Lewis Hamilton believes a gust of wind on his final run in qualifying for French Grand Prix negatively affected his advantage over Mercedes AMG Motorsport Formula 1 team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton took an 86th career pole position and headed Mercedes’ record-breaking 63rd front row lockout in F1, while setting a new track record at Circuit Paul Ricard with a lap time of 1:28.319 – 0.286 seconds ahead of Bottas.
Bottas looked to have head the upper hand on Hamilton before qualifying but a poor final lap, nearly a second away from improving on his first Qualifying 3 run, handed Hamilton pole before he had completed his second run.
Hamilton was one of a few drivers that managed to improve their time late in the session as track conditions deteriorated, but said that a gust of wind in the final sector ruined what could have been an even better time.
“It’s not an easy track here and Valtteri’s been quick all weekend, so I’m really happy to have got the potential out of the car,” said Hamilton.
“The team has done a fantastic job. I was chipping away and those last two laps were the ones.
“The wind picked up and it was quite gusty around the track – on that last lap, I was up nearly half a second but I just lost it in the second to last corner, the gust took the back end.
“But, I was still up on my previous best, which is the main thing.”
Mercedes is expected to take an eighth win out of the first eight races in 2019 on Sunday, closing in on the McLaren F1 Team‘s 31-year-old record of 11 consecutive wins to start a season.
Hamilton won this race in 2018, the first to take place at Paul Ricard for 28 years.
But Hamilton understands that tyres will be a key factor in the 53-lap race with very high ambient temperatures expected in the Le Castellet region, even exceeding 30C.
Most of the top 10 qualifiers, including Hamilton, set their best time on the medium tyres, the compound that is expected to be the best ‘race’ tyre.
“I’m just really happy, we’ve been working really hard and overall, it’s some great teamwork,” Hamilton added.
“It’s going to be another hot day tomorrow and the tyres will be a challenge, but I’m excited to see how it will play out.”