Lewis Hamilton secured his 63rd career pole with an impressive 1:31.678 in China. It was also his sixth pole at the Shanghai International Circuit, and Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s 75th in Formula 1.
In the only full session of practice, which took place on Saturday morning, it was Scuderia Ferrari who set the pace. But Hamilton concentrated on gaining time each time he went out, and eventually performed his best lap of the weekend on his final trip out.
“It’s been an interesting weekend so far, obviously, after missing running yesterday,” he said. “It’s been a challenge for all of us, trying to compile a lot of yesterday’s work into this morning.
“Ferrari have been so fast through practice and then into qualifying. We knew it was going to be close and that we’d have to pull out all the stops to beat them.
“I managed to just chip away at it session to session, then make my last lap my fastest lap – which is always the target but doesn’t always work out that way.”
Despite finishing nearly two tenths ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton still insists that the lap was far from perfect. He did however know that he was up by a comfortable margin going into the final corner, making the remainder of the lap a case of just bringing the car home on the best line possible.
“The lap started off not quite as well as my previous attempts,” he continued. “But from there it got better and better.
“I felt really strong coming into the final corner knowing I was up by a couple of tenths. But it’s always a bit nervy going into Turn 14, as you want to brake late to gain some time but it’s easy to lose more if you get it wrong.
“Waiting to find out what the others had done after I crossed the line was pretty tense!”
Hamilton was grateful to both the team and the fans for their loyal support, which is spurring him on and more important than ever as Ferrari continue to pose a credible threat.
“I’m really happy with today and super grateful for the huge effort the team had put in to keep us in the fight,” he added. “It’s more exciting than ever right now.
“We’re really fighting these guys out there and that’s what racing’s all about. It pushed you to raise the bar every time you go out, which I love.
“A big thank you to all the fans too. There were a lot of British flags out there which is great to see.”