Lewis Hamilton admits he’s never felt so happy to qualify P4 after a strong run in wet conditions on Saturday and has set himself the goal of dropping no lower than that in Sunday’s race. There was a small window of opportunity for Mercedes to make up a place on the grid when Charles Leclerc took a new power unit in FP3 to push him right to the back of the pack for Sunday.
And better news was to come for Mercedes when Sergio Perez crashed out in Q2, meaning just Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc were out of reach. Both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were finding grip and enjoying their ride far more than Friday’s two practice sessions.
Hamilton was regularly matching Russell too before the latter decided to make the bold decision to switch to softs for his second run. The seven-time world champion changed to new intermediates for his second run and initially moved up to a provisional position on the front row.
Realistically, third was the best Hamilton could hope for with Sainz quickly matching Verstappen’s pace. But Fernando Alonso put in the surprise of the day as he qualified second-quickest, splitting Verstappen and Sainz.
Hamilton did enough to hold onto fourth ahead of both Haas drivers though and feels he should be aiming to finish where he started, or even fight for a possible podium.
“I feel amazing, I’m so happy,” he said. “P4 has never felt so good if I’m being honest.
“Maybe when I was in my first year of racing Formula One, this kind of feels like that. Particluarly because it’s been a really difficult year so to go through what we were faced with today, really so happy to have us there and put us in a position.
“Everyone is working so hard and we’re constantly facing challenges with this car. Tomorrow we should be a much better position. We have a slightly different set-up for the race but we’re in a great position so hopefully I can hold position at least.”
Hamilton went on to admit the wet conditions clearly played into his hands. But he still pleaded with the team to continue working on finding the solutions to fix the W13 moving forward.
“If it was dry, I don’t know if we would be in that position,” he added. “The rain always opens up opportunities and I love this track.
“It’s been a struggle so far this weekend and there’s still a lot of work to do tomorrow but I hope all the team are feeling positive, please continue to push. We need you. I need you. We are all working as hard as we can and I believe in them so much.”