Hamilton hails ‘sweet spot’ in F1’s fastest lap in history
Lewis Hamilton deflected personal glory and heaped praise on his team on Saturday after he clocked the fastest lap in Formula One history and Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
In the first qualifying session since F1’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), banned the so-called ‘party modes’ that enable teams to increase engine power and speed, the Mercedes showed again they remain the pace-setters.
Hamilton secured his seventh pole in Italy, his 68th for the Mercedes team – equalling seven-time champion Michael Schumacher’s overall total — and the 94th of his career with his record lap in one minute and 18.887 seconds.
His average speed was 264.362 kph, a pace that lifted him beyond the previous fastest man Kimi Raikkonen who lapped Monza in 1:19.119 at an average speed of 263.578 kph in 2018.
The championship leader and six-time champion said his final lap to beat teammate Valtteri Bottas to pole was the result of perfect planning and “bang on” strategy by his team who decided to send their drivers out early and avoid the pack as it jostled for slip-streaming positions.
“I think we learned from last year in terms of going out at the end wasn’t the best for us,” said Hamilton.
“The strategy team did a really great job in terms of the timing.
“It’s something we discussed yesterday and again today (Saturday). Ultimately, I think it was bang on.”
Mercedes overall performance proved they have lost none of their competitive superiority over their rivals with the ban on variable qualifying engine modes.
The revised rules – the directive now requires all of the cars to run in the same engine mode setting in both qualifying and the race – appeared to boost McLaren as Carlos Sainz wound up third.
Hamilton said he “didn’t expect” Mercedes’ advantage to remain as commanding as it had been earlier this season.
“But,” he added. “Of course, I don’t really understand it.
“We said last week when they brought in this rule, to slow us down, that it wouldn’t really make a difference because we’ve got a great, great car and we’ll be better in other areas.
“It’s just an incredible performance this weekend. I think this is definitely the best we’ve ever been here. We got the car in a sweet spot so a huge thank you to all of the guys back at the factory.
“It’s such a hard thing to do and I think people take it for granted because we do it weekend in, weekend out, but I certainly don’t.
“It was very, very close. Valtteri was very, very quick. I am really happy with my laps.”
In a show of amusement, he added: “I don’t even think we ever had a party mode. It’s something someone else made up.”