Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Lewis Hamilton: “I didn’t expect that we’d be fighting for P1 coming here today”

Lewis Hamilton was jubilant after securing his one hundred and fourth career pole position on Saturday, the British racer taking a record breaking ninth pole at the Hungaroring.

No driver in FIA Formula 1 World Championship history had secured more than eight poles at a single circuit, but Hamilton broke that record with a stunning final effort on Saturday afternoon, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver denying Max Verstappen by just 0.003 seconds.

It is Hamilton’s first pole position since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix of 2021, and he was happy to take top spot even although he was not expecting to be taking the fight to Oracle Red Bull Racing’s championship leader this weekend.

“Pole position is an amazing feeling!” said Hamilton.  “I feel so grateful because the Team have worked so hard.

“We’ve been pushing so much over this time so to finally get pole position is great; it feels just like the first time. I didn’t expect that we’d be fighting for P1 coming here today. When I started my final lap, I gave it absolutely everything. There was nothing left in it.”

Hamilton says the past season and a half of racing has seen plenty of ups and downs, but the team have never stopped believing they can return to the front of the field, and he hopes this is the start of something good for Mercedes.

“There’s been plenty of ups and downs over the past 18 months,” he said.  “It’s been a roller-coaster ride, but none of us have lost faith. We’ve all just hauled together and stayed united.

“We’re focusing on trying to steer the car in the right direction. It has been tough, and will continue to be so at times, but I think this shows that we’re on the right track and we can do it if we keep pushing.

“I have to try and sleep tonight now! Tomorrow, we’ll bring our A-game as a Team. It’s going to be difficult to fight Max and Lando [Norris] but let’s see what we can do.”

“The whole session just wasn’t good enough for our standards” – George Russell

Whereas Hamilton was able to put his W14 onto pole position, team-mate George Russell will start a lowly eighteenth after being caught out by traffic towards the end of Q1.

Russell was pacing himself to get a clear run to the start of his lap, only to find himself amid a number of drivers doing the same, and he found himself compromised, so much so that his final lap time was not good enough to advance.

The British racer believed he had a fast car underneath him, so to find himself on the wrong side of the cutoff point in Q1 was a major disappointment.

“Today we were fast, and the car felt great,” said Russell.  “Unfortunately, we were out of sync with everybody else for the whole session.

“We have a great Team around us but the whole session just wasn’t good enough for our standards. There was a lot of traffic at the end of the final sector, and the lap was gone when I was three tenths down by turn one.

“The Hard tyre works well here, especially with the high temperatures, but we were just on track at the wrong time. It’s disappointing as the car was more than quick enough to get through.

“When you don’t get things right you get punished and we’ve been punished for sure today. Lewis did an amazing job though so congratulations to him.”

Russell knows that from eighteenth on the grid that it will be a difficult race on Sunday, but he knows he has the car to potential move forward and fight for points.

“Tomorrow will be extremely hard, but we’ll be fighting and I’m going to try to come back through,” he said.  “Even though it’s a tough track to overtake, I’ll do my best tomorrow.”

George Russell was surprisingly eliminated in Q1 on Saturday – Credit: Steve Etherington
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