McLaren: It really is incredibly tight these days

Jun.23 (McLaren Press Release) Drivers and team report on the European Grand Prix qualifying day at the Valencia Street Circuit in Spain, Round 8 of the 2012 Formula 1 world championship.

Lewis Hamilton: MP4-27A-03:
“I’m extremely happy to be starting on the front row. To see other teams make big improvements to their cars this weekend, and yet still be starting from P2, is a surprise that I’ll happily take. We’d been struggling a little with set-up and front [wheel] locking from the start of practice yesterday, so I went into qualifying really just focusing on getting a decent result and starting as high up the order as possible. So, as I say, managing to bag P2 is very welcome. Nevertheless, it’s going to be hard to look after the tyres in the hot conditions we’re expecting for the race, so we’ll be doing some work tonight to analyse and understand just what I did in the last race to make sure my tyres last as long as possible tomorrow. Overtaking will be very difficult, as always here, but degradation will be a bigger issue for everyone, I think. I’ll just be looking to score as many points as I can. If I can finish where I’ve qualified – second – that would consolidate my world title bid. Anything more than that – a win in other words – would, of course, be a bonus.”

Jenson Button: MP4-27A-04:
“The team worked really hard overnight to improve the issues we’d had with front [wheel] locking during Friday practice – and, this morning, I felt we’d improved the car a lot, which was really encouraging. Somehow, however, my car felt very different on fresh rubber at the end of Q3 than it had felt all day up to then. On my final run in Q3, the balance felt very different – I had too much understeer – and, every time I touched the brakes, I locked the fronts. I don’t know whether the circuit had changed, but I just couldn’t stop locking my fronts. So it’s disappointing to be starting ninth, especially as previous races have demonstrated that it’s difficult to overtake around here. The key, then, will be to make the right calls on strategy.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes:
“Lewis drove a great lap in Q3 to earn a front-row grid slot for tomorrow’s race – and, as I said after qualifying in Montreal, where he also qualified second, when Lewis is on the front row, you always fancy his chances, don’t you? Jenson was very quick in FP3 and in Q2, and is naturally disappointed that, owing to front [wheel] locking issues and some unexpected understeer, he wasn’t able to capitalise on the firm base of pace that he’d built up so far this weekend by carving an equally rapid lap in Q3. But Formula 1 in 2012 is perhaps more fiercely competitive than we’ve ever seen it before – for example, astonishingly, Fernando’s [Alonso] best Q2 time was only 0.218sec slower than Romain’s [Grosjean] best Q2 time, yet Romain headed the session and Fernando failed to make it into Q3 – and indeed some fancied runners, such as Mark [Webber], didn’t even make it into Q2. It really is incredibly tight these days. That intense level of competition, where a couple of tenths either way on Saturday afternoon can make a profound and prodigious difference to any driver’s prospects for Sunday afternoon, calls for nerves of steel not only in the cockpits but also on the pitwalls. It probably causes the pulse rates of viewers at home to race too – but that’s as it should be because Formula 1 exists to put on a show, to entertain, and today, on the tortuous confines of the streets of Valencia, that’s exactly what Formula 1 did.”