World championship leader Lewis Hamilton is confident of being able to take the fight to Ferrari in today's Turkish Grand Prix, with fond memories of a circuit where just twelve months ago he produced perhaps the most spellbinding performance of his career to-date.

The British rookie will line up second on the grid in Istanbul, a scant four hundredths of a second adrift of pole-sitter Felipe Massa and, more vitally still, two spots clear of McLaren-Mercedes team-mate and principal title challenger Fernando Alonso, who lies just six points behind him in the drivers' standings with as many races left to run. Indeed, but for Massa's searing final effort it looked as if Hamilton may just have the pole sewn up but second place is, he admits, a good starting point nonetheless.

"Going into qualifying I knew we had the pace," he affirmed. "Obviously throughout practice we seemed to be either with Ferrari or slightly faster, so I was quite confident. The car felt very good. We've had two-and-a-half or three weeks to improve it and the team has been working extremely hard - not everyone has had holidays and I know the team doesn't rest. They've been pushing a lot to come here again with another step.

"Q1 and Q2 were a bit of a surprise to me; the car didn't feel great and I couldn't really get a clean, smooth lap. The first timed lap in Q3 was ok, but again I was fourth and not really sure if I was going to be able to do it. I just hung it out and kept on pushing. I knew where I had lost time and that I could improve on it, but I didn't think it would be six tenths of a second. Going into my last lap I really put everything together and I knew it was a good one. I lost a little bit of time at the tricky last corner, but I'm very happy with second."

Though he acknowledged it was a boost to have once again outpaced Alonso in their internecine battle for supremacy, Hamilton stressed he would rather see the Spaniard behind him at the finish line than one of the Ferraris.

"It's obviously a positive," the 22-year-old agreed. "Going into qualifying I knew Fernando had been improving all the way through the weekend and I seemed to lack the pace initially, but I am very relieved I was able to pull out the time on my last lap and qualify ahead of him. In the race I will just have to try to get as many points as possible and finish ahead of him too, but it will be good for both of us to finish ahead of the Ferraris.

"Having the experience here in GP2 and knowing you can overtake definitely eases your mind. On some tracks you just can't get close enough but here, while it's still tricky, it's definitely possible. We've got a good car and a good strategy and I'm looking forward to having a good race with these guys. We have a very strong package and I think we stand in good stead for a competitive race."

 

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