Lewis Hamilton praised his Mercedes team for improving his W08 chassis after a low-key Friday in Baku turned into a sensational pole on Saturday.
Hamilton finished almost 0.5s clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas, and 1.1s ahead of the third-placed Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, with a lap time that stunned even his own team.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised by the lap time.” he said. “I hadn’t really thought about what we could do here, but I would say definitely yesterday we were at a bit of a loss as we started in the wrong place, and we had to make a lot of changes overnight.
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“So to come in this morning not really knowing if those changes were going to be right or not… Of course we’ve got full confidence in the team, but it’s still very difficult with these tires as to whether you can switch them on or not. The guys did fantastic work and analysis again last night, and we made fantastic changes to the car, and it went in the right direction and it just progressed from there into P3 and into qualifying.”
Hamilton admitted that he’d been “too greedy” on his previous run, and had made a mistake – which left the pressure on for the final run.
“Obviously the lap before I had was very good, and I went into the last corner and it was so weird because literally just before I went into it I was going ‘I’m up quite a lot here, just don’t be greedy.’ And of course I was greedy, and I locked up and I lost pole position there.
“A lot of pressure went onto getting that last run in with only a minute left, basically. All weekend we’ve not been able to do a one-lap for us, some others had, but it was all or nothing, so I had to give it everything I had.
“Valtteri was just up ahead of me, and I could see he was obviously on a great lap as well. I came across the line so happy, because even if I was second it was still an awesome one, single lap, which I was really proud of.
Hamilton’s 66th pole put him ahead of Ayrton Senna in the record books.
“I mean it’s already an amazing thing to have matched him. The crazy thing is the hunger for another pole… I thought maybe once I matched him, maybe it would fade, but I was hungrier than ever today, even more hungry than I was before, so that’s a good thing. And I’m grateful for that because that’s what drives me, and yeah, hopefully I’ll continue to grow and get better as a driver – and as a human being.”
Hamilton is expecting a strong challenge from his main rivals on Sunday: “I think the Ferraris are going to be there. It’s generally a one-stop race so it’s going to be about consistency, it’s going to be about how you look after these tires.
“The strategy will definitely come into play but it’s not easy. Considering how long that main straight it, it’s not actually the easiest place to overtake, as you saw in the last race here. So, I think it’s still going to be a close race and we’ve put ourselves in the best position as a team and hopefully we can utilize that tomorrow.”