Lewis Hamilton believes he missed out on pole position for the Russian Grand Prix because he was “slacking” in the middle sector.
Fastest in FP2 and FP3, Hamilton was favorite for pole after topping both the first two parts of qualifying, and was just 0.004s adrift of teammate Valtteri Bottas after the first runs in Q3. Bottas then duly improved further while Hamilton backed off in the middle sector, and he admits he was trying to push too hard on his final attempt.
“A big congratulations to Valtteri, he did a great job in Q3,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a really good weekend so far, honestly. I really can’t complain. I don’t know where it really got away from me in Q3 but I struggled a little bit and Valtteri obviously picked up quite a bit of pace.
“The middle sector was where I was slacking, as I’d call it. Anyway, it’s great to have a one-two and it’s a long way down to Turn 1 so we’ll still have a fight at least tomorrow. It’s going to be a long race.
“The middle sector hadn’t been too bad. Q1 was really good and Q2 wasn’t so great. Just generally throughout the weekend it’s been a bit up and down in that sector, but I’ve been quick in the first and third.
“The first lap in Q3 was down three-tenths in the middle sector, but I was down in the first and last. So I knew I had to push quite a lot because I knew also he would gain time. So rather than another three-tenths, it was half a second I had to improve, I just over-egged it a little bit. I think I picked up a bit of dirt on my outside tires and there was just less grip there for the next corner.”
Hamilton says he will never ask for team orders to aid his title challenge and sees his best hope of beating Bottas coming at the start of the race.
“I think all of our goals is to try and win this race. It’s a difficult track on which to try and overtake so the start will be an interesting one and after that it’s partly about strategy which we’re all pretty much on the same (strategy). We just give it everything we’ve got.”