Hamilton admits 'We definitely weren't expecting that!'

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 in qualifying parc ferme. 05.06.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 6, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton shrugged off what had been a dismal build up in practice to snatch second place on the grid for the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with a well-timed push during an accident-strewn qualifying session on Saturday.

Neither Mercedes driver finished in the top ten at the end of Friday, although a perfectly timed run in the slipstream did help Hamilton bounce back to third place in final practice on Saturday.

Although it looked very unlikely that he would be able to pull off the same surprise in qualifying, a low-downforce rear wing meant he was able to run to the line in the two behind his team mate Valtteri Bottas.

It put him on the front row alongside pole sitter Charles Leclerc for the start of tomorrow's race, and even more crucially one place ahead of his chief title rival Max Verstappen.

"We definitely weren't expecting that," he admitted when talking to the media in parc ferme immediately after the end of the eventful session.

"This is such a monumental result for us, because we've been struggling like you couldn't believe all weekend," he added. "You can see it.

"But we kept our composure, continued to have difficult discussions in the background, kept challenging one another - and just never taking no for an answer.

"We've moved around and made so many changes over these two days, which is chasing your tail. It's been so difficult. But I think the work overnight and then typically between the sessions was amazing.

"I'm really proud of everyone for keeping positive," he said. "To be up there and so close to these guys [Leclerc and Verstappen] is a great result."

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari in qualifying parc ferme. 05.06.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 6, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku

Hamilton confirmed that the team had been having problems getting the tyres up to temperatures before making qualifying runs which is what had held them back in Monaco as well as in the Baku practice sessions.

"It's just crazy trying to get these tyres working and trying to find the envelope for this car," he said.

"It is the biggest challenge I think we've had in a long time, to understand where the car is.

"[The car] has not been happy all weekend. It's been a bit of a disaster," he confirmed. "So for us to be up here - and even Valtteri getting into the top ten - that's a massive leap. And that's really down to great, great teamwork."

As for his prospects for Sunday's race, Hamilton said that there were no guarantees although he remained optimistic that he would be in with a good chance of success over Leclerc and Verstappen.

"Our race pace was a lot better than single lap pace," he pointed out. "We were miles off in a single lap and a lot closer in race pace.

"We don't understand why, but I like to think that hopefully we are in that same position, so we can take that fight to these guys tomorrow."

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