Hamilton digs deep for pole

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton going past a posse of press photographers during the qualifying session for the Monaco Grand Prix yesterday. He pulled off a record lap to clinch pole position ahead of teammate Valterri Bottas for today's race.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton going past a posse of press photographers during the qualifying session for the Monaco Grand Prix yesterday. He pulled off a record lap to clinch pole position ahead of teammate Valterri Bottas for today's race. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Briton pips Bottas at the death for a Mercedes front row, as Leclerc fumes at Ferrari blunder

MONACO • Lewis Hamilton says that pushing his car to the limit is like "wrestling a bull", after the Mercedes driver took pole yesterday for today's Monaco Grand Prix.

The five-time Formula One world champion clinched a last-gasp lap record of 1min 10.166sec, ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, who was one eighth of a second behind.

"This is the race every driver dreams of when you are a child, you put absolutely everything you have got into it," Hamilton said.

"We have a great package and all drivers, whether their car is fast or slow, you take it to its limit, it's like wrestling a bull. The lap was hard, I just managed to pull it off.

"All the guys in the factory have put in everything. Valtteri has been quick all weekend. To get this pole, it means so much, I had to dig deeper than ever."

The pole, a record-extending 85th of the Briton's stellar career, came with Mercedes mourning the death on Monday of triple world champion Niki Lauda, the team's non-executive chairman.

  • MONACO GP GRID 

  • 1ST ROW
    1
    Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
    2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes

    2ND ROW
    3
    Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
    4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

    3RD ROW

    5 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull

    6 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas

    4TH ROW

    7 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault

    8 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso

    5TH ROW

    9 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren

    10 Alexander Albon (Tha) Toro Rosso

    SELECTED

    16 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari

Despite missing out on his fourth consecutive pole, Bottas believes he can mount a strong challenge starting from second.

"I'm disappointed not to have got pole," the Finn said.

"But anything can happen in the race, there's no point giving up on Saturday. It would've been nice to have been on pole but I won't give up."

Mercedes are seeking a sixth straight one-two finish today while Hamilton is out to extend his narrow seven-point lead over Bottas (105) in the championship.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen starts in third and he admitted that the Mercedes duo were much faster.

"Yeah they were a bit quick. My lap in Q2 was quick but I lost it a bit in Q3. It was a reasonable lap," the Dutchman said.

"I didn't do many qualifying here so I am of course happy to be third."

Vettel, who crashed in the last practice session before qualifying yesterday, will start in fourth after a difficult day for Ferrari.

His teammate and local hero Charles Leclerc was fastest in final practice. But, in a glaring strategy error by the team, he watched on from the garage as he was knocked down to 16th and eliminated just before the end of Q1 instead of going out for another lap.

The Monegasque driver was later seen to be furious at the decision.

"Very difficult one to take. We had plenty of time to go out again. I need some explanations," he said, as reported by the BBC.

"I will have to take a lot of risks tomorrow because this is a track that is basically impossible to overtake on. It is disappointing and hopefully tomorrow will be better."

Meanwhile, F1 has confirmed that a minute's silence featuring Lauda's famous red cap will be held ahead of today's race.

During the silence on the grid, all 20 drivers "along with dignitaries and a number of Lauda's contemporaries and peers will each hold a red cap", a statement said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

F1 MONACO GRAND PRIX

Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 8pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 26, 2019, with the headline 'Hamilton digs deep for pole'. Print Edition | Subscribe