Lewis Hamilton says driving is his release and he was able to deliver pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix with the pressure off after securing the drivers’ championship two weeks ago.
The seven-time world champion beat teammate Valtteri Bottas to pole position by 0.3s in Bahrain, taking his tally up to 98 poles in his career. After performing strongly all weekend, Hamilton says he remained focused on this season despite wrapping up the title in Turkey, and stressed the importance of taking full enjoyment from his driving in the final three races.
“I really didn’t celebrate, to be honest,” Hamilton said. “I was training and making sure I was ready for this; keeping my mind and my eye on the ball. This is the continuation of what we are able to do together as a team.
“I continue to be amazed by my guys that work so hard weekend-in, weekend-out. Now they’re away from their families for three weeks. No matter what the seasons throw at us it’s always a really tough year and I appreciate them.
“To be out here in Bahrain and put laps like that together… I came today and I was like, ‘Let’s just have fun and enjoy.’ That’s the most important thing: to enjoy what you are doing. I think with the pressure a little bit off, it’s a bit of a release to go and drive like I just did.”
Hamilton says it isn’t just himself who appears more relaxed, with Mercedes having now secured both the constructors’ and drivers’ championships.
“It has been a good weekend so far in terms of the steps we have taken and understanding the car. It was quite a difficult day yesterday, with practice and using different tires; it was quite confusing. But today has been a good day. We did some really good work overnight and the decisions we took after P3 into qualifying were pretty spot on.
“I was really happy with the car from the get-go in Q1. All the laps had been good and then I got to Q3 and Q3 run one was OK, but there was plenty of room for improvement. Fortunately I managed to do that on the last lap, so really happy with that and really grateful to the guys, who I think this weekend seem a little bit more relaxed — naturally, as the pressure is off. I think we are all enjoying it a lot more.
“It’s definitely more enjoyable when you don’t have the pressure as much and you can just do what you do to the best of your ability without any additional added pressure.”
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The result also means Hamilton can reach 100 pole positions this season if he repeats the result in the final two rounds, but he says that isn’t a milestone he is paying attention to.
“I really haven’t even thought that far, and honestly I think it’s been such an incredible year so anything from now is just an added bonus. I think it’s close between the three of us (Bottas and Max Verstappen) and we’ve got a couple of tricky races ahead of us. I’ll get there eventually but it’s not necessary it’s in the next two — but I’ll be pushing as hard as I can, that’s for sure.”