Hamilton exults over ‘monumental’ second place

Lewis Hamilton says second on the grid for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is a monumental result for Mercedes after its recent struggles.

The defending champion had a tough weekend in Monaco and then said Mercedes was simply slow in FP2 as the team didn’t look competitive. But a step forward in qualifying put Hamilton in the mix for pole position, and he ended up second to Charles Leclerc and ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen.

“We definitely weren’t expecting that, and this is such a monumental result for us because we’ve been struggling like you couldn’t believe all weekend,” Hamilton said. “You know, you can see it. We kept our composure and continued to have difficult conversations in the background and challenging one another and just never taking no for an answer.

“We’ve made so many changes over these two days… just chasing your tail. It’s been so difficult, but the work overnight and especially between the two sessions was amazing from the team and I’m really proud of everyone and keeping positive. So to be up there… to be so positive, these guys… it’s a great, great start.”

Although Valtteri Bottas was unable to complete his final lap due to red flags — having previously given his teammate a tow — Hamilton says even just having both cars in Q3 was a big step forward.

“It doesn’t help us because it’s so crazy just trying to switch these tires on… working and trying to find the envelope for this car. It’s the biggest challenge, I think, that we’ve had in a long time, trying to understand what the car really wants.

“She’s not been happy all weekend. It’s been a bit of a disaster so for us to be up here and even for Valtteri to be in the top 10, that’s a massive leap and that’s just really down to great, great, great teamwork, so thanks to everyone.”

Hamilton was happier with his long-run performance on Friday, so says he expects to be even more competitive in the race itself.

“Our race pace is a lot better than our single-lap pace. We’re miles off in a single lap and a lot closer in race pace. We don’t understand why, but I’d like to think hopefully we’re in that same position so we can take the fight to these guys tomorrow.”