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Hamilton: 'The car is crazy here, man!'

Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel - qualifying, Japanese Grand Prix
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton revealed just how much it meant to him to be starting on pole position for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

"It's been a really good day. Every lap has been fantastic," he said after the end of qualifying. "The car is crazy here, I wish you could feel it, man!"

Despite having won a record number of poles in his Formula 1 career - including two for the Japanese GP in 2007 and 2008 when it was held at Fuji Speedway - it's a surprise that he's never started at the front at Suzuka. He even feared that this place might end up being the one that got away.

"It's going to be a different view. I've never really had this view here," he said, after setting a new track record to clinch the top spot.

"It's my first time [on pole here]. I'm running out of opportunities to get these poles! I was like, I've got to make this stick today.

"It's been ten years trying to get that pole position," he added. "Finally got it! If you don't get it first time, try harder. Try harder. Ten times its taken me to try and get it.

"I knew it would eventually come, so really, really grateful," he said after clinching his 71st pole position, more than anyone else in the sport.

"I never ever really got a great balance in the past [at Suzuka]," he continued. "So I never did a great qualifying.

"To finally get the balance behind me with the great work of my engineers - and great timing from all the mechanics - I finally got on track and did the time."

In recent races the Mercedes has been superlative in qualifying, but not as good in the races. Hamilton is hoping that won't be the case again on Sunday.

"I think our car is generally very strong in qualifying trim. And then generally when we get to a race we are maybe a step back, not as good.

"Trying to understand that philosophy and try and figure out how we can improve that that for next year is key.

"But position - it's hard to overtake if not impossible to overtake here, so I think we've definitely put ourselves in the best position. I think tomorrow our car works well. It felt good on the soft tyre, perhaps less so on the supersoft.

"We've worked hard for the car to hopefully work well in the race. It's always harder here once you get to the race, those Esses really kill the tyres. I'm hoping we're in a good position for that.

"Naturally the Ferraris will be rapid, as they always are. I plan to keep them behind!"

His team mate Valtteri Bottas was second fastest in qualifying. However, the Finn will drop back to seventh for the start of the race because of a gearbox change. That means Hamilton will have his Ferrari arch-rival Sebastian Vettel starting alongside him on the front row.

"Valtteri did a great job," Hamilton commented. "Obviously he's going to have the penalty at the start. But still he's got a great opportunity in the race to get up there with us."

When asked what his strategy was to see off the threat from Vettel tomorrow, Hamilton replied: "A good start!

"Starts have been generally strong this year, so just try and continue with that," he expanded. "[Vettel] won't be any more aggressive than I am - I just need to make sure I try and keep the eight meters [advantage] that I have."

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