Lewis Hamilton was ecstatic after qualifying P2 for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – a result he had not envisaged at all.
Mercedes had been comfortably off the leading pace throughout Friday practice at the Baku City Circuit and although FP3 was a clear improvement, Hamilton still was not expecting to put his W12 P2 on the grid.
But with that “monumental” effort, Mercedes have now given themselves a real shot at victory.
“The lap was okay. I think we definitely weren’t expecting that. This is such a monumental result for us because we’ve been struggling like you couldn’t believe all weekend,” he told Sky F1.
“We kept our composure. We’ve been having some difficult discussions in the background and challenging one another and just never taking ‘no’ for an answer.
“We’ve moved around and made so many changes over these two days – we were chasing our tail and it’s been so difficult.
“But I think the work overnight and particularly between the sessions was amazing from the team, and I’m really proud of everyone for keeping positive.
“To be up there, to be so close to these guys is a great, great start.
“Race pace was a lot better than our single-lap pace. We were miles off on a single lap and we were much closer with race pace.
“We don’t understand why, but I’d like to think hopefully we’re in that same position so we can take the fight to these guys tomorrow.”
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 5, 2021
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Mercedes are no stranger to struggling with their tyres when track temperatures drop and this is an issue they faced again in Baku.
Hamilton said trying to find that “envelope” where the car works has been one of Mercedes’ greatest challenges in a long time, but in Q3 it appears he found it.
“I don’t think [cooler temperatures] helps us because it’s just crazy trying to switch these tyres on,” Hamilton explained.
“Working and trying to find the envelope for this car has been, I think, the biggest challenge we’ve had in a long time – trying to understand what the car really wants.
“She’s not been happy all weekend, it’s been a bit of a disaster, so for us to be up here and even Valtteri [Bottas] getting into the top 10, it’s a massive leap and that’s just down to great teamwork.”
It required a great deal of tinkering for Mercedes to get the W12 working for Hamilton, and the Briton said those changes were still taking place 10 minutes before qualifying started.
“[We] made the changes like 10 minutes before quali,” he revealed.
“And the guys have just been so great at being open-minded, trying new things, really used everyone’s expertise today to get the car where we needed it.”