McLaren's Lewis Hamilton believes he is in a 'good position' for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, even though an unscheduled gearbox change has landed him with a five-place grid penalty.
Hamilton led the way this morning in final practice at the Shanghai International Circuit. However, in the top-ten shootout he was unable to replicate that and finished up just over half a second off Mercedes men Nico Rosberg, who managed to secure his first-ever F1 pole position. Following his penalty, Hamilton will line-up seventh.
“Very big congratulations to Nico today,” Hamilton said. “We first met back in 1997 and were team-mates in 2000. We've been good friends ever since. When we were team-mates, we always dreamed of qualifying first and second together in F1 – and it's crazy that we did that today.
“Looking at the race, we've got a good car but I'm going to have to work my way up through the field tomorrow. But as long as I move forward in the race, I'll be happy.
“We're in a good position, I think. I've set my car up to be at its strongest in the race. So, although Jenson [Button – my team-mate] and I are a little bit further back than we'd like, and we've got a bit of work to do, we can still make it.
“There's a good group of drivers ahead of us on the grid, but we're right with them in terms of race pace. This is a track where you can overtake, and we've got DRS too – so I'm massively excited about tomorrow.”
McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile was philosophical after what was undoubtedly a disappointing qualifying session for the Woking-based outfit, especially given the squad's form in practice. He is hopeful, though, that race day will be different.
“First of all, I'd like to offer our congratulations to Mercedes AMG, for whom Nico took his first ever Grand Prix pole position this afternoon,” Whitmarsh added. “It was a peculiar qualifying session, in which the to-ing and fro-ing of grip levels was abnormally unpredictable. During Q3, the air and track temperatures cooled rapidly as the sky overhead became suddenly overcast, and the circuit became appreciably slower as a result. Nico, who had already cut a very good lap early in the session, was therefore unassailable. Jenson, who went out later, found that the track surface had become much less grippy than it had been beforehand, and the inevitable result was a slower-than-expected lap time from him.
“But that wasn't his fault; pretty much everyone who was on track at the end of Q3 either recorded a slower lap-time than they'd hoped for, or indeed aborted it, as Lewis did.
“Tomorrow, though, we're confident that we'll have two competitive race cars, and, from fifth and seventh on the grid respectively, Jenson and Lewis will be approaching the race with their customary controlled combativeness,” Whitmarsh summed-up.