McLaren's Lewis Hamilton has said that his car didn't feel 'fantastic' today during practice for this Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, though he still managed to top the times.

Hamilton opted to sit out the majority of this morning's wet session and instead he only completed a series of installation laps to evaluate a number of minor new components for this weekend's race. As a result, he finished the session at the bottom of the timesheets without setting a time.

In the afternoon though, with conditions now dry, he notched up 29 laps and quickly went through his set-up work before beginning a tyre analysis programme. In the end, despite a few minor niggles - such as a broken component within the cockpit hampering running - he did enough to top the times, knocking Toyota's Timo Glock down to second place in the closing stages.

"I'm happier today than I expected," Hamilton summarised. "We don't have as much downforce as some of the other teams, so we're not as quick as we'd like to be, especially in the middle sector. Fortunately, however, we have KERS and can use it to our advantage in the first and third sectors.

"The car didn't feel fantastic today - but we only really had one session to find a set-up so we've got some changes to make overnight. Still, this is a massive improvement compared with Turkey or Silverstone, and we look competitive, which is important, so we're not unhappy."

Meanwhile Heikki Kovalainen ended proceedings in twelfth overall in the sister MP4-24 and despite being around five tenths slower - his best a 1 minute 47.743 seconds, compared to a 1m 47.201s posted by Hamilton - he was still happy.

"I think slower speed corners suit our car better than high-speed stuff. So I guess we are still losing a bit of time in the high-speed corners compared to the fastest cars. But we've definitely made some good improvements in this area and the car feels positive to drive and seems to be working quite well around here," Kovalainen added.

"We're in the hunt again, which is encouraging, and we're working on a strong strategy for the race. We should be able to fight for a good starting position in qualifying tomorrow."

McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh concurred with his drivers' that the day was pretty promising.

"As always at Spa, the weather played a prominent role in our preparations for the race - but the local micro-climate is one of the idiosyncrasies of the place, and the reason why it so often throws up an unusual result," he continued. "As an example, this morning's rainfall initially looked like a passing shower but ended up rendering much of P1 useless for practical evaluation.

"Into this afternoon's practice, the blue skies enabled us to complete some more meaningful running as we crammed a busy set-up evaluation and a tyre analysis programme into a single session.

"The lack of running means there's still scope for further improvement, and there's plenty of work to be done overnight, but we end the first day reasonably encouraged by the speed of our overall package."


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