Lewis Hamilton says his stunning pole position lap at the Styrian Grand Prix was as close to perfect as he could get in wet conditions.
Hamilton and Max Verstappen emerged as the main candidates for pole in a close Q1 and Q2 delayed by heavy rain, and the pair traded fastest laps in Q3. With Hamilton comfortably quickest, Verstappen spun on his final lap exiting Turn 9 and then Hamilton duly extended his advantage to 1.2s to secure the 89th pole position of his career.
“Honestly it was a fantastic lap, the last one,” Hamilton said. “The importance of managing your time out there, the battery pack, knowing when to use the few laps you have on the qualifying mode, creating the gap, not making a mistake when it counts…
“The lap before was good enough but still the last lap for me was really as close to perfect as I could get it in those conditions, and considering it was raining more it makes me even happier. Knowing that I went a bit quicker, doing that time, it takes me back to times like Silverstone 2008, because when you’re really at one with the car and not fazed at all, just how you have to be very dynamic with your driving from corner to corner as the puddles are shifting about with the cars running ahead of you which is a massive challenge. I’m smiling under this mask, super happy.”
After enjoying such a margin over the rest of the field — Hamilton was further clear of Verstappen than Verstappen was of Sebastian Vettel in P10 — the defending champion says it is the ability to perform under pressure that makes the best stand out.
“I think ultimately as an athlete it’s difficult to explain why you’re good at something. I know how good I am and that’s a belief we have to have inside all of us, the same for every athlete, and I think it should probably apply to everyone doing their jobs around the world. You’ve got to believe you are the best.
“I mean, it’s down to focus, it’s down to how you study the track, your innate ability to be dynamic and manage the trickiest of conditions with the pressure on you, that’s generally what the best athletes do in the world. The last moments of the NBA game, taking a three-point shot, when that gets you through or not, it’s what makes those individuals stand out.”
Hamilton also praised the FIA for its handling of qualifying after cancelling FP3, with all three sessions taking place in extremely wet conditions.
“The officials definitely have a difficult job the majority of the time. Particularly on a day like this, knowing when to go and when not to let the cars run. I’m grateful they did. Just as we came to qualifying it was drying up, or wasn’t raining for a while, then as we got in the car it started to rain again, so we had a bit of a pause. Once we got going it was fine for the first session; it got worse, I’m glad they allowed us to stay out.
“It was on the limit, but that’s racing, and I’m glad they didn’t take that away from us. Today was so special being out there. It’s so difficult, I don’t know how it comes across on the cameras but it is the hardest conditions that we ever drive in and just one small lapse of concentration and you’re off — can be big or small, more chance of it being a big one.”