Lewis Hamilton has suggested that tyre management could be the key to winning the first European Grand Prix held around the Americas Cup harbour in Valencia, but remains confident that his McLaren team has a good set-up for the race.

The Briton appeared on course for pole position on the all-new circuit until title rival Felipe Massa produced a faster time at the last moment, but believes that he has the machinery to take the fight to Ferrari, despite being out-gunned by Massa three weeks ago in Hungary.

"We just watched Felipe's qualifying lap and, in sector one, he destroyed everyone," Hamilton reflected, "I think I was already down a tenth or two tenths after the first corner, and then turn three, turn four and five didn't seem to be as strong as I would like. That is probably where the time went.

"[Ferrari] are going to be hard to beat tomorrow, but we will push as hard as we can. I think we've done a great job. To come here, the way we've prepared, I think our approach was as good as ever. We really come here with quite a strong package and I think we are the closest to the Ferraris at least. I'm really quite happy with the job we did today. Being on the front row really puts us in a good position to fight for a win tomorrow. I'm very, very happy."

Asked whether he would be looking to turn the tables on Massa and gain the upper hand off the start line as the Brazilian did in Budapest, the points leader said he would have to wait and see how track conditions were when they lined up.

"As I say, it's a good opportunity for me to start on the front row, but we don't know how the starts are going to be," he confessed, "I don't particularly think there is a clean or dirty side, so it's important that we get a good start. I will be aiming to challenge Felipe but. if I don't get close enough, then I will just try to keep my position."

Braking and grip levels have dominated technical discussions throughout the weekend, and Hamilton admits that both will play a part in the defining the outcome of the race - although he doesn't necessarily share his rivals' views on the severity of the problems.

"I don't think it's slippery," he maintained, "I think there's grip out there but, when you're pushing on the limit, you eventually go over that grip level and that's what everyone's doing. Unfortunately, Felipe was able to stay on that line, especially in the first sector, and pull it out.

"I think everyone's having some lock-up issues - locking the rears, locking the fronts - and it's really trying to find the best balance, trying not to push too much, but still pushing, trying to find the limit. I don't think it's a problem.

"I think it's quite a severe circuit for braking, and I'm sure some people will be struggling, but it won't be a problem for us. I think tomorrow will be about managing the tyres and trying to make them last through a longer run but, again, I don't think we will have a problem."


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