the Formula One leader pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Briton's stunning performance, with a fastest lap of one minute 22.000 seconds on a sunny afternoon at the Circuit de Catalunya, put a smile back on his face after power unit problems in the past two races.
"Hopefully everything comes together," he said of Sunday's race. "I've been working on the starts...I will try and get off on the right foot and tomorrow could be the day."
Rosberg qualified second, 0.280 slower, and has a real fight on his hands if he is to become only the third driver after compatriot Michael Schumacher and Britain's Nigel Mansell to win the first five races of a season.
"Fortunately it's the race that counts," said the disappointed German, who leads Hamilton by 43 points overall. "There are still a couple of opportunities tomorrow, for sure.
"The start, for example, and then strategy wise. It's not going to be an easy race tomorrow so I will try and take my chances there."
The pole was the 52nd of Hamilton's career, and third of the season. For Mercedes, it was their 11th in a row.
Hamilton considered it to be three out of three in real terms since the champion was ruled out of qualifying in China due to a power unit failure and missed the final phase in Russia for the same reason.
"Obviously Nico has been really strong all week so it was crucial... bit by bit, one step at a time, I have been trying to bring the pace together," said Hamilton. "The car was great.
Hamilton damaged a set of tyres when he locked up and also had to contend with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen pulling out of the garage in front of him before his final run.
"All of a sudden he appeared and I thought he was going to hit me," said Hamilton, who had to lift off the throttle.
Red Bull filled the second row, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo a jubilant third while Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was a stunning fourth on his debut weekend with the team after moving up from Toro Rosso.
The decision to draft him in as a replacement for Russian Daniil Kvyat, demoted back to Toro Rosso, looked far more logical.
Verstappen's grid position was the best by a Dutch driver in Formula One and he had been third in the first two phases of qualifying, slower only than the Mercedes duo.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were a disappointing fifth and sixth with the pressure mounting on the team.
Finland's Valtteri Bottas starts seventh for Williams, with Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa only 18th, while Spaniard Carlos Sainz qualified eighth for Toro Rosso.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso put McLaren into the final phase of qualifying for the first time this season and will start 10th in his home race.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman)