McLaren narrowly missed out on their target of locking out the second row in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton will start the race in Barcelona from third, but Jenson Button could only managed fifth place.
Hamilton thinks that third place is the best he could have realistically hoped for, and thinks that he is still in a good position for the race: “We've been very competitive this weekend, and we've brought a strong package out here with us; but, clearly, Red Bull has made a very good step forward too, and it looks like their car is slightly more aerodynamically efficient than ours is.
“I'm still very motivated for tomorrow though. As ever, Sunday is a different story, and we generally enjoy better pace in the race than we do in qualifying. And let's hope our reliability can top theirs tomorrow, too.
“Anyway, third on the grid is almost as good as pole position here, if not a little bit better: it's a long way down to the first corner, and you can get a good draft and pass people. So I'm hoping to get a decent start, make good progress early on, and then drive a strong but straightforward race in which I'm able to do something good and get up near the front.
“Looking further ahead, we've got a fantastic team behind us, and we know that the car has a great deal of potential. We just need to try and close that gap as quickly as possible.”
Button only narrowly missed out on starting alongside his teammate, but is satisfied with fifth place: “We struggled a bit this morning, and yesterday we didn't think we'd be where we are right now, so, all in all, this afternoon wasn't too bad. On my final lap in Q3, I ran over one of the green sections of Astroturf; there wasn't much grip there, so I got wheelspin and hit the rev limiter, which lost me a bit of time.
“Even so, I'm fifth and I'm satisfied with that. Okay, I'd rather be a bit further up, and I think I probably could have been, but it's not a bad place to start. I still I think the Red Bulls are going to be pretty tough to beat tomorrow, though.
“We came here hoping to close the gap, but instead it's gone slightly in the other direction, which is surprising. So we've still got a lot of work to do, but I know that everyone in the team will be digging as deep as they possibly can to make that extra effort, and that we'll get there.
“For tomorrow, if we're good off the line, we might be able to pass some cars into Turn One. It's a bit more difficult for me, but there's definitely a possibility for Lewis. And our race pace is usually better than our qualifying speed, so I'm still extremely hopeful for another good showing tomorrow. If all goes well, I hope to be able to maintain my position at the head of the drivers' world championship points standings – and hopefully Lewis and I will score heavily enough to keep Vodafone McLaren Mercedes at the top of the constructors' world championship table, too.”
Martin Whitmarsh praised his drivers after their qualifying performances, and thinks that the team should be closer to Red Bull when it comes to race pace. “Both Lewis and Jenson drove really well in qualifying here in Barcelona, and the result was an uneventful session for us. Ideally, we'd been aiming to sew up the second row, but in the end we narrowly failed to achieve that, finishing up third and fifth.
“Even so, we're in a strong position from which to launch an ambitious race effort tomorrow. We expect to be closer to the Red Bulls on race pace than we were today – and, spearheaded by the proven ability of our two world champion drivers to deliver superbly gritty race performances under pressure, we'll be pushing as hard as ever to bag as many world championship points as possible tomorrow.”