MONTREAL -- Lewis Hamilton took the pole again at the Canadian Grand Prix -- barely.
Seconds after the checkered flag waved to signify the end of the third and final round of qualifying Saturday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica appeared to grab his first Formula One pole, knocking Hamilton's Mercedes McLaren off the top of the speed chart with a lap of 1 minute, 18.498 seconds.
But Hamilton, who earned his first F1 pole and victory here a year ago, was still out on the 12-turn course, throwing his car through the corners and sliding dangerously several times. The result was a lap of 1:17.886 that gave the 23-year-old Englishman his second pole of the season and the eighth top qualifying spot of his career.
Kubica will start from the outside of the front row in Sunday's race.
"At the end I had two laps," Hamilton said. "The first one was pretty shocking. I went wide in turn one. I had to make sure on the second one.
"I had to stick it out and make sure I got a good lap. I think I found six or seven tenths [of a second] there, so I'm pretty happy with it."
Hamilton said his helmet visor had raindrops on it at least twice in the final lap.
"There were a few big drops," he said. "I was just hoping I was going to get my last lap. I think we just missed it. I just kept going."
World champion Kimi Raikkonen, who trails Hamilton by three points in the drivers' standings, put his Ferrari in the third spot on the grid with a lap of 1:18.735. He was followed by two-time world champion Fernando Alonso's Renault at 1:18.746, the Williams of Nico Rosberg at 1:18.844 and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa at 1:19.048.
Hamilton was fastest in Friday's practice, Saturday morning's practice and all three qualifying stints, although the speeds were consistently slower in each session and his pole-winning speed was considerably slower than the 1:15.707 he turned a year ago. A big part of the slowdown stems from F1 banning traction control over the winter, combined with a treacherous track on which the surface was breaking up in places.
"It has been a fantastic Saturday for me," Hamilton said. "I felt comfortable since yesterday in the car. It was tricky for everybody this morning because of the track."
Kubica said he wasn't too disappointed to take the second spot on the grid, since Hamilton had been fastest throughout the day. But the Polish driver wasn't very happy with the track conditions.
"The biggest problem is the race track is a big joke to have these conditions," Kubica said. "We are in qualifying and, after three, four laps, the track breaks down. It will be a tough race for sure."
Raikkonen was even more upset with the track conditions.
"I think it's the same it's been the last three or four years," the Finn said. "It always breaks down and they always promise to fix it."
A year ago, Hamilton set the pace from the start and won easily, even though several crashes, including a big one involving Kubica, kept bringing the safety car onto the track and closing up big leads he had built.
Between the track breaking up, the slick conditions and the possibility of rain on Sunday, the young Briton said he dreads having the safety car decide the race.
"I really hope the safety car doesn't cause any problems," Hamilton said.
Sebastien Vettel crashed his Toro Rosso entry in Saturday's practice and was unable to qualify. He was expected to start last in the 20-car field on Sunday.
Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber crashed at the end of qualifying session two and will start 10th.