Chinese GP: Lewis Hamilton plays down China win chance

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Lewis Hamilton's maiden Mercedes pole an 'incredible feeling'

Lewis Hamilton says it will be "possible but tough" to convert his first pole position for Mercedes into victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton beat Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to pole in Shanghai but admits tyre strategy will make Sunday's race "difficult".

He said: "It's going to be hard to compete. The Lotus is very strong on the long run and so is the Ferrari."

He described his result as "a blessing" and said: "It feels great."

Hamilton likened his feelings on Saturday to those he had when he set his first pole position for McLaren back in his debut season in 2007.

"It feels like my first pole," he said. "It really does and that was an incredible feeling, the excitement I had and it was similar today.

Watch Lewis Hamilton's maiden pole position for Mercedes

"I had to make sure the radio was off so the team couldn't hear me. I went a bit crazy.

"It's my first pole with the team, so I'll never forget it. It's a blessing, such a pleasure to have this."

Hamilton was asked whether, when he signed for Mercedes last autumn at a time they were struggling for performance, he had imagined he would be on pole for his third race with them.

He said: "Definitely not. None of us did. We're all probably surprised we are as competitive as we are.

"If we can maintain position, it'd be a dream for us all. Through the winter, who would have thought we'd be this high up?

"We've been pretty competitive from first qualifying. In final practice I didn't know where we stood.

"Obviously we were up there, but in q1 we were right up there at the front and I thought: 'Ooh, game on, we might have a shot at getting pole'.

"And it was a point of going out and doing a perfect lap each time and I tell you the laps all felt great. The last one was the best of all. I'm very happy with it and the car was performing great. Great job by the team.

"We get no points today but we have put ourselves in the best position to get as many points as we possibly can."

Hamilton explained that all the drivers will struggle to manage their tyres in the race, which starts at 0800 BST on Sunday and is live on BBC One from 0700.

"It's going to be hard tomorrow looking after the tyres," he said.

"Particularly the first set (of 'soft' 'option' tyres) is going to be the hardest. After that it shouldn't be too difficult on the prime ('medium') but on the option the Lotus is probably a bit better but I'll try to keep him behind."

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