LEWIS HAMILTON
MP4-24-04
P3 programme
16 laps 1m32.975s (4th)

Encouraged by the pace and consistency of MP4-24, Lewis made more progress with the car ahead of qualifying. Completing three runs (five laps/1m33.999s best; three laps/1m32.975s and a single-lap of 1m33.605s), he ended the day fourth fastest. "We are making improvements all the time," he said.

Qualifying
Q1 1m32.851s (3rd)
Q2 1m32.877s (8th)
Q3 1m34.196 (5th overall)

Lewis set a Q1 banker on option tyres of 1m33.290s before setting a faster 1m32.851s, again on options, to finish the first session third fastest. Into Q2, he ran a used set of options to record a 1m33.472s -- a lap he was dissatisfied with -- before pulling out a 1m32.877s to finish eighth in an incredibly closely fought session. Into Q3 for the second time this year, Lewis set a 1m35.042s banker on primes before recording a 1m34.196s, on options, to line up fifth -- the team's best qualifying position of the season.

"We have been pushing incredibly hard over the last couple of months and this is a result of all our hard work," said Lewis. "I'm very proud of what we've achieved: firstly, it was good to get into the top 10, then it was even better to battle inside the top 10! We've got a similar pace to some of the guys in the top five; as long as everything goes smoothly we should be able to get a top five finish tomorrow. I can almost see pole position now -- and I'm really looking forward to getting there soon!"

HEIKKI KOVALAINEN
MP4-24-03
P3 programme
12 laps 1m33.478s (12th)

The start of Heikki's programme was delayed by an electrical problem. As a result, his running was curtailed; he completed just two runs -- a five-lap stint on primes (1m34.233s best) to evaluate overnight set-up changes and a shorter, final run to assess the option tyre (three laps/1m33.478s). He ended up 12th fastest.

Qualifying
Q1 1m33.479s (11th)
Q2 1m33.242s (11th overall)

Running on primes for his first run in Q1, Heikki recorded a 1m35.542s, followed by a cool-down lap before setting a 1m34.589s. With the majority of the field so competitive, the team opted for a second run, and Heikki set a 1m33.479s, on options, to finish Q1 11th. Into Q2, Heikki went out early and set a 1m33.273s, only slightly improving to a 1m33.242s on his second run to finish 11th -- narrowly missing the top 10 by less than a tenth.

"I didn't have any major problems today but, obviously I wasn't as fast as I would have liked," said Heikki afterwards. "We have to analyse what went wrong. Nevertheless our competiveness has improved compared to the previous grands prix. We are lacking pace especially in the middle sector. However, the fact that I was less than one tenth of a second behind 10th position in Q2 shows that we have made some more progress. I am now looking forward to the race, where my target is to achieve a solid points result."

MARTIN WHITMARSH -- team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

"After our top-10 qualifying position in Shanghai last weekend, today's performance once again shows that we are continuing to make progress with MP4-24. Lewis's top-five position is a fantastic achievement and, considering he began the first race of the season from 18th on the grid, a fantastic indicator of just how much progress the team has made. Of course, while our qualifying positions mark the team's best Saturday performance of the season, they were made without compromise to our race pace; both Lewis and Heikki are well placed to pick up some more points for the team tomorrow."

NORBERT HAUG -- vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"Looks like we are heading in the right direction. Lewis did a great job yesterday and today. The layout of the track is not bad for us as our car is strong under braking and we feel that our KERS hybrid is helping here as well. A shame for Heikki that he missed Q3 by less than one tenth, finishing 11th while Lewis was eighth: an incredibly close session, with 0.05s covering fourth to eighth! It is extremely tight these days in Formula 1 but that is great for the spectators -- they are what we are here for."

-credit: mclaren