BARCELONA (AFP) –
A delighted Lewis Hamilton on Saturday celebrated claiming his first pole position in Spain by claiming it was one of his best achievements in Formula One which would set him up to win Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
If he does make the most of the 22nd pole of his career by steering his McLaren to victory, he would leap to the top of the drivers’ championship standings after the first European race of the season and a quarter of the races on the calendar.
His third pole this year was also the 150th in McLaren’s history.
Hamilton said: “It was a fantastic qualifying session for me and I am very, very happy with it – it is one of the best I ever had.
“And an amazing job by the guys in the garage and thanks to guys in the factory who have brought upgrades. The car feels great. It is a great day for the team I think.
“I really feel fantastic. I feel very, very happy. You can normally be happy with a position, but for some reason this feels better than other pole positions because you are looking for a perfect position. It is an incredible feeling.”
Championship leader and defending champion German Sebastian Vettel qualified down in eighth for Red Bull after making a strategic decision to preserve more sets of tyres for the race instead of battling for a front row start on the grid.
Hamilton, who has started on pole twice this year and second twice, but without winning in four races, said: “I am very much aware that I have an incredibly tough race tomorrow with these guys, who are massively quick, and how tricky it is in general.
“It will mean a lot to me to win in Spain. It has always been a good place for me, beautiful weather and the people are incredible and the support I have continues to grow year by year and it has become such a pleasure.
“To win where you have such a big fan base will be fantastic.”
His elated mood and pleasure in performing well in Spain masked any memories of infamous incidents in the past when, during his first season with McLaren in Formula One, he was the target of a racially abusive demonstration at a test session.