Lewis Hamilton said that securing a 90th Formula 1 pole position was a humbling experience as Mercedes dominated qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Mercedes won each of the first two races in Austria but was expected to face a tougher challenge from Red Bull at the Hungaroring, where power unit performance is less of a differentiator. Instead, the defending champions pulled clear of the field by almost a full second, with Hamilton beating teammate Valtteri Bottas by just 0.1s.
“Crazy — I have to pinch myself,” Hamilton said. “It just doesn’t register. It’s quite humbling to be honest. I get to work with an incredible group of people, without whom I wouldn’t be able to have the opportunity to do (this). So massively thankful to the everyone back home and the guys here who do such an amazing job.
“Valtteri doesn’t make it easy for me at all. It requires absolute perfection when it comes to doing laps, and qualifying like that is one of the things I enjoy doing most.”
Hamilton admits this year’s W11 is a special machine after Mercedes locked out the front row, pointing to areas where he could see a clear improvement over last year’s car on his qualifying lap.
“I’m definitely connected with it. She’s definitely not on rails (though) I’m sure it looks like that compared to some other people. But it was nicely hooked up today and not far off the rails.
“It felt great. In qualifying, it felt really solid. The team have done an incredible job. Valtteri and I, we owe it, really, to this great group of people back at the factory and here who are just constantly pushing the bar higher. I’m really proud to work with them, and to get to drive a car like this around the track is really awesome.
“Turn 11 was really flat for us today, which is quite insane, the speeds we go through there. It’s quite impressive to see how far the technology has advanced.
“Valtteri did a great job today,” Hamilton continued, “applying a lot of pressure. Hungary has always been a good hunting ground for me, but I’m aware that qualifying isn’t everything here — it’s a long race and a long run down to Turn 1.
“The high speed, particularly, is quite a lot different — Turn 4, Turn 8 and particularly Turn 11. But it’s a little bit everywhere I would say. The efficiency of the car through the low and medium-speed corners is definitely better than last year, but the high speed particularly … As I was saying, you can nearly take it flat, whereas before it was a little lift.”
With Red Bull losing Alex Albon in Q2 and Max Verstappen only qualifying seventh, Hamilton said the 1.4s advantage Mercedes has is a surprise.
“That is a really big gap. Definitely wasn’t expecting (Red Bull) to be as off as they have been this weekend. You saw the pace of them last year (when Verstappen took pole). This is not a power circuit; it is more about the car, the mechanical grip and aero package. We would have definitely thought that they would have … I thought they had a better package than today’s results show. I don’t know if they’ve all had great laps or not but still, either way, that’s a big, big gap.”