Lewis Hamilton expecting close fight with Red Bull for Monaco pole

Mark Sutton/Sutton Images

MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes will face very tough opposition from Red Bull for pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday.

Hamilton was over 0.6s off Daniel Ricciardo's best lap during Thursday practice after Red Bull benefitted from a big engine update ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. Hamilton believes the gap is bigger than it looks, but is not convinced Mercedes will take its sixth pole position of the season on Saturday.

"At the end I don't feel like I got a great lap," he said. "There is still time in me, not six tenths, but there is still time. The gap is closer than it looks. I think it will be within tenths of a second I think between the Red Bulls and us."

Asked if he was surprised by the pace of the Red Bull, Hamilton added: "I'm not surprised because the power doesn't make a difference here. I've always known they've had a good car with good downforce. Did we expect them to be as fast as they were today? Perhaps not, perhaps we thought it would be closer, but we will see on Saturday."

But Hamilton warned that qualifying would still be the key to Sunday's race.

"Everyone who is expecting a good race should know that this is a track where you can't overtake. Qualifying is going to be the race mostly and you will see a procession and a train on Sunday. You are not going to see us battling, you are going to see cars following. But hopefully because it's so close, whoever is first, second and third will be close and it will come down to that one pit stop. It will be one stop here as it was last year."