McLaren's Lewis Hamilton has said he is 'surprised' to have qualified so well for the European Grand Prix at Valencia in Spain and that 'anything' is possible now in the race.
Hamilton had been a bit off the pace in practice, however, when it came to it came to qualifying he was right up there and in the final part did enough to secure a place on the second row of the grid, just ahead of the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton might even have pitched the pole too had he not got out of shape on his final flying lap, when he made an error going into Turn 17. He still finished Q3 third though, and was the only other runner in the 1m 37s, apart from the dominant Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
“Ahead of this weekend, we didn't expect to be quick enough for third on the grid. It's a complete surprise. It's a fantastic result,” Hamilton said. “I thought my first Q3 lap was good, but you just never knew what the others were doing.
“On my final lap, I was two tenths up, but I was way over the limit, locked the rears into Turn 17 and had to bail out of it. Fortunately, my previous lap was an awesome one, so I'm so happy to be third.
“I'm very happy with third, actually – you're on the clean side, so it's a better position to start from than second, and you get the clean line on the inside, so I can make it hard for Mark to get into the first corner ahead of me.”
Asked about the race, Hamilton was optimistic about his prospects and believes his form in qualifying will be a big help.
“Today's qualifying could prove crucial for us; we came here determined to minimise the damage because we knew a lot of the other teams would be quick because they'd brought updates to this race. And, for tomorrow, anything's still possible – there's a long straight around the back of the track, and, if we can stay close enough, then there's a possibility to use the F-duct and overtake,” he added. “I'll be relying on the guys to do the best job possible during the pitstops tomorrow – as they usually do – and I think we're going to have an exciting race.”
Team-mate Jenson Button meanwhile will line-up seventh in the sister car and after also making an error on his final lap, a mistake that cost him fourth, he was not a happy bunny.
“Things were looking good until the last corner of my last lap in Q3. I was pretty happy with the car, but then I got a bit of oversteer through the quick right-hander before it, and I think that set the car up poorly for the last corner. I locked up, ran wide, and lost two tenths. And that's massive – it could have been fourth on the grid. So, very disappointing,” Button stated.
“I can't do anything about it now though, and I'll now be pushing for a better race tomorrow. It'll be very difficult – I just want to get a good start and not get stuck in traffic, because the pace of our car is good.
“It's disappointing, as I say, but hopefully we can gain some places at the start, execute some quick pitstops and make the most of our strategy – the pits really are the only place where you can overtake around here.”