Lewis Hamilton was encouraged following qualifying for the F1 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix today, even if he was denied pole late on.
Hamilton and McLaren have had a great weekend so far and after dominating practice, were looking strong ahead of 'quali' at the Yas Marina Circuit. However while the Brit was quickest in Q1 and Q2, and initially led the way in Q3, he was pipped right at the end by Sebastian Vettel, who went 0.141 seconds quicker than the McLaren following the second and final runs.
“It would be nice to have had pole position, but that Red Bull, as always, is very quick in Q3! Still, we've got our car to a point where it works particularly well on certain tracks, and we always seem to go well here,” Hamilton reflected.
“To be as competitive as we've been this weekend is very encouraging – we're on the front row so we can have a good race from there. And, for the first time in quite a while, my long-run pace was pretty good too, and I think we had more fuel on board than some of the other teams. I feel really good about tomorrow, in fact.
“I hope I have a good start – I really want to get into Turn One first. But, if I can't, I'll follow Sebastian [Vettel] as closely as I can, I'll try my hardest not to let him get more than a second ahead, and I'll try to get ahead through the DRS zones.
“Last year I started second but braked early into Turn One and let Sebastian have the corner. I've just told him that's not going to happen tomorrow, though…”
Team-mate Jenson Button meanwhile will start third, and despite challenging for pole position in the final session, he remained less than pleased with the handling of his MP4-26.
“I haven't really been able to find a balance that suits me perfectly this weekend,” Button explained. “The car changed quite a lot for qualifying. In practice I'd been struggling with the rear end; but, during qualifying, I suddenly had great rear grip and masses of understeer – so the car felt completely different to me.
“Obviously, there's only a certain number of things you can do during the qualifying session to counteract that, so we used everything we could to make the car work reasonably well, and I felt much happier as a result. Third isn't a bad place from which to start – hopefully we'll get one over on the Red Bulls tomorrow.”
“It may sound a little churlish to say that we're a bit disappointed with second and third today, but the honest truth is that we are,” summarised team boss, Martin Whitmarsh. “Granted, second and third is a pretty creditable result – it's a platform from which we can win tomorrow in fact – but I don't mind admitting that we were eyeing pole position today.
“Lewis and Jenson both did a good job though – and, looking forward, they're both great racers and we think we'll have a strong race package for tomorrow. We intend to pile the pressure on.”