Lewis Hamilton admitted there was still a little bit more time to find around the Bahrain International Circuit during Qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but his best lap was more enough for him to secure pole position for a tenth time in 2020.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver now has ninety-eight pole positions to his name across his career, and he has two races remaining this season to get to one hundred. His best time of 1:27.264 was also a new track record for the Bahraini track.
Having clinched his seventh World Drivers’ Championship with victory in the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago, Hamilton admits he has been driving with a clear mind all weekend long in Bahrain, and he has been able to have fun as the pressure of securing the title has been released.
“98 poles, wow!” exclaimed Hamilton. “There is always more time to find, small places to improve, but it was a really clean lap for me today.
“I’m not sure why, but I’ve felt so clear-minded this weekend. I just wanted to have fun today and that’s the most important thing for me. I’ve been doing this a long time now, but I still love this challenge, of trying to understand the tyres, fine-tuning the car.
“I love what I do, and I can still feel myself improving all the time. And you can see it’s not just me, but everyone in the garage too is just enjoying their work. The pressure of fighting for a championship is immense, but with the titles both secure that gives me that feeling of release to go out and drive like I did today.
“Today is the continuation of the special things that we’re achieving as a team. Weekend in weekend out I’m amazed by this group of people. No matter what has been thrown at us this year we’ve risen to it. For me it’s important to use these final three more races to learn as much as possible and carry that on into next year.”
“It’s great to have another front row lockout for the team” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas will join Hamilton on the front row of the grid, but the Finn’s best lap was almost three-tenths of a second down on the best from the Briton.
However, he was able to jump ahead of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who had been ahead of him after the first runs in Q3.
Bottas admitted he went a different way in setting up his car this weekend to Hamilton, and he believes this may have played a part in the pace deficit to his team-mate in Qualifying. That said, he will be looking to reverse the positions on Sunday as he looks to deny the Briton a fifth consecutive race victory
“My second Q3 lap actually felt good today – but that’s the tricky part when you feel like you’re extracting everything out of the car and there’s still lap time missing,” said Bottas. “I made no mistakes and my last lap felt were good so we need to find out this evening in the debrief if there are areas we can improve around the lap.
“Lewis and I went into different set-up directions with the cars, so that might have played a role. But it’s great to have another front row lockout for the team today.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow; it’ll be an interesting race with different strategies and everyone trying to keep the tyres from overheating, so I think we can expect a good fight.”