Lewis Hamilton was delighted to grab the first-ever F1 pole at Mugello, but the prior work on the simulator did not really help him clinch the historic P1.
Hamilton pumped in a 1:15.144 on his first Q3 hot lap, eeking out a 0.059 second advantage over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
He failed to improve on his second Q3 hot lap, but it did not matter as an off from Esteban Ocon in Sector 1 meant Bottas had to back off completely.
But, prior to landing pole, Bottas very much had the upper hand on a track that Hamilton was struggling to learn.
“Normally I tend to think, [and] in my past I always felt, that one of my strengths is learning a circuit quite quickly,” Hamilton said, as quoted by RaceFans.Net.
“For this one we went on the simulator which I never do and I don’t feel like I benefitted particularly.
“Getting here was a lot of work. The pressure was incredibly high.
“Going out there, doing laps, I was struggling to get to the limit, find the limit in certain sectors. Valtteri was miles ahead really in some of those areas.
“So of course the pressure was higher than ever because if I hadn’t done the work then I wouldn’t have got the result that we got at the end.
“There’s an incredible amount of detail that you have to go into.
“Last night I was dissecting every single corner basically, and sector, really trying to fine-tune that set-up.
“As a racing driver there’s a real fine line between knowing whether you’ve got understeer or oversteer, whether you’re on the limit or not in certain places.
“You can be on the limit through one corner but not through the rest of the corners, for example. It could be the first one and then not the second one but the third one you are.
“So really understanding whether you’ve got the balance right within yourself and then knowing what to request for when you do move towards the limit, what you need, you have to pre-empt what the car’s going to do.
“There’s a real science to it.
“That’s why I have so much respect for all these drivers because it’s not only the ability to drive but to understand those things and to be engineers, at the end of the day, we have to work with these geniuses that balance numbers like nobody else. But we need to be able to do that on the track.”
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Hamilton also spoke of his struggles soon after hopping out of the Mercedes W11 at Mugello.
“It’s been a really, really tough weekend, if I’m really honest,” Hamilton told Jenson Button in the immediate post-qualifying interviews.
“This track is phenomenal. It’s a really, really challenging circuit. Valtteri was quicker than me all day on Friday and even this morning, and even in Q1, so I’ve been working really hard in the background to try improve on my lines and the set-up.
“With the engineers, we did such a great job. The mechanics, as always, do an amazing job as well. I finally got the lap that I needed.
“I think the wind picked up [on my second Q3 lap] so that’s why I wasn’t able to go quicker. But, nevertheless, it was job done.
He continued: “This track is crazy. You go through Turn 6, 7, 8 and 9 at like 170 mph, 180 mph. And the G-Force you get through there is insane.
“Turns 1, 2 and 10 were the areas where I needed to improve and I managed to pick it up. Valtteri did a great job in pushing me but I’m really, really happy.”