Lewis Hamilton has revealed he and his engineers worked into the night on Friday in a determined effort to find a solution to Mercedes’ dramatic downturn in performance around the streets of Azerbaijan.
Seven-time F1 champion Hamilton was more than a second off the pace and outside the top 10 after the opening day’s practice but delivered an astonishing turnaround to claim a front row grid spot for today’s race in Baku.
The reigning champion revealed: “It’s difficult for us to understand why we are in the position we are in because we’re trying lots of different things and we don’t always get the results that we’re expecting.
“I’m pushing the guys - I want to try this, I want to try that - and naturally when you do that, I had a lot of anxiety because you don’t know if you’re going to get it right or get it wrong.
“We were here on Friday night until 11 o’clock. [I’m] incredibly proud of the guys, for everyone just being open minded. We’ve made a lot of changes, there’s been so much work back at the factory overnight.”
Hamilton's last minute tweak paid dividends
Despite the late night, however, Hamilton was still off the pace on Saturday morning and it was not until a final set-up tweak in the closing stages of the final practice session that the car suddenly started to perform.
Hamilton added: “It was still pretty much a disaster in P3, so it’s the biggest jump that we’ve been able to make on an actual day between P3 and quali, for sure. It literally was night and day, the car.
“We tried something right at the end, just with the set-up and it unlocked the potential a little bit. I continued to push down in that direction and it paid dividends. It was really just about getting the tyres to work.
“We just can’t get our tyres to switch on like the others generally can, so the night and day difference was that all of a sudden the tyres started working and we were back in the game. It was just then about putting the laps together.”
Despite his troubles through the weekend so far, Hamilton is confident the turnaround for qualifying will follow through to race pace, which had already looked better than the car’s one-lap performance on Friday.
"For race pace, we weren’t as quick as the Red Bulls [in the practice sessions] but we were in the mix, so we should be close to these guys, hopefully," said Hamilton.
“It’s great to see [so many] teams at the front. It’s great seeing the Renaults [sic, Alpines], it’s great seeing the McLarens in the mix and even the AlphaTauris. It’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons that we’ve seen.”
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.