Difficult qualifying session for McLaren

LEWIS HAMILTONMP4-24-05 P3 programme 16 laps 1m21.346s (7th)A busy morning session for Lewis. He completed an initial run on primes (five laps/1m22.865s best) to evaluate overnight changes to the car. Switching to options, he completed a one-lap 1m21.680s, which he felt was very close to the limit before reeling off a final three-lap run (1m21.346s). “We had a much better feeling on the softer tyre this morning,” he said, “but it is still difficult to stop the car understeering through the longer corners like Turns Three and Nine.”

QualifyingQ1 1m20.991s (10th)

Q2 1m21.130s (14th overall)

Q3 -Lewis completed a banker lap of 1m21.244s on the option: “It wasn’t a bad lap,” he admitted, “but there was still too much understeer through Three and Nine.” A second Q1 lap, again on options, yielded a 1m20.991s, putting him 10th overall and graduating him through to Q2. Into the second session, Lewis ran an opening lap on used options to set a 1m21.130s before running again to record 1m20.805s – unfortunately it was not quite close enough and he finished the session in 14th.“We did the best we could today,” he said afterwards. “My lap was not fantastic but the car was not fast enough either – I didn’t have the grip to go any faster. However, it will be quite a long and tough race for everyone tomorrow and we’ll try and make up as many places as possible and hope to score some points. We’ll learn from this, keep pushing and do better in the future.”

HEIKKI KOVALAINENMP4-24-02 P3 programme 15 laps 1m21.519s (11th)Heikki was also encouraged by the changes made to MP4-24, although he noted that the car didn’t feel substantially different to yesterday. Nonetheless, he finished the session 11th overall, completing two runs (five laps/1m23.598s on primes; five laps/1m21.519s on options).

QualifyingQ1 1m21.675s (18th overall)

Q2 -

Q3 -A first run on primes (three laps, 1m23.095s) set Heikki up well for the sharp end of Q1, but his 1m21.675s lap on the option tyre was not enough to see him through into the second session. He lines up 18th for tomorrow’s race.“This was the first time this year that I didn’t reach Q2,” said a disappointed Heikki afterwards. “Into the last sector, Nick was a little bit ahead of me but I don’t think he lost me a lot of time. It’s been quite a difficult weekend: I just couldn’t find any grip today – that’s why the laptime was too slow.”

MARTIN WHITMARSH – team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes“We knew in advance that this was going to be a particularly difficult circuit for us and today proved that. Let’s not forget that only eight weeks ago we were more than 2.5s off the pace – during qualifying today, Lewis was only three tenths off second place in Q1 and eight tenths off the front in Q2. While that’s still disappointing, it’s nonetheless a significant step up from where we were back in early March – and at a track that we knew would challenge the deficiencies in our car. However, the first four races have demonstrated that we have two very determined racing drivers in our team: they have battled against the odds in the first four races and we have every faith that they will make the most of tomorrow as well.”

NORBERT HAUG – vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport“Lewis in 14th and Heikki in 18th place is obviously a very disappointing result today. On the positive side, we closed the gap to the quickest car from 2.5s per lap at the last test two months ago before the season stared when we were dead last, to a little less than one second today. We knew that the fast corners of this circuit would highlight the shortcomings of MP4-24, which is mainly a lack of overall downforce. It took us two months to cut our deficit in half – our aim now has to be to be fighting for race wins within the next two months.”

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