Lewis Hamilton feels his 99th Formula 1 pole position at the Emilia Romagna GP required something "special". The Mercedes driver edged Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen by less than a tenth in one of the closest qualifying sessions in the turbo-hybrid era.
Hamilton and race engineer Peter Bonnington were elated and shocked on the team radio when the Red Bull drivers failed to beat Hamilton's Q3 time.
"I'm just amazed at how close it is and and how exciting that is," Hamilton told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press.
"It really adds to the fire as the adrenaline rush and I didn't know of course, whether or not these guys had improved on that last lap for quite some time. So I was definitely nervous."
“Once we finished FP3, we had that gap to the Red Bulls, and I [knew I] couldn’t go six tenths faster, but we just kept our heads down.
“I knew going into qualifying and particularly that last lap, it was going to take something special, it really had to be the most perfect lap that I could do in order to beat the Red Bulls.
“It was a real surprise, the team definitely did not expect to be on pole today, but of course that’s what I was gunning for. It really was the tidiest lap that I could put together, and a little bit more.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes the drivability of the W12 has been improved. He also thinks the balance of the car is better compared to Bahrain, something Hamilton agreed with after qualifying.
"As we came here, the car was feeling better already from the first lap out and I think that’s probably track-dependent," said Hamilton.
“In Bahrain, the temperatures are a lot different, the track surface is a lot different. In Bahrain, we always struggle with overheating and a lot of crosswinds. We don’t seem to have that here and it’s much cooler so we’re very rarely over the temperature of the tyres.
So that’s kind of brought us more in line with the Red Bulls. It’s really focusing on balance, we’re finding the balance is a very narrow window of tyres operating at the best and also our car is more on the knife-edge, I would say, than in previous years.
“But a really good step forward, just one step at a time all weekend, and fantastic work from everyone."