Lewis Hamilton has blamed balance woes for getting beaten to pole position by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Briton did not appear as comfortable as Rosberg during the crucial Q3 session – locking up briefly in to Turn 5 and Turn 9 before losing out by 0.267 seconds in the end.
Although playing down his problems, he admitted that things had not been as hooked up as he would have liked.
“I didn’t think I was on the back foot at any stage, but I genuinely didn’t have the pace today,” said Hamilton. “He [Rosberg] did a great job.
“I don’t have the balance where I like it. I did my best with it, but tomorrow there is a lot to play for.”
Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda backed the view that the story of qualifying was Hamilton not delivering rather than Rosberg having lifted his game.
“He [Rosberg] was trying his hardest, as always before, but maybe Lewis was a little off the edge," he told Sky.
Rosberg was delighted with his performance, but knows that tyre usage will be critical for the race.
“Of course I needed it sooner rather than later, this is for sure,” said the German. “It is one step in the right direction to winning the race this weekend, so it was a good day in the office.”
He added: “Strategy is going to be important and it is a big advantage to have a set of unused tyres for tomorrow’s race. Plus overtaking is more difficult at this track, so starting in front is a particularly big advantage here.”