McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was encouraged following practice Friday for the F1 2011 Belgian Grand Prix, despite the changeable conditions and despite a 'big moment' in the first session.
Hamilton eventually posted the fifth best time in FP1, and was similarly competitive in the afternoon, moving up to fourth, on a 1 minute 50.838 seconds, which left him 0.517 seconds off the pace - although with so little dry running the times were not exactly representative.
The Englishman is now looking forward to the rest of the weekend and believes it will be very tight at the top between them and the likes of Red Bull Racing and of course Ferrari.
“We got a couple of laps in the dry during P2, but we didn't do too much because of the changeable conditions. In fact, we spent most of the day running installation laps to test wings and to find out which downforce levels to use,” Hamilton said.
“We look pretty good in the wet, but I think the car is pretty solid in the dry too. It's also difficult to get the car set up to be competitive both with and without DRS, so it's going to be really close – although it looks as though the same cars as usual are going to be up at the front.
“I had a big moment on the approach to Blanchimont in P1. I drove across a small river on the track – I must have been doing around 150mph – and I had a huge tank-slapper. I'm glad I was alert enough to correct it, otherwise we could have ended up with all four corners and both wings knocked off the car!
“The top three or four teams all look competitive; now our challenge is to make the right choices with the wings and downforce levels.”
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile added that while the mixed conditions have made it difficult to finalise the set-up, he is confident they will still get it right.
“It's always fun to watch the Spa micro-climate once again defy the best efforts of the weather forecasters and produce a pair of typically unpredictable sessions!” he continued. “Nonetheless, we did our best to avoid the persistent rain showers in order to collect data on a variety of different rear-wing packages. We'll analyse that data tonight and pull together the optimal components for the remainder of the weekend.
“Both Lewis and Jenson [Button] are happy with the balance of their cars, but, of course, we need to thoroughly analyse the data in order to find the perfect trade-off between drag and downforce for a tricky circuit such as this.
“The unpredictable weather doesn't make doing our sums any easier, but I'm confident that our engineers will once again do a fantastic job,” Whitmarsh summed-up.