Lewis Hamilton pushed 'to the limit' but delighted to hold Canadian GP advantage over Sebastian Vettel
Hamilton salutes "sexy laps" as he beats Vettel to Canada pole; Brit claims F1 2017 is his toughest ever season; "The car was good, he was perfect, and thank god the Ferraris are behind," says Lauda
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 11/06/17 7:34pm
Lewis Hamilton claims he has to produce near faultless performances to hold off Sebastian Vettel in what he calls his "most difficult season".
Under huge pressure from Ferrari and his title rival coming into the Canadian GP, Hamilton delivered one of the most impressive qualifying laps of his Mercedes career to seal pole position ahead of the championship leader.
Sunday's Montreal race now throws up the prospect of another titanic duel between two multi world champions, and though Vettel will be confident of challenging from the front row, Hamilton was delighted with his qualifying performance in the conditions.
"It was a sexy lap. I can't believe that it came together so well," the Briton, who matched Ayrton Senna's record of 65 poles on Saturday, said, before continuing alongside Vettel and Valtteri Bottas in the press conference.
"Given that it is the most difficult season of my career, racing against these two great drivers and Kimi [Raikkonen], and having us so close - it really pushes all of us to the limit and it requires us to be perfect.
"Of course, we can't always be perfect but today I got as close as I could get. In terms of this intense battle that we're having I would like to think that [this pole] is one of the best."
Mercedes were insistent that they were now the 2017 "underdogs" following Ferrari's impressive start to the season, but the qualifying shootout always looked to be touch and go.
There was barely anything to split Hamilton and Vettel - just four thousandths of a second - at the halfway point of Q3, before the former broke the Montreal lap record for the second time of the day with a 1:11.459.
"Montreal has been good to me over the years," Hamilton added. "It was a close battle with Ferrari, they were so quick - they've been quick all year.
"I was so happy with the laps. The car was difficult at the beginning of yesterday. I already felt like I was at the limit of the car so we sat down and studied to see if we could squeeze out any more juice from it, which we did.
"I sent out a message to my guys this morning, saying we need everything to be on point, we need every single millimeter that the car can give us today - and they did it.
"It's going to continue to be a tough, tough, tough race with the Ferraris, because they are so strong but today we have shown we can have an answer if we put the work in."
Praise for 'perfect' Lewis in Canada
While Hamilton was clearly emotional when receiving an Ayrton Senna helmet after matching his idol's pole tally, both his and Vettel's qualifying performances was just being digested by the Sky F1 pundits.
"We're seeing what we've seen in the past," said Martin Brundle. "Two drivers head to head in a championship, raising their game, somehow getting into overdrive gear."
1996 world champion Damon Hill, watching over Hamilton's pole lap, added: "There's minimal steering input on that car. He's on top of it, not over driving it and he's letting the car to do most of the work.
"He's got the confidence to make it happen. It takes a lot of skill and courage for a driver to be able to do that."
There were also tributes from the Mercedes team, with Niki Lauda telling Ted Kravitz: "Unbelievable, incredible laps. They were not foreseeable, you don't expect that he can be that quick. He went 1:11.4, and 1:11.7 was already a surprise.
"The car was good, he was perfect, and thank god the Ferraris are behind."
Can Mercedes hit back in the 2017 title fight with Ferrari? Don't miss the Canadian GP live only on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. The race starts at 7pm on Sunday. Watch the race for £6.99 on NOW TV
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