Monte Carlo (Monaco): Lewis Hamilton said Saturday he wanted to dedicate his “beautiful” pole-clinching lap at the Monaco Grand Prix to Niki Lauda, who died earlier this week.
The emotional defending five-time champion was animated after the session, leaping into catch fencing and shouting on his team radio, before talking to reporters.
Hamilton had set an outright all-time track lap record in one minute and 10.166 seconds to outpace Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.086 seconds. “I had to dig deeper than ever,” he said. “I’m so glad I can get that deep. That lap was beautiful. I feel amazing...“Obviously, we’ve had lots of success over the years, but I can’t remember one being like this, especially after a difficult week for the whole team and, personally, a difficult weekend.
“The goal was to get pole. It’s amazing we turned up as a team, continuing to take strides together, to get stronger. I’m so proud of everyone.”
Lauda had been non-executive chairman of Mercedes. “To have a little bit of a cloud over us this weekend and really trying to lift every one up and deliver for Niki.... Valtteri did a sensational job.
“FP1, FP2 was good for me, but today the car didn’t feel anywhere near as good as it did Thursday. I was digging deep, throwing the car around, I was struggling to get there on the first lap.
“So, I was throwing the car around and I’m pretty sure I touched the barriers a few times - there’s no other way of doing it here.
“I’ve never quite got that perfect lap here and I think today was as close as I could get to it. So, this one’s for Niki...”
Hamilton and Bottas, who delivered a record-equalling 62nd front row lockout for Mercedes, both carried tributes to the three-time world champion Austrian Lauda on their cars, as did many other teams. Bottas, disappointed not to secure his fourth successive pole of the season for the all-conquering Mercedes team, said he had not given up and would do his utmost to try and out-start Hamilton and beat him in Sunday’s race. “Anything can happen. It would be nice to get pole, but there’s no point in giving up after Saturday. I just had traffic and I couldn’t get the tyres up to temperature.”
Mercedes will be bidding to extend their unprecedented run of five straight season-opening one-two triumphs in the classic contest on the Mediterranean street circuit....