Lewis Hamilton felt he was on for “one of the best laps” he had done at the Circuit Paul Ricard before an error cost him time.
The Mercedes man still clinched pole ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, breaking his existing lap record around the circuit, but he was left ruing an error in the second-to-last turn which ruined what he felt was one of the best laps he had put together.
“Through Q1 and Q2, I think Valtteri just had the edge and I was still dialling in the car,” Hamilton told the official Formula 1 website.
“Once I got to Q3, I knew where I had to find the time and it was just about going and doing it.
“The first lap was fantastic – really, really happy with it. However, I knew that it was still relatively close in several areas which I could improve, and so I went out for that second run. The second run, I was on for one of the best laps that I’d done.
“I was up, I think, four and a half tenths coming into the second-to-last corner and I think I just lost the back end partly through [the wind], or maybe going too quick. But nonetheless, really, really happy.”
That was career pole number 86 for Hamilton, but he stressed that the feeling he gets never diminishes.
“It’s crazy, because it never gets old, it never gets easier, it’s always such a challenge, regardless of what position you’re battling for,” he explained.
“If anything, it gets harder and harder to get these poles, Valtteri’s been doing some epic laps through practice and qualifying in these first races.
“I’ve just been chipping away, chipping away, and the last two laps [in qualifying] were the ones.”
The Brit is enjoying his best start to a season since his debut campaign in 2007, and while it seems Bottas is his only likely challenger for the win on Sunday, Hamilton refuses to rule out Ferrari with Charles Leclerc starting P3.
“The Ferraris have obviously been near on our tail,” said Hamilton.
“Obviously a bit of a bigger gap today between us and them, but I’m still thinking the race is going to be a close battle, so I’m grateful to be where I am.”
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Bottas said that “fine details” cost him pole position, in particular he felt the changing wind direction didn’t do him many favours.
“From my side in Q3 I felt my first lap was OK, but the wind direction changed throughout qualifying,” he told reporters.
“In Turns 8 and 9 I’ve been struggling a bit all weekend; at some point, I found some good lines there but then they didn’t work when the wind direction changed.
“It’s just fine details here and there, there are no massive things. In the second run, I was just a bit unlucky with no cars ahead, so I had no tow at all, so I was losing time in all the straights.
“So, I had to make the most out of the last corners to catch up and kind of lost it there.
“It’s unfortunate, because I was hoping to be on pole, but second is a good place, as there’s a long run into Turn 1.”