Lewis Hamilton expressed relief at claiming pole position for Formula 1’s Russian Grand Prix after a session in which he encountered several setbacks.
Hamilton went off-track in Q1, for which he was investigated and later cleared, and again erred on his first push lap in Q2.
He was on the brink of setting a timed effort when Sebastian Vettel brought out the red flags after crashing heavily through Turn 4.
Hamilton began his Q2 push lap with just one second remaining and was able to secure a spot in Q3, where he claimed pole position by over half a second.
“It was one of the hardest qualifying sessions I can remember having being that everything was just so rushed and there was panic and there was just all sorts going on,” he said.
“I had to calm my heart down [as I wanted] to deliver in Q3. I was adamant. I had no choice. I had to deliver on those two laps.
“Valtteri [Bottas] had been doing great all weekend. Nothing new in that respect but I knew I needed to have a perfect lap, particularly on the first run to get the pole.
“The first lap was really great. I thought it was going to be very difficult to improve on it, but I think I managed to just improve just a tiny bit I think on the second lap.
“I’m super grateful to everyone for just about keeping their cool. And it could be a lot, lot worse. I could be out of the top 10, so I’m really grateful I go to compete.
Expanding on the tense dénouement to Q2 Hamilton said: “It was horrible! I mean the whole session was just not great. I went wide out of Turn 18, which was my fault, but the first time I had done that all weekend.
“Then I was like, “let me stay out and just get a banker lap in”, and they asked me to come in, which ultimately… I mean, hindsight is always a good thing to have, but I don’t know if it was the right call.
“But then we went back out and then the red flag came out and we all waited at the end of the pit lane. And I nearly spun at Turn 1 because the tyre temperatures were so low.
“I think I overtook one car going into the second to last corner or two cars I think it was, but then I got blocked by the Renault, and I was dead slow in the middle of the last corner about to start the lap.
“I could just hear Bono saying “Go, go, go, go, go, go!” so I was just gunning to try to get across the line, so very, very fortunate. I don’t think that was just luck, I think it was just the right timing for us.”