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Formula 1: Hamilton needed pole after Mercedes 'nerves'

The Mercedes Formula 1 team needed a front-row lockout in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix to relieve "nerves" over recent underperformance, reckons Lewis Hamilton

After Hamilton's dominant pole position in the Australia season-opener, Ferrari defeated Mercedes in three consecutive qualifying shoot-outs before this weekend.

The trend looked set to continue in Barcelona, as the Silver Arrows trailed Ferrari through Q1 and Q2, only for Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to step up in the pole shootout, the pair lapping 0.040s apart to secure the first Mercedes qualifying one-two of 2018.

"I think for the team, I think it has been a struggle," Hamilton said after qualifying.

"And I am sure there have been people with nerves over the last few races, just not really understanding [what's happening] and feeling like we're not really learning enough.

"So, to come here and get the one-two in qualifying, it is a true show of all the hard work everyone is doing."

Qualifying recap

Hamilton leads the championship after inheriting a fortuitous victory in Azerbaijan, but admitted heading into the Spanish GP weekend that he felt he had been "punching below my weight".

Asked by Autosport just how important the Barcelona pole was to him in light of his recent form, he said: "We've had one pole, we haven't really had great qualifying sessions after that, so it was important for me to get back into a good position with qualifying, as it is usually a strength of mine.

"So, it was definitely important, and I am happy too especially because I had such a busy week coming into this weekend.

"To have the performance I've had, I am very happy with that."

Hamilton suggested earlier in the weekend that Ferrari had been "sandbagging" in practice, and repeated the claim, albeit more jokingly, after his qualifying success, as third-placed Sebastian Vettel fell just 0.132s short of pole on a late soft-tyre run.

"It was a great close qualifying, obviously all weekend was close," Hamilton added.

"Ferrari was probably sandbagging just because they could, they've always had a very quick car.

"But it took everything from us to get this result, and to get a one-two in qualifying is fantastic."

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