Lewis Hamilton has been something of a fixture on pole position during the 2014 F1 season, but admitted that he was happier than ever to claim top spot on the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Briton had been the man top beat on the opening day of the Barcelona meeting, but opened Saturday's proceedings by telling his Mercedes team that they had managed to make the car 'worse' during their overnight tweaking. As a result, Hamilton trailed team-mate Nico Rosberg in both FP3 and through the opening phases of qualifying before turning things back in his favour when it mattered most.
“Nico was driving really well through P3 and all through qualifying, so I didn't know if I would be able to get it,” the 2008 world champion admitted, “Right at the end, I just had to eke out everything and more from the car.”
“Yesterday I had such a great day, we were really happy with the car and it was the sort of day where you don't want to change much, but we changed a couple of things overnight in the hope of making it [better]. It was only small things, like half a millimetre here and there, the smallest of tweaks, but today the track conditions went down and the car was a real handful, with a lot of oversteer and really inconsistent corner to corner, so it was kind of back to square one from where I was in FP1.
“Once you're in qualifying, there is nothing you can do, so we made a few changes [after FP3]. That's why, in Q1, you saw I was half a second off Nico as I was just trying to put a lap together. At the end, I managed to do it by the skin of my teeth…”
Hamilton acknowledged that, as much as he had initially pointed the finger at the changes he and his crew had made overnight, the Circuit de Catalunya also played a part in his change of fortunes.
“It was pretty difficult out there, the track conditions were pretty poor, so I'm overwhelmed and pretty happy to have had [pole],” he confirmed, “Coming here this weekend, obviously we didn't know where everyone was going to be, so to see the development that has gone on, and the work that has gone into getting our car ready for this week, it inspires me. To have the performance we have, I've never really know that before.”
The pole position is Hamilton's first in Spain, having been denied top spot in 2012 when McLaren failed to put enough fuel in his tank for the mandatory post-session checks, and the realisation added to Hamilton's delight.
“[There have been] lots of difficult circumstances, situations, I've been in, but generally I've not been fast enough,” he said of his Barcelona fortunes, “Going into today. I lost a bit of pace, so I'm even happier knowing that, despite that, I was able to get back to the front. In the past, I guess it's not been my time, so I'll do everything I can tomorrow to bring some really good points for the team - and let's hope that means something positive.
Asked if he was concerned that his Saturday struggles may linger into raceday, the Briton insisted that he was more confident of his set-up.
“I'm not worried for tomorrow,” he maintained, “There was some concern for today with the balance being a little bit tricky, but my long run yesterday was good - the track went away from us, went away from everyone, today.
“You just don't know with this track, it can go up and down, so we'll just see how tomorrow goes. You can adjust a few things, so hopefully we'll get it right for the race.”