Despite ending the opening day of the Canadian Grand Prix down in fifth and sixth places respectively, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button remained upbeat about their chances of success in a race that has served McLaren well in the past.
Never off pole since Hamilton joined the team, and with two wins and a 1-2 in 2010 under its belt, the Woking team heads to Montreal buoyed by Button's Monaco performance, where he looked set to win until a safety car period, ironically triggered by his team-mate.
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh reported that the opening day of the 2011 meeting had passed off largely without incident, even though Hamilton found his car up on axle stands midway through the morning session after losing its dash read-out, and both sessions were interrupted by red flags.
“Both Lewis and Jenson are pretty happy with the balance of their cars, although there's still some work to be done to improve the set-up," Whitmarsh confirmed, "As usual, the competition looks evenly matched – particularly so this weekend – but the unpredictability of the weather and the unforgiving nature of this circuit all look set to make for another close race.
“Today's sessions showed how unforgiving this circuit can be: you only need to get the car slightly off-line, or hit a kerb at the wrong angle, and you can end up in the wall. Happily, all the drivers emerged unscathed, and the marshals did a fantastically efficient job of clearing the track and sweeping away all the debris.
“Despite the unusual number of stoppages, we still managed to make some positive progress, evaluating a number of minor modifications we'd introduced for this race and carrying out our tyre comparison programme – albeit with some disruption owing to the red flags."
Hamilton also suffered a puncture in the second session, thought to have been the result of running through debris of Jerome d'Ambrosio's meeting with the turn four wall. That apart, however, the two-time Montreal winner was satisfied with the progress he and the team had made.
“It was a very good session and a positive day for me," he confirmed, shrugging off the time spent cooling his heels in FP1, "Our long-run pace is pretty good; the speed is there. It looks very close once again between Red Bull, Ferrari and ourselves, so we'll work on qualifying, get the car nicely dialled in and then I'll keep my fingers crossed.
"I think some debris from one of the incidents must have caused my puncture because I'd only just left the pits when I suddenly felt the rear sliding about. Nevertheless, we got through a lot of test components. I'm still trying to find the exact balance I need, and I'm not quite sure which direction I want to follow with my car, so I'll sit down with my engineers to analyse the data this evening.