McLaren's Lewis Hamilton remains 'optimistic' for the F1 2011 Italian Grand Prix, even though Sebastian Vettel blitzed the pack today in qualifying and was almost half a second faster.
Hamilton was the quickest man on Friday in practice, however he was only fourth this morning in P3 and despite setting the pace in Q1, he could only managed the second best time in the top-ten shoot-out, an error on his second run, when he locked up at the second chicane, ending any hopes he had of improving.
“Clearly, we're very competitive – Jenson [Button – my team-mate] and I both qualified in the top three – but Seb was mega-quick today. In Q1 and Q2 we were pretty close to him, but he pulled out another half-second in Q3. It was an extremely good lap,” Hamilton said.
“Still, I'm happy to be starting on the front row - after Spa it gives me another opportunity to be right up there in the race and to bag a lot of points. Above all, I want to finish, of course; but I reckon I can get a good start from where I am, and, if there's an chance to get into the lead, I'll take it.
“We've improved all weekend, and second and third is a good result for the team. In fact, we have a good chance to get our first one-two of 2011 tomorrow – I'm optimistic.”
Jenson Button is also bullish about their prospects in the race and he will start from third, having been just 0.052s shy of Hamilton in the final part of qualifying.
“I was pretty happy with my first run in Q3, but I thought I'd be able to squeeze another tenth or so out of my final run,” Button stated. “But, on my second attempt, I went a tenth down in the first sector and never really caught that up for the remainder of the lap, so I aborted it.
“Third is usually a pretty good place to start [though] – it's on the clean side of the track – but around here it can be pretty tough to find a way past the first two cars on the run down to the first corner. But we're focused on tomorrow, the team is in a good position, and we can definitely score some good points.
“I think we've correctly chosen the appropriate drag and downforce levels, and the right gearing too, so we should be happy with the work we've done so far this weekend. I don't think Red Bull will have it all their own way tomorrow. I think we'll be in the mix, which is what the fans want to see.”
“It probably sounds a bit churlish for me to say that we're a little disappointed today – because second and third is a pretty decent result when all's said and done – but our car is performing very well here and it would have been nice if we could have bagged pole position,” added McLaren boss, Martin Whitmarsh.
“Lewis and Jenson had each posted a good, fast lap in Q3 – but, in their efforts to improve, pushing to the limit, they both made small mistakes in the first half of their laps, losing time in the process. We therefore elected to abort both their laps. So second and third it was, and second and third it is. As I say, pole would have added the icing on the cake, but the reality is that, in P2 and P3, Lewis and Jenson are both very well placed to win tomorrow. They're both great racers, so that's what they'll both be aiming to do.”