Lewis Hamilton has admitted that the biggest threat to a perfect start to the 2012 F1 season comes from McLaren team-mate Jenson Button rather than world champions Red Bull.
With the Milton Keynes team qualifying back on row three of the Australian Grand Prix grid, the McLaren pair was able to lock out the front row but, despite being quicker than Button, Hamilton admits that he is wary of the threat his fellow Briton poses in the 60-lap race. Button has twice won the Australian round - taking back-to-back victories in 2009-10 with Brawn and McLaren - and generally out-performed a lacklustre Hamilton through 2011. The 2008 world champion is clearly happier with his lot after a winter away, but remains wary of the second McLaren.
"Jenson's my biggest threat," Hamilton confirmed to the BBC
, "I think it's going to be incredibly tough, a very intense race. Obviously, looking after the tyres is going to be key as it always is and getting off to a good start, seeing what the strategies are like, and obviously the safety car is a [possibility] at all times. The team need to be on point and so do me and Jenson, so we'll make sure we do that."
The Briton admitted that he had expected a bigger challenge from Red Bull, but Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel managed only to fill row three, behind Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher.
"I'm surprised to see the Red Bulls so far back and that we were so quick," he conceded, "I knew the car was good, but how good [compared] to others, I had no idea. I think we're all probably surprised... I always thought that the Lotus was going to be quick this weekend and, of course, I'm surprised that we are so fast. I knew that we would be competitive this weekend, but I didn't really know what to expect, in terms of how close people would be. I'm pleasantly surprised."
Hamilton also admitted that, after time in the doldrums last season, it was great to start the 2012 campaign on a high. The pole was the 20th of his career but, given the problems of 2011, he admitted that it would be among the ones he remembered most.
"It's an incredible feeling to be back here and to get off to such a good start," he confirmed, "I think this is mine and Jenson's first one-two in qualifying, so it's fantastic to start the season this way. I'm massively proud of the team, we've had a couple of tough years but just never seemed to give up."
"I still can't believe that I've had so many pole positions. Every one has been special and particularly this one. We've still got a day ahead of us – but it's a fantastic feeling and, of course, with the tough couple of years past, it's definitely good a way to start off on the right foot."
With the wet start to the weekend, preparations for a dry qualifying session and raceday were limited, and Hamilton admits that tyre wear, in particular, was still something of a mystery.
"We could always do with more time on the track and more running, but I think everyone is in the same boat generally," he conceded, "So we have to really rely on the data and the information that we got on the tyres in our long runs in the winter testing, and at Barcelona in particular. Hopefully that will put us in good stead for tomorrow, but it's going to be an interesting race for sure. Don't know what these tyres are going to do, but they don't seem too bad.
"My [qualifying] lap was a good lap, obviously. The second time, I tried to brake ten metres later at turn one, but it didn't work. But fortunately, my first lap was good enough, [although] Jenson did a fantastic job, he was very, very closely behind me. As always, keeping me on my toes."