Lewis Hamilton says his pace in qualifying at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix was due to a combination of the new power unit and getting his car’s setup just right as he dominated on Friday.
Mercedes opted to take a new internal combustion engine (ICE) at Interlagos, relegating Hamilton five positions on Sunday’s grid. However, with the Sprint to come first on Saturday, Hamilton will line up P1 for that event after being more than 0.4s quicker than Max Verstappen in qualifying, and he says it’s due to getting the car working how he wanted.
“I loved today, for sure,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been working so hard to try and get this car right, and it’s been tough. So to finally get the car feeling like it did today, feels great. It’s just a testament to all the great work that everyone’s doing in the garage and also back home. Just all the work that’s going on to try and pull out everything we can from the car.
“Of course the last two poles I’ve had, I’ve had a penalty, so a bit unfortunate but it is what it is and I’ll try and fight back.
“I don’t know if that will translate to the race but I’ve been going from P3 and sitting there for the whole hour and trying to make the right setup change and the anxiety you get is crazy. And a lot of the time we get it wrong, or I get it wrong, and today I got it right and the car was really nice to drive — it was everything I wanted and that just enabled me to keep pushing.
“You saw: purple, purple, purple (sectors), so I was just gaining each time. I don’t know how we can go from one track where they’re half a second ahead to then being behind but anyways they’ll be very strong in the (sprint) race tomorrow and I hope Valtteri gets a good start.”
Hamilton says he only found out he would take a penalty on Thursday, but backed the team’s call even with a 19-point deficit in the drivers’ championship to try and make up.
“I think right to the last minute they were trying to say, ‘No, we’re going to make a decision and we should be able to make it to the end.’ It was a decision that the team took, and I obviously trust their judgment.”
When it was suggested that Mercedes might have rattled Red Bull with the show of pace, Hamilton seemed confused about when his penalty will be applied, adding: “Nah. Nah. I mean, he’s starting pole, I’m nowhere near him, so I don’t think so.”