Having previously said that he would struggle in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton admits to having to eat his words after putting his Mercedes on the third row of the grid.
“It was interesting because during the session I was thinking, ‘damn, yesterday I said I wasn’t going to get into Q3 or into the top ten, and basically I was eating my words’,” he told reporters.
“It was a really, really great session and massively encouraging to us to be competitive,” he smiled, the even-time world champion subsequently benefitting from the penalties handed out to Pierre Gasly.
“I couldn’t believe I was fighting for the top three at one stage,” admitted Hamilton. “Of course my last lap wasn’t the dream lap… I was second basically all the way until Turn 10 and I had a snap of oversteer and lost two-tenths.
“On one side I’m gutted but the other side of me is really grateful just to be up there, up in the fight and have that pace.”
Clearly buoyed by the car’s performance, when asked his hopes for the race, there was no hesitation in Hamilton’s response.
“My goal is to win somehow,” he said. “I’m going to try and drive the wheels off the car and try and get up as high as I can.
“We can’t compete with Red Bull, Red Bull are in another league, but we’re coming,” he warned. “These upgrades have definitely worked, so a big thank you to everyone back at the factory.
“We’ve made some great progress with the car. We’ve done some great work overnight and I was so much more confident in the car.
“I knew when I woke up this morning that I was on a mission, although I didn’t expect we would be fighting for P2. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed driving the car today and I’m really encouraged to see where it is at.”
While Hamilton was clearly happy with the performance, Toto Wolff admits that he expected more of the upgraded W14.
“After FP3 this morning we felt we had something in the bag,” said the Austrian. “That’s why the disappointment is big because we expected more.
“Having said that, if you look at the gaps it was very, very compressed with everyone. You can get it wrong easily. You can see that Leclerc is out in Q1, Perez is out in Q2, so that’s a bit of a mystery. The wind changed 180 degrees and some were caught out, maybe, because of that.”
Referring to George Russell, who never made it out of Q2, Wolff admitted: “It was clear from the beginning that the set-up direction we went with George made the car worse. From the get-go he complained that he didn’t feel any grip, that he had bouncing, the car understeered where it would before oversteer.
“That’s something which we need to unwind now to understand exactly what we could have done differently.”
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