Lewis Hamilton is targeting a fight for victory in the Australian Grand Prix after he and George Russell both qualified in the top three.
Max Verstappen secured his second pole position of the season by just over 0.2s from Russell, with Hamilton third as Sergio Perez failed to set a time. Outperforming Aston Martin and Ferrari marked a step forward from Mercedes compared to the first two races and Hamilton hopes it carries over into race trim on Sunday against the sole Red Bull.
“I’m so happy with this,” Hamilton said. “This is totally unexpected. I’m really, really proud of the team. George did a fantastic job today, so for us to be up on the two front rows is honestly a dream for us. We’re all working as hard as we can to get right back up the front and to be this close to the Red Bull is honestly incredible. So I hope tomorrow we can give them a bit of a run for the money. And we hope the weather is good.”
Asked for his race target, Hamilton replied: “To get to first!
“Yeah, I’m going to try and see… I’ll be hoping for a day like the first year, 2007, Turn 1 here (when he overtook two around the outside on debut), that would be awesome. I don’t know if anyone here remembers but yeah, that’d be awesome if we can do that.”
Teammate Russell also admits he was not expecting to be so competitive in Melbourne and has his sights set on victory from the front row.
“Yes, it is a surprise, there’s no doubt about it,” Russell said. “I think we’re learning more and more about this car. We know it’s not where we want it to be. But it’s probably evolved, just with the set-up, since Bahrain to Jeddah, to here. We’ve seen that performance improvement with the exact same car.
“For sure tires played a big part this weekend, and the pace on that final lap was quite surprising. Really pleased to be just two and a half tenths off, when you know, we were a second off on other occasions. So let’s see what tomorrow brings.
“We’ve got to go for it, haven’t we? We’ve got to go for a win. Max is going to be extremely fast, there’s no hiding that. I think it’s difficult to overtake around this circuit, so the start, Lap 1, is going to be vital – but the Red Bull has extraordinary top speed. So, it’s going to be very difficult to fight with Max. But let’s see. Let’s see how we get on. We got to do our own race. If the opportunity is there, we will go for it.”