Lewis Hamilton says now the pressure of winning his seventh Formula 1 title has eased, he felt a “release” on his way to pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton claimed his 10th pole of the 2020 season with a new lap record around the Bahrain International Circuit, outpacing Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by two-tenths in qualifying.
The Briton managed to wrap up the championship at the previous round in Turkey, and admitted driving without pressure allowed him to extract more from the car.
“I really didn’t celebrate to be honest,” Hamilton said. “I was training and trying to make sure I was ready for this, keeping my mind and eye on the ball.
“But this is the continuation of what we’re able to do together as a team. I just continue to be amazed by my guys, naturally that work so hard weekend in weekend out.
“Now they’re away from their families for three weeks and no matter what’s thrown at us, it’s always a really tough year, and I appreciate them. To be out here in Bahrain and be able to put laps like that together.
“You know I came today and I was like, let’s just have fun and enjoy and that’s the most important thing, to enjoy what you’re doing. And with the pressure a little bit off, it’s a bit of a release to go and drive like I just did.”
Hamilton will start Sunday’s race from a 98th career pole, managing to find a half a second improvement on his initial run in Q3.
When reflecting on his lap, the newly-crowned seven-time world champion believed there was more time to be found, although he felt it a “very clean lap”.
“I am on the ragged edge naturally. It’s all about trying to find that perfect balance,” Hamilton said. “You want to take quite a lot on the way in and keep the exit.
“You want to have your cake and eat it, so it’s about just chipping away at it during the lap. I think the lap started off really well. There was probably a little bit of time in Turn 1, just a little bit underperformed I would say to the apex, but after that it was good.
“Turns 4 and 6 was a little bit slower, I probably could have gone better there. So I could talk you through the lap and tell you that there’s always just a little bit here and there, but the next lap I go out, maybe I’ll improve here and there and I’ll lose somewhere else.
“But otherwise it was a very clean lap. I generally stayed around two and a half tenths the whole way through so I was pretty happy with it.”