Hamilton had been the quicker of the two Mercedes drivers throughout practice but complained about his upgraded W14 throughout qualifying as he struggled for pace. 

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The seven-time world champion narrowly escaped elimination in the first two parts of qualifying and was slower than teammate George Russell. But Hamilton bounced back on his last lap in Q3 to seal sixth place on the grid, two places ahead of Russell. 

“The last time I enjoyed the track this much was 2007, 2008 and my Formula 3 days here, I’ve generally really enjoyed it,” Hamilton said. 

“P1 to P2 was good, P2 to P3 I think was good but then we made a change into P3 which didn’t feel as good, but it was faster in the middle sector, but slower in the first and last. 

"Just the car felt like a real handful, to switch on the tyres I really struggled with, and that was the first time in this session. 

“We know why and it was a decision I had taken against everyone’s judgment, I fought for something and it made it even harder probably.

“It’s been an amazing weekend, I’ve loved every second on track, more than probably ever. 

“But I got a really good lap at the end, and I think that was as fast as our car was going to go, in a perfect world maybe a tenth left in it. I’m grateful I kept it out the wall and got it round.”

Hamilton, who damaged his car with a crash at the end of final practice, does not expect Mercedes to get a true read on their upgrades until next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. 

“I’m so grateful for everyone back at the factory, they’ve worked so hard to build these components for the car,” he added. 

“I’m glad I didn’t break the new components. I broke the wing, which I’m sorry for but those changes have helped the feeling. It definitely feels like it’s going in the right direction. 

“I don’t thing we will get a full read of the new sidepods and everything until we get somewhere like Barcelona, where we’ll see the car come alive I think.”