Lewis Hamilton says qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix was one of the toughest in recent memory after securing his 78th pole position.
The championship leader beat Sebastian Vettel by over 0.7s on a damp track after rain hit at the start of Q3. With the whole field initially heading out on slicks before having to pit for intermediates, it was Hamilton’s final lap that proved good enough for pole and he admits the changing conditions at Spa-Francorchamps were particularly challenging.
“I think that was one of the hardest sessions that I can remember for a while,” Hamilton said. “Obviously in the rain in the last race was obviously incredibly difficult there, but this one was going straight from slicks onto inters, you only had a few laps to find the grip to get the tires up to understand where the track is dry and where it was wet because it was really patchy throughout the whole lap.
“You come to Eau Rouge and you don’t know if you have to have a lift — obviously we all have to have a lift. Towards the end it was dry enough in some patches and it was still quite wet in other patches. I really can’t find the words to express how difficult it was.
“If you look at the laps, I don’t know it was for other people, but you saw I went off in Turn 1 massively and then again into Turn 12 and so I only had one lap left, otherwise I would have been a lot further down in the order, but I knew I had the pace it was just about trying to find the balance of not pushing too much but not backing off too much and it’s different in every single corner and at no point can you ever be complacent.
“It’s awesome. I love that kind of thing — I am super happy. The team have done a great job and the rain is always a friend of mine.”
While starting from pole, Hamilton is wary of the long run pace shown by Ferrari on Friday but points to his recent victories before the summer break as proof the fastest car isn’t always victorious.
“Well they were favorite today and they’re going to be favorite tomorrow, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to win. They’ve been favorite for quite a few races now and we managed to somehow turn it on its head and come out ahead.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a very tough race, though. Sebastian’s long run blitzed everyone’s yesterday so I don’t know if I’ll be able to create pace that’s worthy of building a gap, but tomorrow I’ll find out and give it everything I’ve got. It’s always a tough race down to Turn 5 here at the start, and these guys (Ferrari) are obviously incredibly quick on the straights, so we’ll see.”