McLaren's Lewis Hamilton has said his car is the best it's ever been at Suzuka following practice today for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton was strong in both FP1 and FP2, setting the second best time in both sessions and eventually finishing the day 0.214 seconds off Mark Webber, who was quickest in his Red Bull RB8.
The Brit has now predicted it will be 'very close' in qualifying, although he is not unduly worried about the Red Bulls.
“I have the coolest job!” Hamilton said. “Suzuka is such a phenomenal circuit! The first lap out of the pits felt great. Just driving through the first couple of corners and feeling the acceleration, it takes a few laps to get warmed up, but you keep getting faster and faster as you push the limits.
“As always, we'll be fine-tuning the car tonight ahead of tomorrow's sessions, but it looks very close between ourselves and Red Bull. I feel comfortable with our car – it's the best that it's ever been around here – and I think I could have matched Mark's fastest time with an optimal lap. It's going to be very close in qualifying tomorrow.”
Team-mate Jenson Button meanwhile is also upbeat. He set the pace in FP1 and while he could only managed the seventh best time in FP2, after going the wrong way with the set-up, he remains hopeful, although his five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, will hurt his cause.
“I love Japan. This is a crazy race for me – the fans are fantastic, they're true supporters of all the drivers, and they get so excited about the sport. Also, there's such a flow about this circuit,” he added. “I didn't do too many laps in FP2: the balance wasn't quite right and we knew we couldn't go back on the changes we'd made until after the session, so there wasn't any point doing too much running. Still, we know how to dial the car in for FP3 tomorrow, and that's the important thing.
“The car felt good this morning, so we'll go back to something similar with just a few detail changes. Overall, the car is working well here. Qualifying will be very competitive, but I think we'll be up there.”
“We spent the morning evaluating and experimenting with a handful of useful new components that we wanted to compare,” summarised team principal, Martin Whitmarsh. “For FP2, we were conducting set-up experiments across the garage and we'll assimilate that data tonight in order to determine the cars' optimum configuration for qualifying and the race. We got some extremely useful data, and that will all filter into the work we do ahead of FP3 tomorrow.
“Both Jenson and Lewis were happy with their cars today. Of course, Jenson's five-place grid penalty is really unfortunate, but, while it puts us on the back-foot, I'm still convinced that he, along with Lewis, will be able to fight for victory on Sunday.”