Monaco: Lewis Hamilton is not getting carried away with his first ever Monaco pole position, rejecting the notion that victory is all but assured today.
This is shaping up to be quite the week for the reigning Formula One world champion.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton gestures to fans as he leaves Circuit de Monaco on a boat after securing pole for the Monaco GP Saturday. PIC/Getty Images
Hamilton signed a lucrative, three-year contract extension with Mercedes on Wednesday and followed it up with an impressive day of practice and a Saturday to savour.
The 30-year-old endured a topsy-turvy time in the final practice session and first two sections of qualifying, but produced a blistering lap of one minute 15.098 seconds in Q3 to secure his maiden F1 pole on the streets of Monte Carlo.
“It’s been a long, long time,” Hamilton said. “I can’t express to you just how happy I am. It wasn’t the easiest session. I had a lot of things that kind of (would easily) throw you off your rhythm, which it did.
Out of rhythm
“I didn’t have the rhythm until the last two laps, so I was really, really happy with it and coming across the line just hoping for once that you’ve got it. This is incredibly special for me and for my guys, who have worked so hard this weekend, so I’m very, very happy.”
Hamilton pipped Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by 0.342 seconds, meaning a third straight Monaco win may now be beyond the German.
Of the last 11 races here, 10 have been won by the driver starting in pole, with the only exception Hamilton’s victory from third during his title-winning season of 2008.
Perhaps that experience is why the British driver was so quick to swat away suggestions that tomorrow will be a cakewalk.
“The job is not even half done,” Hamilton retorted. “There’s so much to do tomorrow. There’s a long, long way to go, many, many laps here. It’s going to be mentally and physically challenging.”
Challenging it may be, but odds of 1/5 on him to win highlight that few expect Hamilton to come a cropper -- although not even victory would represent the “perfect weekend” he spoke of earlier in the week.
Not perfect weekend
“Well, the weekend has not been perfect,” Hamilton said.
“The pole and the win is a pretty good weekend, but naturally a perfect weekend is when you ace every session.
“It is not so far off that and naturally tomorrow is the day.”
Mercedes teammate Rosberg is aware the odds are stacked against him tomorrow, but is hoping the victory in Spain last time out will act as inspiration.
Sebastian Vettel was again the best of the rest and starts third on the grid, while Red Bull’s improvements were shown by Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat following the Ferrari driver.
McLaren’s hopes of a first point of the season have been boosted by the penalties given to Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr and Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
Meanwhile, Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg will start in seventh and 13th place respectively.
The duo were totally off the pace in Saturday’s qualifying round as Perez finished ahead of Toro Rosso’s Sainz, while Hulkenberg finished ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa.