Lewis Hamilton may have been virtually unchallenged on his way to pole position for the European Grand Prix in Valencia this weekend, but the defending F1 World Champion spoke afterwards of his prospects of achieving a podium on race day, rather than making it back-to-back triumphs.

Hamilton and McLaren-Mercedes arrived in the Spanish city riding the crest of a wave following their first victory of a trying 2009 campaign four weeks' earlier, in the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest. Whilst the tight and twisty nature of the Valencia Street Circuit was always expected to suit the MP4-24 well, a front row lock-out for Hamilton and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen - the first since Hungary last year - was still something of a surprise, and the subsequently published car weights betrayed the fact that both drivers had fuelled their cars comparatively lightly for the opening stint of the grand prix in order to steal an edge around a track at which it is notoriously difficult to overtake [see separate story - click here].

Be that as it may, the result nonetheless confirmed the fact that the former multiple world championship-winning, Woking-based outfit is rapidly regaining its form - and Hamilton admitted that he hopes that progression will continue into 2010.

"Some you win, some you lose," he mused phlegmatically. "For sure it would have been fantastic for us to have been competing for the world championship and there's no doubt that us as a team, for me and Heikki, we are good enough to be able to do that, but it's just unfortunate circumstances that we missed the chance. All we have to do now is just continue to push our car and hope that next year's rules are similar to this year's, so that we can develop through this year and hopefully go into next year with a better car."

As to the task in-hand, Hamilton acknowledged that he was delighted to be back at the very front of the starting grid again for the first time in more than ten months - and he equally recognises the fact that he and Kovalainen will need to make a KERS-aided breakaway at the start if they are not to be overhauled during the pit-stops by longer-running rivals.

"Clearly we have very good pace this weekend," underlined the Stevenage-born ace, "myself and Heikki - he especially did a fantastic job through qualifying. It was very close between me and him. It was great to see us both there, because I think both of us have been wanting a one-two qualifying experience for a long time. It is great to be here.

"Coming into the weekend we thought we'd be competitive, but I don't think any of us really knew whether we'd be competing for the front row. It's a great result for us - the team has well deserved it. It's just great to know that we can continue with the momentum from the last race.

"Fortunately I managed to do a couple of good laps, so I did not have to do too many. It wasn't perfect and there are always still improvements that you can make, but for sure going into the race we stand in the best position for myself and Heikki for a podium. It all depends on strategy and how the start goes and how the rest of the race goes.

"We still have a little bit of a loose rear end. Inevitably on my pole position lap it was OK - it was quite a good lap. The second lap was better but in a lot of places I lost chunks of time, so hopefully there should be a little bit more time in it and hopefully we will be able to extract that for the race."

Indeed, Hamilton's pace was even more impressive in light of the fact that the 24-year-old had been forced to sit out the entire 90-minute FP2 practice session on Friday afternoon - 'every little bit of time that you get on the track makes a huge difference, so in terms of fine-tuning and dialling-in the car, I had a lot of pressure on me on Saturday morning,' he affirmed - but perhaps the biggest surprise of all for him, he revealed, was the welcome he had received from the Spanish fans.

In early 2008 a race row broke out after the ten-time grand prix-winner was booed, jeered and insulted by Spanish spectators with blacked-out faces and racist banners during pre-season testing around Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya. The incident was provoked by Hamilton's fractious relationship with double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso when the pair were team-mates in 2007.

"I hope it's water under the bridge," the British star remarked. "I seem to have quite a lot of support here in Spain. The fans have been fantastic for me. For sure there are some that don't like me, but that's their choice. It even surprised me when I went to Barcelona, when I go to the tests, when I come here - there's quite a lot of support."