Lewis Hamilton says he needed to chase “perfection” in an intense qualifying session for the United States Grand Prix that saw him secure pole position by just 0.07s ahead of the two Ferraris.
Ferrari has been off the pace of Mercedes in the past few qualifying sessions but provided a stern challenge at Circuit of The Americas, with Hamilton beating Sebastian Vettel to pole by 0.061s and Kimi Raikkonen delivering an almost identical lap time to his teammate. While admitting it was a high-pressure session, Hamilton wants similar battles in the future.
“We could go around and do some small improvements everywhere but we are pretty much dancing around the same performance,” Hamilton said. “I guess they have gone back on their updates and their car is better in the sweet spot and for us, we haven’t brought updates here.
“We are at max downforce levels here, which is the same for us all. I think that’s great to see it so close and I’m hopeful for the future to have more qualifying sessions like that, closer with more car involved.
“It was clearly very intense. Naturally going into qualifying we weren’t really sure what to expect after driving in the wet yesterday and today in practice it looked like the Ferraris had made some improvements. Obviously they brought an upgrade and it looks like they may have taken it off but otherwise we were very close.
“I knew it was going to take perfection and very, very neat laps to outpace them. I think James (Vowles, chief strategist) had told us it was very close between us so give it everything. I think in Q1 and Q2 it was fairly straightforward for us but once we got to Q3 it was really about maximizing and making sure we were on track at the right time and making sure we were not leaving a millisecond on the track, basically.
“The first lap was good but it was quite close between us all, but I knew being less than a tenth, I knew this next lap these guys would improve also, so there was no room for error.
“Considering there have been some Q3s in past races where I had bailed out of the second lap because it wasn’t good enough, so I was very, very strict with myself today. I was like ‘today you need to make sure you pull through on that second lap’ and I’m so grateful I did.”
Hamilton will win the drivers’ championship if he outscores Vettel by eight points or more on Sunday, a very realistic proposition given the German will start from fifth due to a grid penalty. But the championship leader praised Mercedes for the way it has ignored thoughts of wrapping up the title so far.
“The team have done a great job this weekend, I think the approach from us has been very sturdy and we have not been getting ahead of ourselves,” he said. “We knew this weekend it was going to be close and we had to do our due diligence and the same work and effort as before, so this is a great result.
“I am so happy. It was a different feeling today coming in, I don’t know why. I don’t know if I slept longer but I was in a different headspace going into qualifying which was weird, but it was a good one still.”