McLaren press release
“Always encouraging to end the day fastest”
“It’s always fun driving around Suzuka, particularly when you have a good car beneath you. This is an amazing circuit – the first sector is phenomenal; there is no rest, I don’t think you breathe through that whole sector. It’s all about getting it together and finding a balance that lets you flow through there.
“And the car feels good around here. I don’t really know what to take from today in terms of where we stand, but the car feels pretty good. We tried a couple of different fuel-loads: on heavier fuel, the car feels okay through the high-speed changes of direction, although there are still some areas to improve – particularly in the long runs.
“The important thing for us is to get the car sorted and ready to challenge for victory.
“My crash helmet for this weekend features the Japanese flag and the words ‘JB’ and ‘Jenson’ in Japanese on the sides and the back. It’s similar to the helmet I wore in Monaco, and I’ll be auctioning it off after the race to raise money for the people who’ve been affected by the earthquakes and tsunami here in Japan.”
“Suzuka is a fantastic track to drive, especially when the weather’s as beautiful as today.
“Looking at the times, I think Red Bull typically carries less fuel than us during Friday’s long-run practices – that’s often been the case throughout the year – and we’re often closer in the races. I think our long-run pace, particularly on Jenson’s car, looks good: I think we’ve got a good chance of being very competitive. Also, our pace over a single lap also looks very good.
“Actually, I think looking after the tyres during the race will be the biggest challenge, because degradation could be a slight issue for the teams.
“After P2, the stewards were looking at my data after [Vitantonio] Liuzzi parked his car at the exit of Turn 14 – but I did a slower sector time and didn’t use DRS or KERS, so it should be okay.”
It’s always hard to make accurate assessments of other teams’ pace
MARTIN WHITMARSH - Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“It’s always encouraging to end the day fastest, and Jenson really underlined our pace by heading up both of today’s free practice sessions. We’ve made a number of small changes to the cars for Japan and we’re encouraged by the results – not just for this weekend, but as the foundation for development at future races.
“Lewis wasn’t able to capitalise on the softer rubber when his tyres were at their optimum due to several yellow-flag sectors during P2, but, nevertheless, he’s still encouraged by the pace of the car over both a single flying-lap and a long-run.
“It’s always hard to make accurate assessments of other teams’ pace on higher fuel-loads, but we’ve been very focused on our own programme and feel comfortable with our pace given the fuel we were carrying. Obviously, that belief will be borne out tomorrow in qualifying and we hope that our predictions prove to be accurate.”
JENSON BUTTON - MP4-26A-04
P1 programme - 20 laps - 1m33.634s - 1st
P2 programme - 32 laps - 1m31.901s - 1st
LEWIS HAMILTON - MP4-26A-03
P1 programme - 18 laps - 1m33.725s (+0.091s) - 2nd
P2 programme - 26 laps - 1m33.245s (+1.344s) - 8th