Lewis Hamilton declared himself happy with his qualifying performance – as the championship leader ended the session right behind Red Bull’s driver pairing.
Although the British driver was surprised with his final grid slot, he believes that McLaren may have a chance to fight for victory in tomorrow’s race and is hopeful of at scoring some valuable points.
Meanwhile, team-mate Jenson Button could only manage seventh after making an error on the final corner of his last qualifying run.
Lewis Hamilton – 3rd: “Ahead of this weekend, we didn’t expect to be quick enough for third on the grid. It’s a complete surprise, but it’s a fantastic result. “I thought my first Q3 lap was good, but you just never knew what the others were doing. On my final lap, I was two tenths up, but I was way over the limit, locked the rears into Turn 17 and had to bail out of it. Fortunately, my previous lap was an awesome one, so I’m so happy to be third.
“I’m very happy with third, actually – you’re on the clean side, so it’s a better position to start from than second, and you get the clean line on the inside, so I can make it hard for Mark [Webber] to get into the first corner ahead of me. “Today’s qualifying could prove crucial for us; we came here determined to minimise the damage because we knew a lot of the other teams would be quick because they’d brought updates to this race. And, for tomorrow, anything’s still possible there’s a long straight around the back of the track, and, if we can stay close enough, then there’s a possibility to use the F-duct and overtake.
“I’ll be relying on the guys to do the best job possible during the pitstops tomorrow as they usually do and I think we’re going to have an exciting race.”
Jenson Button – 7th: “Things were looking good until the last corner of my last lap in Q3. I was pretty happy with the car, but then I got a bit of oversteer through the quick right-hander before it, and I think that set the car up poorly for the last corner. I locked up, ran wide, and lost two tenths. And that’s massive it could have been fourth on the grid. So, very disappointing.
“But I can’t do anything about it, and I’ll be pushing for a better race tomorrow. It’ll be very difficult I just want to get a good start and not get stuck in traffic, because the pace of our car is good. “It’s disappointing, as I say, but hopefully we can gain some places at the start, execute some quick pitstops and make the most of our strategy the pits really are the only place where you can overtake around here.
“I’m a little surprised at the final grid it’s very similar to what we’ve seen at a lot of other races, despite several teams bringing upgrades to this race. And that’s another positive for us.”
Martin Whitmarsh – Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “Fast and committed qualifiers that they both are, Lewis and Jenson pushed as hard as possible in Q3 today. However, they both made small errors on their final laps. Lewis’s mistake probably made no difference to his eventual grid position, because the single-lap performance gap to the Red Bulls is quite significant here, but Jenson looked to have P4 in the bag had he negotiated the final corner of his last lap as well as he’d driven the previous turns.
“Even so, Jenson is an extremely smooth yet very combative race driver and, bearing in mind that he and Lewis have notched up 86 world championship points in the past two races, we think they’re well set to score significantly again tomorrow.”