Lewis Hamilton has admitted that starting two rows ahead of Felipe Massa should help him avoid a seventh collision with the Brazilian as he looks to end the 2011 F1 season on a high with victory in Abu Dhabi.
With the final round on Massa's home ground in Sao Paulo - a venue that always brings out the best in the Brazilian - this weekend may be the best opportunity the McLaren man has of a clean race where his nemesis is concerned. They have collided no fewer than six times in 17 races so far in 2011, adding to a turbulent campaign than has been beset by other on-track incidents, personal traumas and numerous trips to speak to the race stewards.
At Yas Marina, two weeks on from another strong qualifying performance in India and decent all-round weekend in Korea, Hamilton will start from the front row, alongside world champion Sebastian Vettel after seeing McLaren's early weekend dominance ended by the German when it mattered most. Unlike in India, however, he did not have a grid penalty hanging over him, and will hold on to second spot, while Massa will line up only sixth, behind Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso.
"I am ahead of Felipe, so that helps," Hamilton confirmed to Reuters
, "I think this weekend I feel fresh, I feel clean in the mind. Obviously I've stayed out of trouble and that makes a huge difference and it just adds to your confidence and you just roll with it. I'm second on the grid now, taken no penalty, which is usually quite a big hit to confidence and we are in a good position tomorrow to move forward. Those kind of positive things make a big difference."
Congratulating Vettel on pulling out another stunning qualifying lap to steal pole away at the last gasp, the Briton admitted that he would not be thinking about the controversial side of his season when it comes to trying to get the better of his rival at the start.
"I think it's about getting a good start, from my side at least," he mused when asked how he could beat the world champion, "I can't remember if it was last year when I started second and [Vettel] started on pole, [but] I remember, into turn one, I braked early and let him go. I don't plan to do that tomorrow.
"I think, a lot of us, once we hit the apex, the exit kerb, we come back across. I am sure the pole side is a little bit cleaner than the left side, but I don't think it will be too big a difference. I am happy with today. To be on the front row and not have any penalties is a blessing for me, so I can look forward to tomorrow."