The defending four-times champion, who increased his lead in this year's title race to 17 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, added that he and the Mercedes team were still uncertain about the races ahead.
"That happiness and that uplift from inside that I have that feeling". Ultimately Vettel lost out to pole by under 0.2 seconds.
The auto works at its best on the harder compounds of rubber and Mercedes and all the top six drivers, will start the race on the soft rubber used in the second session.
"And then the guys (mechanics) have to reshuffle and I think that cost us a bit of time. I know that sounds weird but today is definitely I think the closest I've been".
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He was on course to finish in P2 before Ferrari pitted him for a second time - while his immediate rivals all made a one-stop strategy work - and that dropped him to fourth. This opposed to Hamilton and Bottas running on the Super Soft tyre.
Vettel won this race back in 2011.
Having looked solid throughout the weekend, Saturday's pole sitter recorded his 64th career win, ensuring Ferrari stood no chance against an invincible Mercedes team that delivered an error-free weekend.
Hamilton stayed out until lap 25 and slotted back in behind the yet-to-stop Verstappen, who had profited from the exit of Kimi Raikkonen mere minutes before.
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After a hard start to the season Verstappen could not even buy a trouble-free race and he lost some front wing after clipping the Williams of Lance Stroll on the restart after the VSC, although he was able to continue without stopping again.
Ferrari may have an outside chance of getting the win today, especially because their vehicle is the best out of everyone else's. "It worked out for Ricciardo and Verstappen in Shanghai and this is probably what they were thinking and I fully understand why they did it".
Verstappen was pleased to take third place despite a messy minor crash with a Williams auto behind the virtual safety vehicle on lap 4. The first run was not so good, but the last lap felt good. We still have a lot of work to do.
But it was further back where the mess unfolded, as a spinning Romain Grosjean collected Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly in spectacular fashion. It was only revealed post-race that one of the reasons for this huge gap was a spin after the Virtual Safety Car restart on cold tyres.
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Force India driver Sergio Perez and Sauber's Charles Leclerc put in sterling performances to claim ninth and 10th positions respectively. Meanwhile, both Red Bull drivers had yet to pit, and Verstappen lorded track position over Hamilton until called to pit on lap 34, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo attended to the lap prior.