Lewis Hamilton: Practice 3 Lewis's mechanics effected a precautionary overnight change of his chassis in order to alleviate a suspected issue with the car's KERS wiring - he continues the weekend aboard chassis 02. Third practice went well: ...
Lewis's mechanics effected a precautionary overnight change of his chassis in order to alleviate a suspected issue with the car's KERS wiring - he continues the weekend aboard chassis 02. Third practice went well: Lewis immediately fell into the groove and reported that the car felt much better balanced and easier to drive than it had during Friday evening.
He completed three runs, the first two on Prime tyres (five laps/1m48.346s best and one lap/1m48.197s) and the final one on the Option (two laps/1m47.632s).
With his confidence boosted by the positive early evening session, Lewis blitzed the opening session, setting the fastest time, on the slower tyre, with just a single run. For Q2, he maintained his competitiveness, posting a fourth-fastest 1m46.657s and aborting a second run after comfortably making the cut. Into Q3, Lewis set a competitive banker lap of 1m47.891s and was all set for another attempt when the session was red-flagged and cut short following Rubens Barrichello's crash.
"It's an absolutely fantastic result," said Lewis. "We came here with several technical upgrades, and we didn't know if we'd be up there - particularly after Friday practice, which wasn't spectacular for me.
"My pole lap was very relaxed: the car has just got better and better as the track has evolved, and I think I would have gone faster on my final lap if the session hadn't been aborted.
"I didn't expect to be on pole today, but our pace has been really good. We'll need to see what fuel loads everyone else is running, but I feel quite confident in what we're doing and I'm in the best position for the race tomorrow."
Today's pole position is Lewis's third in the last four races and the 16th of his career.
Without any major issues yesterday, Heikki was able to pick up where he had left off yesterday. He continued to refine the car's balance, particularly noting the effect of tyre wear and, despite experiencing heavy traffic on his final run of the session, reported himself very happy with his progress.
Like Lewis, he ran the Prime for his first two runs (three laps/1m49.263s and three laps/1m48.420s) before switching to the Option (one lap/1m57.833s).
The late stoppage at the end of Q3 was particularly unfortunate for Heikki. After comfortably graduating through the first two sessions, he and his engineers chose to conserve a set of unused Option tyres for their final run of the night - but were unable to capitalise on their advantage due to Barrichello's crash. As a result, Heikki was forced to rely on his earlier laptime - set on Prime tyres - which left him 10th - a result that does not reflect accurately on either his speed or his efforts.
"This is a very disappointing result for me," Heikki said afterwards. "In the first two sessions, things went smoothly - although my laptimes weren't as competitive as I was expecting. For Q3, I didn't get a good enough lap in during my first run as I'd been running the harder tyre, which wasn't quick enough. I also made a couple of mistakes, but I was focusing my efforts on my second run - which would have been on a set of new Option tyres.
"It's going to be a tough race tomorrow: starting from 10th will make things very difficult, but there's nothing I can do about that now, so I'm just going to absolutely go for it tomorrow."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes:
"Although today's qualifying ended slightly anticlimactically, owing to an accident that befell Rubens [Barrichello] and triggered a red flag that prevented the session from running its full allocated hour, Lewis thoroughly deserved his pole position.
"Other drivers were also pushing hard at the end, and undoubtedly it would therefore have been close, but we feel relatively confident that Lewis would have remained unbeaten.
"By contrast, on the harder tyre, Heikki hadn't managed to cut a really quick lap in Q3 by the time the session was red-flagged - but we believe that, with the benefit of another lap, he would have been able to go significantly faster. As a result, although he's understandably disappointed that he'll be starting the race from P10, there's no reason why he shouldn't put in a competitive showing tomorrow.
"Overall, then, we're hoping to score plenty of points - but, since Lewis will be starting from pole, I grant you that that isn't a particularly bold statement. I make no apology for that: the weather will be hot and humid, and we may even see rain; the walls are close and unforgiving; the circuit is a challenging one. But we think we're pretty well set."