Lewis Hamilton took his seventy-first career pole position on Saturday, but amazingly it was the first time the championship leader took top spot around the Suzuka International Racing Course.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team racer had a superb qualifying session in Japan, with his best lap in the top ten shootout of 1:27.319s enough to beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas by more than three-tenths of a second.
Hamilton felt it was long overdue to take pole at Suzuka, and he admitted it was a stunning feeling to drive the circuit with the high downforce levels of the 2017 Formula 1 cars.
“I’ve been coming here for so long, but it’s my first pole here at Suzuka!” said Hamilton. “It was definitely worth the wait.
“I didn’t make one mistake all session and just kept getting better and better. We built the foundation in Q1 and then just built upon it as qualifying developed. I’ve been waiting all weekend for that moment, for that lap in Q3 – and it feels so good when that comes together.
“It’s incredible to come here with this car and drive on this track. It’s always been one of the greatest but with this car, it’s mind-blowing, I wish everyone could feel what we feel. It’s always been a crazy rollercoaster ride, but with the downforce on these cars, it’s insane. The way you can throw the car around, I love that.”
With Bottas’ penalty for a gearbox change, Hamilton’s main rival for the championship, Sebastian Vettel, will join the Briton on the front row, and he is unsure of just how quick the race pace of Scuderia Ferrari will be on Sunday.
Hamilton however was full of praise for his team for giving him the tools to take pole position, and he hopes to extend his thirty-four-point advantage in the championship on Sunday.
“We know how quick the Ferraris were in Malaysia, so it’ll be interesting to see how we compare,” admitted Hamilton. “We’ve put ourselves in the right position to get the job done on Sunday.
“I don’t know if people watching realise how much effort goes into qualifying, but the team worked perfectly to get me out at the right time, into space on track and allow me to do what I needed to do – I’m so grateful for that. They did a great job, I hope I can capitalise on that tomorrow.”