Lewis Hamilton expects Red Bull to be a threat in the Spanish Grand Prix despite another dominant Mercedes qualifying performance.
Max Verstappen ended Mercedes’ run of victories at last weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, with tire management key to that win as Red Bull was much stronger on a softer range at Silverstone. The hardest three compounds are being used in Barcelona but with high temperatures throughout the weekend, Hamilton — who took pole position from Valtteri Bottas by just 0.059s — is wary of a similar scenario and believes Verstappen has the race pace to challenge on Sunday.
“It’s definitely been a good Saturday; I’m smiling under this,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a really big challenge this weekend, I think for us all — the physical demands of this track as we’re faster than ever before, but more just managing these tires with this temperatures. It’s very, very hot out there and as you can see, different people trying different things on the out lap.
“Also, there’s a little bit of a gust always in the afternoon here in Barcelona so it makes it a tricky session. But overnight we made some really good changes and progressed forwards rather than backwards, which is always a good thing.
“I think each first lap was strong, which I was really happy with — the one in Q3 was solid, but I felt like I could improve, wasn’t able to do it on the second lap but fortunately neither did the strong dude (Bottas) next to me. It’s very close between us, so every millisecond counts. But I am incredibly grateful to the guys for continuing to push as it is not easy to do weekend in, weekend out, and I’m constantly impressed by their open-mindedness and the things we’re doing.
“Tomorrow is going to be tough when we get to the race, the scenario is different. I think over a single lap we seem to have the edge over the Red Bulls but I think this weekend we’re pretty much on par when it comes to race pace so it’s going to be a tough battle with Max tomorrow.
“I expect (Red Bull) to be probably a little bit better, I would imagine. It’s definitely not going to be easy for us. I don’t think we’ll have the same problems we had last week, obviously we’ll find out in the race. But we’ve got those hot conditions but we have a harder compound, so fingers crossed that helps. But yeah I wouldn’t put it past us having problems tomorrow but we’ll wait and see.”
Hamilton’s 92nd pole position was also his 150th front-row qualifying performance, and the Briton says his success is based on the strength of the teams he has driven for.
“Look, we are the ones who get to sit here and front all this incredible effort from so many people. I’ve been really fortunate over the years, back to my McLaren days, to work with incredibly intelligent and driven people who have helped me sit in this room.
“I’m just incredibly grateful to those that have helped and I am blown away still to this day by the decision to move to this team and see the growth that we’ve had. I don’t think we’ve plateaued at the top with the championships we’ve had — we continually get better each year, as people see.
“I’ve been saying for a long time that I’ve been a chink in the chain, not realizing it’s not a good thing — I’m another link in so many people and I play my part the best I can.”