Lewis Hamilton relishes 'special' pole at Azerbaijan GP
Lewis beats Bottas to pole with stunning late show; "I've never seen anything like it... nobody else I think can do that," says Lauda.
By Jonathan Green and Pete Gill in Baku
Last Updated: 26/06/17 1:25pm
Lewis Hamilton hailed one of the most special laps of his career after he put in a majestic performance to claim pole for the Azerbaijan GP in a dramatic qualifying hour.
The three-time world champion claimed the 66th pole position of his career, moving him to sole second in F1's all-time standings, to put him in the perfect position to win in Baku for the first time and close his 12-point gap to championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton had dominated the opening two sessions of qualifying but trailed team-mate Valtteri Bottas after an error on his first run in Q3 when the red flag was deployed after Daniel Ricciardo crashed on the exit of Turn Six.
That left the drivers just one lap to improve their times but despite the difficulty in getting tyres in the right window all weekend and Bottas improving his initial time, Hamilton managed to hook up a near-perfect lap to post a 1:40.593 and snatch pole.
"That was one of the most exciting laps that I've had all year," Hamilton said.
"I'm so pumped with that. That's how qualifying should be."
Half a second clear of the second-placed Bottas, over a second clear of the closest non-Mercedes car in Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, and with title rival Vettel out of the top three for the first time this season, qualifying could hardly have gone any better for Hamilton.
And to think he had, in his own words, a "scruffy" and "difficult" Friday.
"We started in the wrong place and had to make a lot of changes overnight," said Hamilton. "But the changes were fantastic and that lap… There was a lot of pressure on that last lap.
"My last lap in Montreal was pretty special but I think this one tops it."
The achievement had historic resonance too. Hamilton now boasts more F1 pole positions than his boyhood idol Ayrton Senna and remains on course to match Michael Schumacher's all-time record at next month's British GP.
Lauda: Lewis' lap like nothing I've seen
Hamilton's performance ensured he banished any lingering demons from his qualifying nightmare last year and received special praise from Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.
"Lewis with his lap, I've never seen anything like it," Lauda told Sky F1.
"What he did today, nobody else I think can do that. He's fantastic."
Despite his Saturday form, Hamilton is expecting a stern challenge from those behind him, but is confident his W08 will not suffer from the same issues which blighted him on Friday.
"I think being that it's such a hot race, it's such a difficult one," Hamilton added to Sky Sports News HQ.
"I'm in a much better position than I was last year and as a team we've put ourselves in a good position. But I think Valtteri is going to be very quick and I think Ferrari, once they get the car heavier, their race pace is stronger.
"Our car was working really well today and I anticipate it will be the same tomorrow. If I have the pace that I had today then I should be in a good position."
Comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click 'Report'.