Lewis Hamilton is in the “best place” he has ever been during his five years at Mercedes, his boss Toto Wolff has claimed.
Hamilton will head to Baku, the scene for this week’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, trailing Sebastian Vettel by 12 points in the title race following his victory last time out in Canada.
Hamilton and rival Vettel have three wins each in a championship battle where the momentum continues to shift from one driver to the other.
But Wolff, who has worked with Hamilton since he joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, has pointed towards the Englishman’s ease in which he has dealt with adversity this year.
Indeed Hamilton was noticeably upbeat after qualifying only 14th at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix – a race in which he would finish seventh and lose 19 points to Vettel.
Hamilton has this year revelled in both the dynamic of his title fight with Ferrari’s Vettel, and the departure of long-term rival Nico Rosberg from Mercedes after he retired within days of beating the Briton to the title.
“Lewis is in the best place I have seen him during any of the last five years since he joined the team,” Mercedes boss Wolff said. “Not only because he had a great weekend in Montreal, but because he is coping so well with the difficult days.
“This is what the very best are made of. When the fight gets tough, they get over it quickly and maximise their opportunities.
“When you have a bad day, you can either be downbeat about it or pull yourself up and start to act on it. This is what we have done. We moved on, and these are the days that make you progress much more than the good days.
“Every time we’ve had a difficult weekend we have come back stronger. And that speaks volumes for the people in this team.”
Hamilton got his championship challenge firmly back on track after a crushing performance in Montreal which culminated in his sixth victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The 32-year-old Briton will now look to overcome the demons of his last visit to Baku after he crashed out of qualifying and finished only fifth.
Sebastian Vettel conceded that he was outpaced by ‘the better man’ in qualifying, but insisted his Ferrari will have the pace to carry him to victory in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.
Speaking to reporters after Hamilton’s 65th career pole position – equalling Ayrton Senna’s total – had put Mercedes at the front of the grid, the four-time champion German was adamant that he can still win the race.
Vettel was fastest in Saturday morning’s third and final free practice session, but was only second best in the afternoon when he was outpaced by three-tenths of a second.
“I think we always expected Mercedes to be very quick, especially in the last segment,” Vettel said. “Lewis did a better job today and he got a good lap. He was the better man today.
“I thought we could step it up and find a bit of time. I lost a bit into Turn Two, and then lost two-tenths out of the second corner and then I knew I had to catch up, which I did until the end of the lap.
“The car was very good and I was happy this morning so we should be good in the race. I think we have the pace to win.”
Vettel has 129 points after winning three of the six races in this year’s championship and leads Hamilton by 25 points.
Lewis Hamilton blew away championship rival Sebastian Vettel with a phenomenal lap to secure pole position for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s stunning time, the fastest ever seen at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, also moved the triple world champion level on 65 career pole positions with his childhood hero Ayrton Senna.
The British driver finished more than three tenths of a second clear of Vettel, whom he trails by 25 points in the championship race, with Valtteri Bottas to line up in third.
Canada has proven to be a happy stomping ground for Hamilton in the past and so it proved again on Saturday following a thrilling qualifying session.
It was here 10 years ago where Hamilton secured his first ever grand prix victory, and he will now be odds-on to record his sixth victory in Montreal after his blistering lap.
Hamilton laid down the gauntlet with a super-quick opener in the final phase of qualifying before Vettel bit back to move to within just four thousandths of the Briton’s time.
But the 32-year-old responded in meteoric fashion to stamp his mark on pole and join Senna in second on the all-time list. Only Michael Schumacher has more poles than Hamilton in the sport’s long history.
An emotional Hamilton was given a race-worn Senna helmet, provided by the Brazilian’s family, which he held aloft in front of the thousands of fans at turn two.
Following his heroics at the Indianapolis 500 a fortnight ago, Fernando Alonso is back behind the wheel of his McLaren this weekend.
The double world champion contested for a famous victory at the Brickyard, but it was back to business as he could haul his Honda-powered McLaren to only 12th on the grid.
Alonso and team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, 16th in the order, have been the slowest in a straight line for much of the weekend, and it is unsure how much longer McLaren will be prepared to stick it out with their beleaguered engine supplier.