Despite comfortably pacing Friday practice ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has suggested that McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen could be the one to watch come qualifying in Budapest.
Hamilton lapped almost two tenths of a second quicker than any of his rivals on the opening day, and has out-qualified Kovalainen seven-three over the course of the opening ten races of the 2008 campaign, but still he anticipates the Finn could take quite some beating come Saturday afternoon.
“Heikki's car is easier to get a lap out of in qualifying than mine,” the F1 World Championship leader told British newspaper The Sun
. “I accept that.
“Last year I tended to be quickest in qualifying, but this year I have sacrificed a little in order to be stronger in the race. I'm happy with that, though we are working on improving the qualifying pace to make me even stronger.
“Over the year, I have pushed the team in a certain direction. It has worked sometimes to my advantage and at others to Heikki's, especially in qualifying, but latterly we have come together more in terms of set-up and are following the same path. That is why we are getting stronger. There is a lot more potential in this car.”
Kovalainen stormed to the maiden pole position of his fledgling career in the top flight at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix last month – outperforming Hamilton in front of the Briton's home crowd – but it is the Stevenage ace who hit the high notes in qualifying at the Hungaroring this time twelve months ago, going on to convert that advantage into his third F1 victory.
The 23-year-old, however – who has triumphed in more grands prix than anyone else this year – insisted he was not interested by either the sport's upcoming three-week summer hiatus, or the fact that should he emerge victorious once again this weekend, he will become the first driver since Michael Schumacher back in 2006 to win three races in succession, following his Silverstone and Hockenheim glories.
“It's of no importance to me,” he stressed, when pressed about his chances of equalling the record-breaking seven-time world champion's feat, also achieved by countrymen Sir Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill. “I just want to continue with the momentum I've got.
“I don't need a break. In fact, now is a better time than ever to keep pushing. The last few races the car has been the best it has ever been – and it should be that way as we've been working very hard to develop it.
“I have a bit of a gap with no personal appearances, so I can focus on my training. I'll be training hard, and I aim to make sure I'm as fit as ever for the final sprint when we get back, because I am hungrier than ever to be world champion.”