The red flag for former F3 Euroseries team-mate Adrian Sutil's Q1 crash may have denied defending F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton the opportunity to haul himself beyond the opening phase of qualifying at Silverstone - but at the end of the day that made little difference, the British star admitted, as he lamented a 'dead slow' car that has left him to begin his home race from the worst position of his top flight career.

Prior to the Monaco Grand Prix four weeks ago - a race in which he had consummately triumphed only twelve months earlier - Hamilton had never once fallen at the first hurdle in an F1 qualifying session. Since then, he has yet to escape the dreaded Q1 drop, with 16th in the glamorous Principality compounded by the same spot in Istanbul a fortnight later and an abject 19th this weekend.

For a man who this time last year produced arguably one of the performances of his life as he practically walked on water to prevail effortlessly in the rain-lashed British Grand Prix, it is a dramatic fall from grace - but one all-too symptomatic of a desultory campaign.

"I did the best I could," the 24-year-old underlined. "I was pushing as hard as I could with the car. What can I say? We're just dead slow. I gave it my all, and there was not really much more I could have gotten from it. I was pushing on that final lap, but it was nothing special - it was miles off.

"The improvements we made overnight made the car feel better in the high-speed corners, but we're still lacking the downforce to really get the best lap times - even if I felt I was able to attack the fast stuff with a bit more commitment than yesterday.

"We live to fight another day, though, and anything can happen in the race tomorrow so we'll keep pushing and keep fighting and just hopefully put on a good show for the fans. The great thing is that I've had incredible support these past few days from the fans; they're the ones that really help me get through it, so a big thank you to all of them."

Team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, for his part, wound up 13th on the grid, more than half a second shy of making the top ten cut. This time last year, the Finn had stormed to the maiden pole position of his fledgling career at the highest level.

"Today's result is obviously disappointing for the team but, given the circumstances, I'm satisfied with my performance," reflected the 27-year-old, who has now out-qualified Hamilton for three grands prix in swift succession. "I gave it my all and couldn't have gone any quicker. I didn't make any mistakes and was on the limit all the time. It's a pity that Lewis couldn't improve on his time due to the red flag in the first session, as I'm sure he would have joined me in Q2 as well.

"We knew this circuit wouldn't suit our car and that it would be difficult to get into Q3, but the balance was quite okay this afternoon. We're all working extremely hard to address the car's lack of downforce. The guys worked hard overnight to make a lot of changes, and we worked really well together to get the most from the car during the morning session. The work doesn't stop here, however, and our immediate aim is to maximise our strategy and finish the race."

Indeed, the prevalence of high-speed corners and general fast and flowing nature of the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing' was always likely to expose the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-24's inherent aerodynamic failings, but still the Woking-based concern's team principal Martin Whitmarsh refused to rule out points on race day.

"While a starting position of 13th for tomorrow's race might not sound like a spectacular result, I think Heikki can be pleased with his efforts given the circumstances," the Englishman summarised. "Lewis was a little unlucky to have his final quick lap cut short by Sutil's accident.

"Today's result is not a surprise, but it demonstrates that we still have work to do to address the MP4-24's weaknesses in high-speed corners. Nonetheless, we're already fully focused on the race tomorrow, and mindful that we could still produce a strong result in front of the many thousands of passionate fans who will be cheering us on."

"Quite painful for Lewis and everybody at McLaren-Mercedes to start from the last row after dominating this race last year," mused a frustrated Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug. "He had just begun his last qualifying lap in Q1 when the track was red-flagged. Otherwise a start from as high as the sixth row could have been possible, albeit unlikely.

"Heikki and his guys did a competent job in extracting what was possible from the car with its deficits in high-speed corners - plenty of which you'll find at Silverstone. We'll all stick together through these tough times and everybody will work very hard to come back to where we used to be in the last two years, when Lewis started 21 of his 42 grands prix from the front row. It's time to get back to that place!"

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