Lewis Hamilton will draw inspiration from his fast-starting Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in today’s Spanish Grand Prix as he bids to catch Sebastian Vettel at the summit of the championship.
Hamilton edged out his title rival Vettel by just 0.051 seconds at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya to seal the 64th pole position of his career and move to within just one of his boyhood idol Ayrton Senna.
But of more pressing concern for the triple world champion will be mastering the long run down to turn one when the lights go out in Spain.
Bottas, who will start from third this afternoon, passed both Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel on the 200mph race to turn two of the recent Russian Grand Prix en route to securing the first victory of his career. And Hamilton will attempt to emulate the Finnish driver as he sets about slashing Vettel’s 13-point championship lead. “It is the third-longest run down to turn one of the season so of course it is going to be important to get a good start,” said Hamilton. “Valtteri has had some great starts so I am going to try and follow in his footsteps there.
“Positioning can help a lot and being on the clear side of the grid is usually an advantage so hopefully I can utilise that in comparison to Sebastian.
“It is going to be a tough race when you see how close it is between us. It is a hard race, too, both physically, mentally and for the car and the tyres, but we have prepared in the best way we can and hopefully I have got the car in a much better position than I did in the last race.”
Indeed Hamilton will be desperate to erase from his memory his curious performance in Sochi where he toiled to fourth more than half-a-minute behind race winner Bottas. It is rare for Hamilton to endure such an off-colour weekend, and rarer still for him to encounter two on the bounce. He has been largely imperious in Spain, topping two of the three practice sessions, and all three phases of qualifying.
But Vettel ran the Englishman close yesterday. He even appeared on course to gazump Hamilton with his final timed run, only to fall agonisingly short after making a small mistake through the chicane in the closing stages of the lap.
It marked an eventful hour for the four-time world champion who was told to stop his car just moments after he left the pit lane following an engine change in between final practice and qualifying. Vettel queried the decision from his Ferrari team and the problem soon passed.
“The team did a phenomenal job,” Vettel said. “We had an issue this morning. We had to change the engine. Normally that is a three-hour job. I don’t know how they managed it, but they did it in less than two hours.
“A big thank you to them and also Kimi’s crew who helped out. We could have had pole today, so not the ideal end, but if I consider where we were this morning, I think it is a really good recovery.”
Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Raikkonen lines up in fourth ahead of the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.