Hamilton surprised by pace

Lewis Hamilton was  surprised with his third place on the grid for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix – claiming that he did not believe that his McLaren had the pace around the Suzuka circuit.

The reigning world champion now believes that he can win tomorrow and has said that he will push throughout the race.

Heikki Kovalainen was also set to give McLaren another strong qualifying performance, only to crash out at the second Degner corner. He will start ninth.

Lewis Hamilton – 3rd:
“We didn t expect to be as competitive as we were this afternoon. Our car was tricky this morning and we had to make some significant changes between sessions. It was impossible to extract the best from the car, especially through the first sector. We didn t have much time to develop a dry set-up so we went into qualifying hoping that the changes would work – and they did. I ve said it before, but I really love this circuit, it s so much fun and has such history and character; I feel honoured and overwhelmed to be driving where the great drivers of the past have raced. I would love to win here tomorrow, and I ll do everything I can to do so: I ll drive my heart out. Although the Red Bull will be very hard to beat, there s a long run down to Turn One and our KERS is working better than ever. Sebastian has more to worry about than I do, too. He ll be looking at the world championship, I m just here to have a good time and score some points for my team to help us move further up the constructors championship table.”

Heikki Kovalainen – 9th:
“I went a bit too fast into Turn Eight, over the kerb, and the car broke out and I couldn’t get it back on the track. So it was game over. Today s three accidents prove that everybody is pushing the limit as much as possible as the running time in the dry was very limited. The car felt good, the balance was okay and we should be in good shape for tomorrow. I now hope that the damage on my car won t be so bad that my mechanics have to spend the night repairing it.”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal:
“After very limited dry running prior to today s qualifying session, Lewis did a great job to qualify third. As a result, starting from the clean side of the track, assisted by KERS Hybrid, he should be able to make good progress off the start line tomorrow. We weren t happy with his car this morning, but he and his engineers worked patiently yet determinedly in the gap between today s sessions, and the results were clear to see. Heikki ran wide at Turn Eight when pushing hard in Q3, and lost the car and the lap as a result, but these things happen when you re really on it – and, to be fair to Heikki, he s made very few such mistakes this year. Besides, with a carefully crafted strategy, backed up by some forceful driving on his part, he should be able to make up some places during the course of tomorrow s race. So, in summary, having bagged a dozen world championship points in Singapore last weekend, our intention is to score heavily again here in Japan.”

Norbert Haug, vice-president Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
“What a qualifying session – three times red flags, and finally P3 for Lewis who, again, did an excellent job on this challenging track that he has never driven on before. Lewis s lap time for third place on the grid after three pole positions in the last four Grands Prix is less than two and a half tenths down on Sebastian Vettel s pole time whom I sincerely wish to congratulate for his first place of today. However, it is quite a long way into the first corner here at Suzuka and I am sure Lewis is planning to give the two guys ahead of him a run for their money tomorrow once the race has started. Heikki suffered from an off in Q3 after a very solid performance during his first Suzuka weekend, being quickest yesterday and today and being also fully competitive until his unplanned excursion. After three very hectic and challenging qualifying sessions, the most important news is that Timo Glock is safe after his accident. Everyone in our team wishes Timo well, and I am sure the whole paddock – and especially his German fans back home – have the same feelings.”

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