Lewis Hamilton did not believe Mercedes AMG Motorsport would be strong enough to lock out the front row of the grid for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Saturday, but with Charles Leclerc crashing out whilst looking the most likely to take top spot, it was Mercedes who took first and second places.
Hamilton missed out on pole position to team-mate Valtteri Bottas by just 0.059 seconds and credits that deficit and more to mistakes in the opening sector, so he was slightly disappointed not to take top spot himself, but he was pleased with the improvements Mercedes made across the weekend to be in the fight with Scuderia Ferrari at the front of the field.
“We didn’t think we’d be quick enough to lock out the front row here, Charles in particular had been very strong all weekend,” said Hamilton. “We’ve made improvements and we thought we’d get within one or two tenths, but not quite make it.
“So I’m really proud of everyone in the team that we did it. This is one of the toughest, most challenging Qualifying sessions and circuits of the season, but I really enjoy the challenge.
“I’ve struggled at this track in the past, so I’m grateful to be on the front row. I was really close to getting pole today, my first lap in Q3 was actually quite good, but on my second lap I lost three tenths in the first two corners and while I did make most of it up, it wasn’t enough for pole in the end.
“So I’m happy in one respect, but on the other hand I’m disappointed because I could have taken pole today.”
Hamilton started second two weeks ago alongside his team-mate but was leading heading into turn one, and the reigning World Champion is hopeful of a repeat, although the race itself could be more entertaining if the usual chaos ensues at the Baku City Circuit.
“I’ll try and make a difference tomorrow – the start is going to be important, our long run pace looked good, but there are usually lots of Safety Cars here, so lots can happen in the race,” said the Briton.