McLaren's Lewis Hamilton has predicted it will be close in Sunday's F1 2012 Indian Grand Prix.
Hamilton posted the fourth fastest time this morning in first practice at the Buddh International Circuit, but this afternoon he slipped back slightly, finishing proceedings sixth overall on a 1 minute 27.131 seconds, which left him nine tenths off the pace-setting Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
Speaking after the session, Hamilton added that while he expects the MP4-27 to be competitive on race day, currently he is not so convinced they will be able to challenge for pole position.
“It was quite a positive day – on my side of the garage, at least,” Hamilton said. “The car felt quite good, but to get the best from the tyres each lap wasn't so easy. We're not quite quick enough yet, but tyre durability and our long-run pace both looked quite good. In fact, I was very happy with the long run. If we continue in that direction, we'll hopefully be strong in the race.
“I think we're probably quick enough to qualify third or fourth fastest at the moment, but, to go for pole, we're going to really need to push hard in our development work tonight. It looks like it'll be another close race.”
Team-mate Jenson Button meanwhile wasn't so pleased and having been third fastest in FP1, was only seventh in FP2, limited to just 24 laps in that second session due to a gearshift issue.
“It hasn't been a perfect day,” Button admitted. “Our lap-times in the first session were okay, but we couldn't really get the Option [tyre] working in FP2 – perhaps that was down to a temperature issue. Then I had a gearshift problem during my long run in the afternoon. The team is currently looking into it – hopefully, we'll have it sorted by tomorrow.
“Still, I think Lewis's long-run pace looks promising. We're still a few tenths shy of the very fastest cars, but I think we're more competitive on long runs than we are on short runs, where we're slightly struggling to get the tyres working. Fortunately, this is a good circuit for overtaking, but our aim is obviously still to qualify as close to the front as possible,” he added.
“This was a relatively routine practice day for the team, although it proved quite difficult throughout both sessions to find a low-fuel balance that worked for both drivers. However, our long-run pace certainly looks competitive,” summarised McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh.
“Unfortunately, Jenson's final run of the afternoon was cut short by a gearshift issue, but Lewis's race pace was more encouraging – Lewis himself felt the car was very well balanced during his long run. Our aim for this evening will be further to maximise our race-pace potential while simultaneously looking to improve our performance in qualifying. Whilst a good grid position isn't essential for the race, since overtaking into Turns Three and Four should be relatively straightforward, it'll still be important to stake a place close to the front of the grid in order to optimise our chances of scoring maximum possible points on Sunday,” Whitmarsh concluded.