Lewis Hamilton described his fourth fastest time in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix as 'one of my toughest qualifying sessions for some time', as he aims for his first win of F1 2012 and his second in the Principality.
Hamilton was the only McLaren driver to make it through to the final phase of qualifying, and his 1min 14.583secs lap will leave him to line up third once Michael Schumacher serves his five-place grid penalty.
Though once the dominant force in qualifying earlier this season, events have conspired to reduce Hamilton to three third places as his best race results, however the Briton is optimistic that this can all change on Sunday.
“I've had a good feeling all weekend, but his afternoon was massively tough: one of my toughest qualifying sessions for some time, in fact," he said, "Still, qualifying was so much fun – I really enjoyed it – and the tyres and strategy can play a big part around here. If I get a good start, we'll suddenly be in fighting position for the win. Anything can happen at Monaco and I'll give everything tomorrow.”
This was the first time in 2012 that Hamilton has set anything less than the second fastest qualifying time for a Grand Prix, and he alluded to the tendency for tight competition to magnify any small ailments he had with his car.
“I'm fortunate to be one place higher owing to Michael's penalty, but we struggled a little today, particularly with the very low-speed stuff," he explained, "It was difficult to get the tyres to 'switch on' and give us the grip we needed. There are two great drivers ahead of me who'll make it even tougher for me tomorrow.”
Hamilton's previous Monaco triumph also came in 2008, when he also started third on the grid, and whilst not drawing too many parallels, team principal Martin Whitmarsh hinted that, just like then, the weather for the grand prix could serve to make the event more challenging still.
“Tomorrow's weather conditions may well be changeable, we're told, which could make the shape of the race less predictable still," Whitmarsh confirmed, "And, on this famously daunting street circuit, anything can happen, as we've seen so many times before.”
by Philip Barclay