Fri | Sep 18, 2020

Hamilton impresses in the rain to secure pole

Published:Sunday | July 12, 2020 | 12:30 AM

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the qualifying for the Styrian Formula One Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, yesterday.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the qualifying for the Styrian Formula One Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, yesterday.

SPIELBERG, Austria (AP):

Lewis Hamilton showed why he’s one of Formula One’s best ever in wet conditions, dominating on a rain-drenched track to take pole position for the Styrian Grand Prix yesterday.

It was the Mercedes driver’s record-extending 89th career pole and particularly impressive as he first beat Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s mark and then his own leading mark on his final lap.

“That was awesome,” Hamilton said. “Honestly it was a fantastic lap, that lap was as close to perfect as I could get it in those conditions.”

He placed 1.216 seconds ahead of Verstappen and 1.398 clear of McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr.

Despite the difficulty level, he kept going faster.

“I definitely had my heart in my mouth,” Hamilton said. “You have a cloud of spray ahead of you, and the same behind. You don’t know where anyone is, you don’t know what time it is. All you know is that you’re going super fast.”

It was arguably Hamilton’s best pole since Singapore two years ago. Although that lap was spectacularly quick, it was on a bone-dry track with searing heat, humidity and floodlights illuminating the circuit.

This was the polar opposite: A treacherous, slippery track with huge puddles and dark rolling clouds overhead eliminating much visibility.

INCREDIBLE CHALLENGE

“It was on the limit but that’s racing. I’m glad they didn’t take that away from us, it’s so special being out there, so difficult,” Hamilton said. “These are the hardest conditions we ever drive in, just one small lapse in concentration and you’re off (the track) ... an incredible challenge.”

Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas could not match him this time, qualifying in fourth place after taking pole and winning last Sunday’s Austrian GP.

It was the best career result in qualifying for Sainz Jr and further evidence of McLaren’s improvement after Lando Norris finished last weekend’s race in third place.

“It feels amazing, especially that qualifying was one of the toughest I have done,” Sainz Jr said. “There was so much aquaplaning it was crazy. We’re completely blind in the car, we don’t see what’s at the front, what’s at the back.”

Sainz Jr is joining Ferrari next year and showed a coolness under pressure.

But this was another dismal day for Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel 10th and Charles Leclerc 11th.

“The main problem was we were just not quick enough,” Leclerc said. “We’re just too slow.”