Though “anxious” about his set-up changes, Lewis Hamilton chipped away in Barcelona and was rewarded with his 100th career pole.
Already a World Champion with McLaren back in 2008, it was upon Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes in 2013 that the seeds were sewn for what has become a legendary Formula 1 career.
Few could see the logic in that career decision back then, but now a seven-time World Champion with 97 race wins, Hamilton reached another milestone at the Spanish Grand Prix as he claimed a century of pole positions, the only driver to have ever done it.
“I can’t believe we’re at 100. The journey we’ve been on has been immense,” he told Sky F1 after qualifying at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“Who would have thought at the end of 2013, when we made the decision to partner, that we would get to 100? I feel very humble, very grateful and I’m ecstatic, like it’s my first.”
Hamilton had looked strong throughout practice, topping FP2 before Max Verstappen struck back for Red Bull in FP3.
And qualifying too was a tussle throughout between Verstappen, Hamilton and the Briton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas as the Finn threatened to repeat his achievement from Portimao and claim pole for himself.
Hamilton found himself on the back foot for much of it, but ultimately reigned supreme, at which point he could relieve himself of the “anxiety” which he had carried over from FP3, relating to the “changes” he had made to the W12 in pursuit of pole.
“FP3 was looking really good. I think we’ve been looking really strong. I made some changes and had a bit of anxiety about the changes we were potentially going to make for qualifying,” he explained.
“You’re always trying to make the car better but it’s a bit of a gamble because you’ve got to keep the race in mind also. We made a change, I got out and thought immediately it’s the wrong one.
“It was my call in the end but that’s why I was behind all the way through qualifying. I was making small tweaks to try and elevate pace-wise. The first lap was the best lap I got through the whole session.”