Indian GP Qualifying: McLaren report

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.

Lewis Hamilton

Oct.29 (McLaren) Team and drivers report on qualifying for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, round 17 of the 2011 Formula 1 world championship, at Buddh International Circuit, near New Delhi.

Jenson Button: MP4-26A-01 (will start fourth)
“The car felt great this morning but I couldn’t find any grip this afternoon, particularly on the Prime tyre. So we need to work out why we can’t find that balance because I want to try to improve things for tomorrow.

“I struggled with traffic all afternoon – it was difficult to find a clear lap, and, when I did, I’d taken too much out of my tyres already. On my final run, I saw Felipe [Massa] heading into the gravel as I came up to him. I definitely would have been quicker on that run, but I got into the yellow flag zone, saw his car, spotted the smoke and backed out of it a little bit. I definitely lost time in the sector – the data showed that I was 14km/h down in fact.

“I hope I can take the car I had yesterday, as opposed to the car I had this afternoon, into the race. It felt stronger on high-fuel during Friday running, so hopefully we can find that again tomorrow.”

Lewis Hamilton: MP4-26A-03 (will start fifth following three-place grid penalty)
“To be able to split the Red Bulls on qualifying pace is something that everybody in the team should feel proud about. In fact, I’ve been really happy with my qualifying performance throughout the whole year – it’s been getting more and more consistent. On my last run, I was only a tenth down going into the penultimate corner, but I chose to abort the lap and save the tyres for tomorrow as it’s going to be a long race.

“It’s a little bit unfortunate to have a grid penalty, but that’s life. I think we’ve got good pace, but it’s going to be a long race. Still, with the long, wide straights and two DRS zones, overtaking should be easier here than it is at some of the other circuits, so I’m optimistic about what we can do around here tomorrow.

“I also think it’s cool that you throw up a bit of dust when you go off-line – that’s how racing should be: there should be grass and dirt when you go off the track.

“Finally, I want to say a big thank-you to the organisers. This circuit is smooth, fast and flowing. It’s beautiful, in fact; the facilities are fantastic and the people have been extremely welcoming. This is one of the best circuits in the world and it’s definitely a race people should come to visit.”

Maertin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Lewis drove very well in qualifying this afternoon, his best lap-time eclipsed by only that of Seb [Vettel], but he won’t start tomorrow’s race from the front row owing to the three-grid-position penalty he incurred yesterday morning.

“Jenson’s efforts were frustrated in the last moments of this afternoon’s qualifying session by yellow flags deployed as a result of Felipe’s accident, causing him to lift during what would otherwise have been a pretty quick lap.

“But this circuit is a great racetrack, our drivers are brilliant racers, and I’m sure that both of them will be aiming to score very heavily tomorrow. As a result, I expect the first ever Indian Grand Prix to be a fabulous race.”