Lewis Hamilton has insisted that he is still motivated for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix, even though the Red Bull's of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were in a class of their own today in qualifying.
Hamilton, who had been third this morning in final practice - just two tenths off the pace, was again the closest to RB6's this afternoon. However the margin was almost a second and that will certainly give him and McLaren something to think about ahead of the latest round on the F1 2010 calendar.
Indeed the 2008 F1 world champion conceded that they will need to 'try and close the gap now as quickly as possible'.
“We've been very competitive this weekend, and we've brought a strong package out here with us; but, clearly, Red Bull has made a very good step forward too, and it looks like their car is slightly more aerodynamically efficient than ours is,” Hamilton reflected.
“I'm still very motivated for tomorrow though. As ever, Sunday is a different story, and we generally enjoy better pace in the race than we do in qualifying. And let's hope our reliability can top theirs tomorrow, too.
“Anyway, third on the grid is almost as good as pole position here, if not a little bit better: it's a long way down to the first corner, and you can get a good draft and pass people. So I'm hoping to get a decent start, make good progress early on, and then drive a strong but straightforward race in which I'm able to do something good and get up near the front.
“Looking further ahead, we have got a fantastic team behind us, and we know that the car has a great deal of potential. We just need to try and close that gap as quickly as possible,” he confirmed.
Jenson Button meanwhile, who of course is top in the race for the 2010 F1 drivers' title, was 0.162 seconds slower in the sister MP4-25, and as a result he will start from the third row of the grid in fifth.
He wasn't too disappointed however, as he had found the going tough in practice and couldn't get the car set-up quite to his liking.
“We struggled a bit this morning, and yesterday we didn't think we'd be where we are right now, so, all in all, this afternoon wasn't too bad,” Button added. “On my final lap in Q3, I ran over one of the green sections of Astroturf; there wasn't much grip there, so I got wheelspin and hit the rev limiter, which lost me a bit of time. Even so, I'm fifth and I'm satisfied with that. Okay, I'd rather be a bit further up, and I think I probably could have been, but it's not a bad place to start.
“I think the Red Bulls are going to be pretty tough to beat tomorrow, though. We came here hoping to close the gap, but instead it's gone slightly in the other direction, which is surprising. So we've still got a lot of work to do, but I know that everyone in the team will be digging as deep as they possibly can to make that extra effort, and that we'll get there.
“For tomorrow, if we're good off the line, we might be able to pass some cars into Turn One. It's a bit more difficult for me, but there's definitely a possibility for Lewis. And our race pace is usually better than our qualifying speed, so I'm still extremely hopeful for another good showing tomorrow. If all goes well, I hope to be able to maintain my position at the head of the drivers' world championship points standings – and hopefully Lewis and I will score heavily enough to keep Vodafone McLaren Mercedes at the top of the constructors' world championship table, too.”