Hamilton delighted with ‘shock’ qualifying pace

Lewis Hamilton called Mercedes' blistering qualifying pace a "real shock".

Lewis Hamilton called Mercedes' blistering qualifying pace a "real shock".

Lewis Hamilton said the pace of his Mercedes was a “real shock” after he stormed his way to a sixth straight pole in Melbourne.

That result also secured his eighth pole overall at the circuit, moving the five-time champ level with the achievements of Michael Schumacher in Japan, and Ayrton Senna’s pole record in San Marino.

A rejuvenated Valtteri Bottas provided Hamilton’s only challenge for pole, with both drivers trading new one-lap records at Albert Park, leaving the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel a staggering six tenths adrift in P3.

Speaking via Motorsport Week, Hamilton said: “We went back to factory [after testing], knew we had work to do.

“I felt good, we had a decent package to work with, but aware we were behind. They showed us the summary of how testing went, we were behind Ferrari.

“From then until now, we haven’t changed the car, [but] we’ve understood the car more. We haven’t brought upgrades, but as I said, the last couple of days we felt good at the track.

“Yesterday, Ferrari were with us. We were heavy on fuel, and then when we dropped fuel we were on par in terms of performance. Then all of a sudden, they lost some performance, this morning, which is not what I was expecting. It was a real shock.

“It’s a difficult circuit and it’s dusty, it could be a number of things. I’m grateful where our car is, but I know Ferrari will be pushing hard and progressing in the coming days.”

Hamilton credited a lot of the blistering pace to his team-mate Bottas, who forced him to find “something special” to snatch pole from the Finn.

“The second lap was definitely a lot better than the first, which is not always the case,” Hamilton explained.

“The first lap I made a mistake which is unusual for me. OK, I brushed it off and kept moving.

“This couldn’t be a better way to start the year. Valtteri was doing some incredible laps out there so I had to pull out something special at the end to stay ahead.”

Hamilton’s shock also spread to Bottas, who joins his team-mate on the front row of Sunday’s grid.

“I’m a little bit blown away by the team performance we had today,” Bottas said.

“Yesterday it was looking good, but it was only practice, today it was the first sessions of the year that really counted and I don’t think anyone in the team could imagine we would be in this position after the testing we had.

“But everyone in the team has been working so hard, and that made this possible. This is only one session, tomorrow is the main day.”

We have set up a fantasy team and league for the new season! The code to join is: a27391208c

Follow us on Twitter @Planet_F1 and like our Facebook page.