Lewis Hamilton was in a buoyant mood after setting the pace today in practice for this Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton topped the times in both sessions at Interlagos, and while his best lap, a 1 minute 14.026 seconds, put him only fractionally ahead of Sebastian Vettel, he was still greatly encouraged by his form. Indeed he declared it one of his best Fridays for a 'long, long time'.
“It's been a positive first day – I hope we can maintain our form or even progress it tomorrow,” Hamilton remarked. “We're certainly looking strong, but this place can be so tough on tyres that it's hard to make any accurate predictions at this stage.
“The track and ambient temperatures were so high today that it felt almost as though I was sliding around the track with the tyres melting! Having said that, our long runs are usually tougher on the tyres [than shorter runs], but our long runs still looked quite good today. It's great to have such a positive final Friday with the team – it's been one of the best Fridays we've had for a long, long time, in fact.
“I'm savouring every moment of this weekend [my final one with McLaren], and I'll be taking photographs of my engineers and mechanics through each day. The car feels really good – thanks, guys – and it would be the perfect Saturday if I could take pole tomorrow.”
Team-mate Jenson Button meanwhile was fourth quickest in FP1 and eighth in FP2 having opted for a different set-up.
“We were running a lower downforce set-up package to Lewis this afternoon. It was quite an interesting comparison, but, in the hot weather, lower downforce makes things trickier because the car slides more, which hurts the tyres,” JB explained. “Still, it was a useful test, because we needed to see how well the smaller rear wing works. Obviously, it operates in a different way [from the higher-downforce set-up package], so we wanted to be able to understand that.
“Using the smaller rear wing, our long-run pace was surprisingly good. However, our single-lap pace wasn't as strong – probably because we weren't able to use DRS as fully as we could with the bigger wing.”
“Topping the time-sheets in both today's sessions was a nice fillip for the whole team, and it gives us great motivation to carry that momentum forward with us for the rest of the weekend,” summarised McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh. “Indeed, our car appears to be competitive on both low- and high-fuel loads, and, as ever, I'm sure our hard-working engineers will once again mine the data this evening, further to refine our package ahead of FP3 and qualifying tomorrow.
“For Lewis, it must have been an emotional final Friday with McLaren. But, as ever, he performed faultlessly. Jenson, too, has worked diligently with his engineers, following a divergent set-up route from Lewis's, and has given us plenty of useful data to work through this evening.
“Now, though, our focus narrows towards qualifying: we expect strong competition from our key rivals, but we're in a good position to fight for pole, and victory, this weekend.”