Whatever level of success McLaren were expecting to have in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, it was clear that Jenson Button's performance had blown the doors well and truly off.

"That was a truly brilliant pole lap by Jenson," said team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "His first for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, and he's now in extremely good shape for tomorrow's race ... He'll be gunning for victory tomorrow!"

McLaren had seemed wary if not actively downbeat early in the session when Lewis Hamilton had struggled to match the early pace of Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.

"This morning, in FP3, neither Jenson nor Lewis was entirely comfortable with the balance or feel of their cars," admitted Whitmarsh. "A situation that was perhaps compounded by a complete lack of dry running all day yesterday.

"For this afternoon, then, on a bone-dry track, following the issues we'd encountered in FP3 this morning, clearly we had to make some changes," he revealed. "We duly did so, in consultation with our drivers, and, as things panned out, the changes we made to Jenson's car paid off the better of the two."

Button was on the pace from the start despite early complaints about understeer, and he was only bested when Pastor Maldonado switched to the option tyres late in Q1 while Button remained on the harder primes. But Hamilton continued to toil for the rest of the qualifying session, and finally only managed eighth place in the crucial final Q3 round.

"Today was a bit of a disappointment," admitted Hamilton. "But since I'm still in the top ten, tomorrow will be about trying to make the most of things.

"Our side of the garage was a bit unlucky," he continued. "We chose the wrong rear wing, preferring to stay with the version we used in Hungary. The wing we'd been using in FP3 this morning hadn't been working very well, so we opted to go back to the older wing which we thought would be the safer option.

"It was a collective choice: we thought the older wing would be quicker in qualifying, but in fact Jenson has shown the new wing to be very good indeed," he admitted. "Congratulations to Jenson - he did an excellent job and I hope he gets maximum points tomorrow."

Button, of course, was jubilant at finally clinching his first pole position since his move to McLaren.

"It's my 50th Grand Prix for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes this weekend, so it's a great time to get a pole position for everyone at Woking," he said. "In fact, it's my first pole since Monaco 2009 - which was a race that I won - and it demonstrates that I can qualify really well.

"I'm surprised that the new rear wing is working so well," he said, of the crucial edge that he'd enjoyed over the more cautious Hamilton in terms of risking the upgrade. "But the engineers also did a great job with the balance. And it's even more encouraging that we had good consistency through all three qualifying sessions. Nonetheless, nobody has done any long runs yet, so we still need to wait and see how tomorrow pans out."

Whitmarsh was optimistic that having proven their pace on Saturday, Sunday promised even better things for the team and its drivers.

"As I've said before, and as I'll doubtless say again, in Jenson and Lewis we have the best driver line-up in F1," he said. "Tomorrow both of them will be aiming to demonstrate that yet again."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment