Written by Staff Writer
Lewis Hamilton unveiled his new car at the Silverstone Circuit on Sunday as he officially opened the 2019 Formula One season.
The Mercedes driver scored his 77th pole position of his career, setting a new record for most pole positions in a season.
The 33-year-old surpassed Fernando Alonso, who achieved the feat in 2008, the last time the track hosted a Formula One Grand Prix.
“Today, for me, is the start of the season, the start of my fun,” said Hamilton, who is a four-time world champion. “Now let’s see how much fun we can have this year.”
Five-time champion Vettel told reporters after qualifying that his rival’s lap in the Q3 phase was spectacular.
‘Hamilton’s jaw dropped’
“From my perspective I was very happy to see that from the beginning I did a lot of laps to try and make the gap go as big as possible — he proved me wrong,” the German said.
“He did a phenomenal lap from the beginning and I was surprised at how far he was able to go. The lap from his first lap was nothing short of a masterclass and one of the best I’ve seen in the garage in years.”
Vettel was the fastest in Q1 and Q2, and qualified on the second row.
“Hamilton’s performance confirmed how his rivals were right — that he was head and shoulders above the field,” the four-time world champion said.
“It’s not going to be easy for other teams to challenge but I think Lewis will have to pull out every trick in the book to defend his title again.”
Hamilton said he was trying not to take anything for granted.
“I just have to go out and do my job, that’s all. That’s what the team means to me and this year we do not want to slip up, so we have to work really hard to do that,” he said.
“It wasn’t a great weekend for my former team McLaren, with (Sebastian) Vettel on the second row.”
‘Pit of chaos’
Hamilton was fastest in first- and second-tier qualifying in a session dubbed “pit of chaos” because there were eight different pole sitters from 13 different teams.
“I was thinking that I’d go one way, my mind took over, I was feeling good, I had some confidence, I was just rolling through it,” he said after qualifying.
“But it can change so quickly on this circuit — it’s such a complicated place and there’s so much drama with traffic, with all the people entering the corners and joining us later. It’s like an extra stop.”
The British star, who grew up nearby at Dunsfold Aerodrome, is determined to improve on last year’s disappointing season which saw Mercedes finish seventh.
“I want to redeem myself and get back in the winners’ box,” he said.
“I feel like we have a great challenge ahead of us. I’ve seen the progression the team has made. Things are going from strength to strength. I felt that really in Q3, it looked very promising.
“The team is working really hard on fitness and having the data to feed back into all the sessions. We know that we need to make improvements so we’re determined to do that.”