Lewis Hamilton was not in the best of moods after getting beaten to pole position by Max Verstappen. The reigning world champion seemed to have everything under control in Q2 after he beat Max Verstappen's time by two tenths. The Dutchman had floor damage and Mercedes were starting to look like their old menacing self again.
However, Max Verstappen turned the formbook on its head in Q3 to take pole position by more than three tenths of a second. After qualifying, when questioned if the changes had an impact, Lewis Hamilton said:
"It's no secret what the changes [have done], of course, they've been done to peg us back."
However, Lewis Hamilton was impressed with the fact that Mercedes had made significant progress since pre-season testing.
“Yes, it’s definitely closer than we expected,” said Lewis Hamilton after qualifying. “I think this is a really good step forward for us coming into this weekend - we thought it [would be] double the gap that you see today, and so that’s really down to some really fantastic work from the men and women back at the factory.”
Congratulations to Max!: Lewis Hamilton
When questioned if there was anything more he could have pulled out of the car, Lewis Hamilton said: "Congratulations to Max, he did such a great job, so fast on that last lap. Absolutely given everything I had, but unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough. I mean there’s always more, but it was the best that I could do, that’s for sure; I got absolutely everything I could from the car. I think we did a really good job from testing to coming here, the lads back at the factory – they’ve really done such an amazing job.”
On the long runs on Friday, it did seem that Mercedes had the edge over Red Bull, but when Lewis Hamilton was questioned if he could pull back the gap in the race, he said:
"I think it’ll be difficult to say, the pace gap they’ve got today, they usually carry through into the race; they’re very strong in race conditions. I’d like to think we can close up a little bit, but I think they have at least two tenths in hand.”
It's an interesting and refreshing possibility in Formula 1 with the two top teams - Red Bull and Mercedes - neck-and-neck in terms of performance. If the race is as competitive as the qualifying session was, we could be in for one of the best seasons in recent times.