Lewis Hamilton believes his final attempts in qualifying were “pole-worthy” as he managed to split the two Ferraris at the Russian Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc took his fourth consecutive pole position as Ferrari’s recent resurgence continued, but as the previous round in Singapore, Hamilton managed to join him on the front row. With Leclerc on pole by 0.4s, Hamilton edged out Sebastian Vettel by just 0.023s and sounded extremely happy with his work over team radio after the end of the session, saying it took a special attempt to prevent a Ferrari one-two.
“Honestly, I feel like maybe the last couple of laps have felt pole-worthy in terms of how it’s come together and optimizing within the car,” Hamilton said. “Naturally they’re faster than us and I think Charles has done a good job but in terms of being close to the limit as possible, I have been getting more and more comfortable in the car in the second half of the season, a little bit more comfortable even though we’ve lost a bit of performance compared to them.
“There’s still work to do collectively, including myself. So we will just keep working but please don’t write that the wrong way, pole-worthy, I just mean in terms of putting the perfect lap together. I feel I am getting close to that but then when you finish the lap and it’s a long way off pole, but it feels like quite an achievement to get in between the two Ferraris, who have got a bit of a delta to us at the moment.”
Mercedes will also start with both of its cars on medium tires, and Hamilton says the aim was simply to try a different strategy given how Ferrari was able to control the last race in Singapore from the front.
“I think the team did a great job to put us on the mediums,” Hamilton said. “Naturally from the two tires there’s always a bit of a delta, the softer the tire the better for the start. So it will be tough off the start tomorrow, but even if we were in the lead – or if we were on pole for example – they’re so fast on the straights that by the time they get to Turn 1, the kink, they blast past us with the jet fuel or whatever it is!
“So I hope we can use the different strategy and that is why we are on a different tire so I hope that we can utilize that to keep the pressure on. The last couple of races we’ve been with them, and I hope tomorrow we can really give them a good fight.”