Hamilton says Baku pole lap was "do or die"

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton described his Azerbaijan GP pole lap as “do or die”, having overhauled teammate Valtteri Bottas at the very end of the Q3 shoot-out.

Hamilton says Baku pole lap was "do or die"
Polesitter Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Polesitter Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Polesitter Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, second place Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08

Hamilton, who had crashed in Q3 during the inaugural Baku F1 race last year, looked like he'd miss out on pole again this time around, as he trailed Bottas after a mistake on his first flying lap in the final segment.

But while a red flag triggered by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo scuppered his second effort, Hamilton was left with enough time to have another go after the session restarted – and duly beat Bottas by 0.434s to score his 66th pole in F1.

"It was do or die," Hamilton said in the post-qualifying press conference. "If ever there was a time for me to perfect, that was the time.

"In qualifying, sometimes you don't extract it, but it was a perfect lap."

Hamilton admitted he had been "greedy" on his first Q3 effort, which appeared set to put him top of the timesheets before he ran wide at Turn 16.

"The lap before was very good until the last corner - and so weird that, just before going into it, I thought 'don't be greedy'. And, of course, I was greedy and locked up."

His subsequent pole benchmark was especially notable because he only had time for one warm-up lap out of the pits despite Mercedes having appeared to struggle more than its direct rivals to get its tyres up to temperature.

"All weekend we have not been able to do it on one [preparation] lap but others have, so I had to give it everything I had," he said. "Valtteri, I could see he was on a great lap as well.

"Even if it was [only for] second, it was one ultimate lap that I could be proud of."

Bottas, who likewise improved on his final effort after a single preparation lap, admitted his final attempt was not perfect.

"Not clean enough, didn't get enough grip. Before the red flag it was going okay, so [I'm] disappointed in the end to lose the pole position, that was the target for me today.

"I am proud – we made quite big changes in practice sessions, we were lost in the beginning and managed to turn it around and we think, for tomorrow, we have a great starting position and a good fight to get another 1-2 for the team."

Only Hamilton could have done Baku lap - Lauda

Mercedes GP non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said only Hamilton could have achieved the lap that earned pole in Baku.

"We had some problems on Friday but the team did a fantastic job to set the car up in the right way," he told Sky F1.

"And Lewis with his lap here – I've never seen anything like it.

"It was not plain sailing at all. But I tell you, a lot of thinking, digging, back to the factory, forwards, and whatsoever, and in the end the improvement the engineers and all the mechanics did to the car was outstanding. And Lewis what he did today, nobody else I think can do that."

 

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