Russian Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was delighted to split the Ferraris in qualifying, saying the Scuderia have a ‘jet mode’ on Saturdays.
Ferrari claimed their fourth consecutive pole position with Charles Leclerc on Saturday, with the young Monegasque driver putting in two flying laps in Q3 that would have been good enough for top spot.
While Leclerc improved on his second run, Sebastian Vettel wasn’t able to follow suit and this resulted in Lewis Hamilton sneaking into P2 by 0.023 at the chequered flag. This meant that the reigning Champion was in jubilant form as he spoke to the media afterwards: “It was a tough qualifying session, because these guys have some crazy speeds on the straights. They go to another level, you know. That whole party mode you talked about us having, they have something else beyond that – jet mode! Nonetheless, I gave it absolutely everything I had at the end and the team did such a great job to just tinker and push forwards. I’m so glad it came together. I wasn’t expecting to get on the front row for sure, so I’m really, really happy with it nonetheless.”
“We know that they [Ferrari] are on a slightly lower drag level this weekend plus they have that power, so we’ve got to try something. You’ve seen the last couple of races we’ve been behind all the way, so we’re fortunate enough to opt for another strategy and I think the team have done a really good job with putting us in that position. It’s a long way down to Turn 1, so it’s not always the best for starts on the harder tyre, but I’m going to try to tow the hell out of Charles if I get the chance. But it’s going to be hard because they get good starts as well.”
Hamilton says he was delighted with his final flying lap. With Mercedes apparently struggling for outright single lap pace, he said it was his best lap of the weekend so far: “Honestly, it was a really good lap. Last time, Singapore felt like a really good lap as well, it’s just… I was just saying to Charles out there that already by Turn 1 we were already three tenths down or something like that, so it’s very, very hard. But nonetheless I pushed, we pushed, as hard as we could and I was really, really happy with the lap. It all came together. That last one was the best of the weekend – as it should be – and no mistakes or anything like that, so I really feel like I got everything and maybe a little bit more from the car to split the Ferraris once again, which is not an easy task.”
Hamilton starts on the Medium tyre, having made it through Q2 on the yellow marked tyres, while the Ferraris start on the red marked Soft tyres. Strategy will thus play its part tomorrow, and Hamilton said the first part of the race is going to be made tougher by that tyre choice: “I think the team did a great job to put us on the mediums and naturally from the two tyres there’s obviously a delta and the softer the tyre the better the start. So it will be a little bit tough off the start tomorrow. But even if we were in the lead, if we were on pole for example, they are just so fast on the straights by the time we get to Turn 1, which is the little kink, they blast past us with the jet fuel or whatever it is. So, yeah, it is about strategy, which is why we are on a different tyre and I hope that we can utilise that and keep the pressure on. If you’ve seen the couple of races we’ve had we’ve been right with them but I’m hoping tomorrow we can really give them a good fight.”