Lewis Hamilton insists his lap time gain to secure pole position on the final lap of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix did not come from a power unit mode.
Mercedes has often been able to improve in the final parts of qualifying as a result of the way it can turn up its engine, and Hamilton found over 0.8s between his first and second attempts in Q3. Having comfortably taken pole with a new lap record at Albert Park, Hamilton downplayed engine boss Andy Cowell’s description of the qualifying spec as a “party mode” and says Mercedes took a similar approach to previous seasons.
“I can assure you, we don’t have a party mode,” Hamilton said. “I use the same mode from Q2 to the end of Q3. There was no extra button that I engaged.”
Sat alongside Hamilton in the post-qualifying press conference, Sebastian Vettel then asked the Briton: “Then what were you doing before?”
“I was waiting to put a good lap in,” Hamilton replied. “To wipe the smile off your face!”
Hamilton ranks his final lap as one of his best after having originally looked under pressure from Ferrari and Red Bull in Melbourne.
“It definitely wasn’t straightforward,” he said. “It was not the easiest of sessions. It was a real surprise to see how quick the Ferraris were, from already Q1. The speeds they had on the straights; they’ve obviously made an improvement in their power mode. I think we were similar speed through the corners but definitely their power mode was quite strong. And that remained the same through the session.
“But obviously getting out and getting the tires working optimally and staying in the right zone through the whole lap was definitely difficult, it always is here, particularly with the rears.
“Getting the balance and putting the sectors together, obviously we had some runs, or at least one on used tires, and then you had that break and then the [Valtteri Bottas] incident. It was tricky. But that last lap was the best of this weekend. I’m very, very happy with that lap. It was one of my best, I would say.”