Lewis Hamilton hails ‘DREAM’ qualifying for Mercedes as they look to take fight to runaway leader Max Verstappen… and now the seven-time champion is eager to give Red Bull ‘a run for their money’ in Sunday’s race!
- Russell and Hamilton gatecrash top three after brilliant qualifying session
- Hamilton’s team-mate was just 0.236secs off race leader Max Verstappen
- Team principal Toto Wolff was more optimistic about the car on Saturday
Lewis Hamilton is in dreamland after a strong qualifying session for Mercedes saw the driver and team-mate George Russell prepare to start third and second on the grid respectively in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
The seven-time world champion has struggled with his car this sesaon as the constructor looked to be suffering a hangover from last year’s ‘undrivable’ W13.
But the team looked on their way back to their ferocious best on a cold and windy Saturday during the three qualifying sessions, with second-place George Russell only 0.236secs off tomorrow’s race leader, Max Verstappen.
After the session, Hamilton could barely believe the team’s success in Melbourne.
The British driver said to Sky Sports: ‘This is a totally unexpected. Really proud of the team.
Lewis Hamilton will start from third after Mercedes gatecrashed the top three on Saturday
The seven-time world champion pulled off a pitch-perfect qualifying session on Saturday
‘George [Russell] did an amazing job there today so for us to be up on the front two rows in honestly a dream for us.
‘We are all working as hard as we can to get right back up to the front so to be this close to Red Bull is incredible.’
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate suffered a qualifying session to forget after crashing out in Q1, as he beached his car on the gravel.
As a result, Sunday’s grid will be book-ended by the leading constructors’ cars, with Perez – winner of last race weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – starting 20th at Albert Park.
Hamilton continued: ‘Hopefully tomorrow we can give them a run for their money and we hope the weather is good.
‘I am super grateful for this position and I am just going to work as hard as I can tomorrow.
‘[My goal] is to get to first.
‘I am going to try and see and I will be hoping like my first day here 2007, Turn One.
‘I don’t know if anybody remembers but hopefully we can do that.’
2007’s iteration of the race saw Hamilton capitalise on trouble at Turn 1 from his fourth-place start to swipe third and cap his grand prix debut with a podium finish.
One detail from qualifying could give Hamilton pause and disrupt his good mood, as Saturday’s qualifying marked the third race this season that Russell finished ahead of his storied team-mate.
The drivers’ team principal Toto Wolff was matched Hamilton’s high spirits after qualifying, conceding that today, the W14 ‘was nice’.
‘We just got it together now over the weekend. We just grinded away with putting performance in the car in terms of the right mechanical set up and I am happy.
‘I think we learnt through the session and we have been open minded and we changed the plan.
‘I think it is good starting second and third. It has been a while since we had no one in front of our line in P2.
‘We will just try to make the best out of it. Verstappen is in a lead of his own but maybe we can then slot in.’
Wolff had previously been pessimistic about Mercedes’ chances this season after a checkered start to the year.
As recently as Friday, Wolff suggested that there were unlikely to be improvements to the car until the grand prix at Imola in May.
Toto Wolff, who had previously stated that competing against leading constructor Red Bull would be a challenge, today said the W14 was ‘nice’
Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell congratulated one another after the session
‘We needed a little bit of happiness and at least for the Saturday today we got some of that.’
Over the radio after securing his third-place grid start, Wolff told his star driver that ‘slowly but surely’, the team was improving.
Mercedes are yet to see a podium this season, despite a near-miss in Jeddah that saw Russell lift the third-place trophy only to hand it back to the driver who actually finished third, Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard had been penalised with a time deduction for incorrectly serving a time penalty during the race, but this was overturned, and Alonso moved back into the top three after three hours of deliberation.
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