McLaren pairing in high spirits for Belgian race

Lewis Hamilton was pleased with his qualifying effort, despite missing out on pole after a mistake on his first run in Q3.

The McLaren driver believes he lost up to half a second at turn 14 during the first fast lap in Q3, before a mistake on his final run at a damp La Source virtually ruled him out of contention.

Despite this, the 2008 world champion will still start in second place for tomorrow’s race and is confident that his McLaren MP4-25 will allow him to challenge for race victory.

Meanwhile team-mate Jenson Button was also ruing the late rain in Q3, after also losing time in the first sector of his final lap. Despite this, the 30-year-old believes that he will still be able to improve on his fifth-place grid position.

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd: We’ve looked very fast all weekend and the car’s felt great. Obviously, the Mercedes-Benz engine is the best suited to this circuit, and our car’s aerodynamic package also works well here. On my first run in Q3, I was the first driver into Turn 14, and the track was drying but still a bit wet, so I didn’t push hard enough and lost ground – maybe half a second. I thought we could have got pole, but I went a bit wide at La Source on my final run. There was one little patch of rain over Turn 1, so it was a bit slippery, and I lost about three and a half tenths there. But I was able to extract some good time from the tyres in the second and third sectors and that’s where I made up the time I lost in sector one.

Still, it’s not essential to have pole here I still feel like I’m in a good position. There’s a very long straight from Eau Rouge to the top of the hill and it’s quite tricky to stay ahead of a chasing car, even if you’re on pole. I’m hopeful of getting a good start tomorrow and we’ll take it from there. For tomorrow’s race, and in Monza, we need to capitalise on the fact that our package appears to be very competitive. Tomorrow will be a tough race, but we’ll keep pushing.

Jenson Button, 5th: Our car feels good, and I think our pace has been good all weekend. I just wish I could be a bit further up. We ran used tyres at the start of Q3 and used tyres at the end, and two of the cars ahead of me put their best times in at the start of the session when it was dry. For my final run, there’d been a bit of rain in sector one, so I lost about three and a half tenth to my previous best Q3 lap in the first sector. I was down quite a bit but was able to pull it back in the middle and last sectors, which were quite competitive. I’m reasonably happy, but would have liked to have been a bit higher up.

In qualifying, you obviously want to push the car to the limit, but it’s very tricky with this asphalt to see which parts of the surface are wet or dry. And, when you’re pushing as hard as you can, it’s very difficult to find the limit of the tyre in the wet. If you hit a wet patch, you’re off. Still, I’m fifth on the good side of the grid and in this sort of weather, anything can happen, so it’s pretty exciting. That’s the way it is, but I still think we can have a very good race with our car tomorrow.

Martin Whitmarsh, team principal: For all the teams, the key to today’s qualifying session was managing things so that one’s drivers were on track at the right time on the right tyres and, to the extent that Lewis and Jenson qualified second and fifth, I suppose we can be reasonably satisfied that we did a decent job. Having said that, with hindsight, if we’d started Q3 with new Option tyres rather than used Option tyres, we may well have been celebrating McLaren’s 147th Formula 1 pole position this afternoon.

Equally, a small spot of rain came at just the wrong time for us. Without that, again, pole may well have been within our grasp. But I don’t want to sound churlish, because the team did a very good job and both drivers did an extremely good job. As for tomorrow’s race, well, the Spa-Francorchamps track is a glorious venue for grand prix racing, and you can be well sure that both Lewis and Jenson will be looking to attack from the start. The run down to Turn 1 is a relatively short one but the long haul up to Eau Rouge may well offer overtaking opportunities on lap one and you can be well sure that both Lewis and Jenson will be looking for them.”