In qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix Saturday, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took the pole position with an incredible record-setting lap time of 1 minute 10.166 seconds. This time was less than a tenth of a second quicker than teammate Valtteri Bottas, who will start the Grand Prix from second. The crazy thing about all this speed, however, is that Hamilton’s lap was far from clean.
Hamilton looked to be having a rough go in Q3 early in the session, as he was sitting second by a large margin after putting in a couple of mistake-ridden laps. He came in to the pits and put on a fresh set of tires, then managed to get out with no traffic and put up a banger that just barely secured his spot.
If you watch the full lap (above) you’ll see that Hamilton had a few minor issues. The biggest mistake of the lap is when Lewis hops the kerbing on the inside of Mirabeau Bas and as a result has wheel spin on the exit of the short chute just before Portier. A second minor mistake comes with his sawing at the wheel through La Rascasse, which surely cost him a little bit of time as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I wouldn’t have made those mistakes, and a record lap is a record lap. At the kinds of speeds Hamilton is driving, there’s no way he’s driving through the Tabac-Piscine complex with anything other than muscle memory. There surely isn’t enough time to react to anything with that manic back and forth. But, a lap can be done cleaner.
If you want to see a clean lap, check out Daniel Ricciardo’s then-record-breaking pole lap (below) from the 2018 running of the Monaco Grand Prix. From the first watch, this lap is clearly a more fluid and smooth lap. Perhaps the 2019 Mercedes powerplant rewards Hamilton’s chosen driving style, I wouldn’t know. In any case, to err is human.
The two laps compared are a little over a half second different, but Daniel’s 2018 lap feels on another planet in terms of wheel placement and chosen line. That Hamilton can make a couple mistakes and still put in a lap that beats this one says a lot about Hamilton, as well as his car.