Lewis Hamilton took pole number one hundred and three of his fabled Formula 1 career in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver admitting the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is one of the hardest to get right.
The seven-time World Champion was made to work hard for pole position, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, the current championship leader, on course to deny Hamilton top spot up until he hit the wall exiting the final turn.
Hamilton says getting the tyres to work in their optimum window has been difficult all weekend long, and it was still the same on Saturday, and he hopes the front-row lock out for Mercedes will help him take over at the top of the Drivers’ Championship on Sunday evening.
“This place is one of the hardest tracks to get right, I was on the limit the whole way round and the car was on a knife-edge,” said Hamilton. “Trying to pull out the maximum with the tyres was so tough.
“It’s difficult to understand why – it’s so warm here but we were having trouble getting temperature in the front and rears at the same time to have grip at the start of the lap. I’m very proud and thankful that we were able to put it on the front row for tomorrow, it’s going to be an intense race.
“It’s always important to have Valtteri beside me, particularly in this part of the year, he’s been driving exceptionally well and hopefully tomorrow we can do a good job together.”
“I’ll be trying hard to keep position” – Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas will join his team-mate on the front row, and although he will be starting on the dirty side of the grid, he is hoping to stay ahead of Verstappen and help Hamilton in the championship.
Bottas’ session was not without issues, with an engine issue seeing him stopping just as he entered the pits in Q1, while he made contact with Kimi Räikkönen midway through Q2.
However, he says he continues to get an adrenaline rush driving around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, and he is looking to maximise his potential on Sunday evening under the floodlights.
“You get such an adrenaline rush from this track!” said Bottas. “Tomorrow’s going to be hard, this place is so intense but at least we’re starting in the best places.
“Given how tricky qualifying was today, it’s a great result. Starting on the left side tomorrow is definitely going to be dusty but I’ll be trying hard to keep position.
“This is one of the toughest tracks of the year, both mentally and physically, which is exciting because come tomorrow, anything can happen.”