Lewis Hamilton has said McLaren's pace is as close to Red Bulls as it has ever been following practice today for this Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final round in the F1 2010 championship.

Hamilton was second quickest in FP1 this morning, 0.609 seconds off Sebastian Vettel. However he improved this afternoon and eventually ended up top of the pile on a 1 minute 40.888 seconds - 0.257 seconds up on his closest rival and the only man below the 1m 41s barrier.

"We've been hoping for some time to improve our revised rear wing. It hasn't really been working fully since we first tested it at Suzuka, so we've not been able to use it to its fullest extent. We knew that it had potential though - and to have it finally working properly is a huge plus for us," Hamilton said.

"The car feels good, so I'm hopeful for a good qualifying result tomorrow afternoon. Of course, it will be tough, because the Red Bulls tend to pull out half a second in Q3, but our pace is closer to theirs than it's ever been.

"Of all the weekends this year, this time I feel like we really do have the right package to challenge the fastest cars. I think we can fight for the front row."

McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh was also really encouraged: "We come to this race determined to end an already successful season on a high, and to consolidate our second position in the constructors' world championship. To that end, we've aggressively refined our rear wing design into its final iteration, and initial tests suggest it's delivering the additional performance we'd anticipated," he added.

"Lewis set a very strong pace in both practice sessions, ending the day fastest overall - a result that provides us with plenty of encouragement as we continue to refine our car overnight."

Jenson Button meanwhile was not so pleased in the other McLaren and having been third in first practice, slipped down to eighth in the second session. His quickest lap, a 1m 42.132s, was 1.2 seconds off his team-mate.

"Today showed us there are a few areas where we need to improve my car," Button explained. "We changed a few things for the afternoon session, and I struggled with the balance - front locking is an issue, as it has been for the past few races. There's not enough consistency, so I think we're running a downforce level that's too low for this circuit.

"So that's probably not the way forward, but at least it's shown us the reasons why the pace wasn't there. It seems like Lewis's car, which was in a different configuration to mine, is still very quick - so hopefully we can find that same sweet-spot with my car.

"I want to enjoy the rest of the weekend - and there are lots of reasons still to feel optimistic for tomorrow."



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