Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Formula 1 World Championship rival Felipe Massa 'destroyed everyone' on his way to securing pole position for this weekend's inaugural European Grand Prix in Valencia - but the Briton remains optimistic of being able to fight back on race day around the all-new harbour-side street circuit.

Having looked quick throughout practice, and with his McLaren-Mercedes team expected to hold a slight edge around the Juan Carlos I Marina track, Hamilton was always going to be a strong contender for pole position - and with just moments remaining in Q3, he took it.

That glory, though, lasted all of a matter of seconds until Massa stole the top spot back again by just over two tenths of a second - in so doing threatening to break the Woking-based outfit's three-race winning streak stretching back to Silverstone last month, when Hamilton so famously triumphed on home turf.

"In sector one he destroyed everyone," the 23-year-old world championship leader admitted of his Ferrari foe afterwards. "They are going to be hard to beat tomorrow, but we will push as hard as we can.

"We knew we had a great car, and we didn't have any problems during qualifying. I felt really comfortable, and I decided to qualify with the option tyre. My first lap wasn't perfect, and I lost almost one second compared with my second lap.

"On my final lap I think I was already down a tenth or two tenths after the first corner. Turns four and five did not seem as strong as I'd like either.

"Second place on the grid is a good basis for tomorrow's race; however, Felipe was significantly faster in the first sector, and I hope we'll be able to improve there tomorrow. Our team did a great job, and I'm confident we'll be strong."

One variable now counting against Hamilton is the fact that the pole position side of the circuit has been altered after head of the FIA technical department, Charlie Whiting, observed 'the line taken by cars across the grid' during the practice and qualifying sessions. Pole was previously to have been located on the left-hand side, but there have been repeated suggestions over the weekend that there is more grip on the right.

There is a precedent for this, as in 1990 the late three-time F1 World Champion Ayrton Senna requested the pole position move from the dirty side to the cleaner side of the track at Suzuka in Japan, only to see his plea refused by then President of the FIA Jean-Marie Balestre. Though he wound up almost a second adrift of team-mate Hamilton in Valencia, at least Heikki Kovalainen will now benefit from what should be the grippier side of the grid.

"The balance of my car was good," the Finn - F1's newest grand prix winner courtesy of his Hungarian success - related, "and we improved continuously throughout the sessions. However, I'm a little disappointed with my fifth place on the grid as I didn't make any mistakes and performed to the maximum.

"It's now up to us to score as many points as possible and make a good start from the cleaner side of the grid. Our strategy should help us to gain positions during the race."

While Ferrari ultimately emerged with the upper hand from a tense and close-fought qualifying session, McLaren team principal Ron Dennis and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug remain convinced all is still to play for, as the squad attempts to further close down the eleven-point gap separating it from the Scuderia in the constructors' title standings.

"Today we saw another very good afternoon's work from both Lewis and Heikki," remarked Dennis, "characterised by strong lap times that reflect their respective race strategies. All-in-all, therefore, we're well-prepared for the first grand prix to be held on this exciting new race track.

"All the drivers did an exemplary job today, in fact, avoiding the walls in the tricky conditions. We hope that tomorrow's race will be equally incident-free, and that in time the Valencia event will become a regular, integral and much-admired element of the Formula 1 calendar.

"I would like to offer our congratulations to all concerned, and to the Valencia authorities in particular; with appropriate promotion, this grand prix promises to become a fabulous adjunct to our sport's existing harbour-side spectacular, namely Monaco."

"A very exciting qualifying session here on this completely new and impressive circuit," agreed Haug. "Thanks to everybody involved for doing such a superb job in such a short period of time. I think we are well-prepared for the race, and it will be interesting to see which of the front-runners will drive the longest first stint tomorrow.

"Both Lewis and Heikki did a good job, even if Lewis unfortunately lost more time in the first sector than he is now behind the pole time."