Lewis Hamilton has optimistically predicted that McLaren have a good chance of securing their first one-two finish of 2011 at tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix after he qualified second for the race, one place ahead of team-mate Jenson Button.
For this to happen, the McLaren duo will have to beat Sebastian Vettel, who took pole today in Monza by over half a second. However, Hamilton thinks that his team should be able to compete with Red Bull tomorrow.
“Clearly, we're very competitive – Jenson and I both qualified in the top three – but Seb was mega-quick today,” said the 2008 world champion. “In Q1 and Q2 we were pretty close to him, but he pulled out another half-second in Q3. It was an extremely good lap.
“Still, I'm happy to be starting on the front row – after Spa it gives me another opportunity to be right up there in the race and to bag a lot of points. Above all, I want to finish, of course; but I reckon I can get a good start from where I am, and, if there's an chance to get into the lead, I'll take it.”
“We've improved all weekend, and second and third is a good result for the team. In fact, we have a good chance to get our first one-two of 2011 tomorrow – I'm optimistic.”
Button seemed to be on a good lap in the closing stages of qualifying today, but opted to dive into the pit lane at the end rather than complete that second flying lap. The 2009 world champion also expects McLaren to be competitive tomorrow.
“I was pretty happy with my first run in Q3, but I thought I'd be able to squeeze another tenth or so out of my final run,” explained Button. “But, on my second attempt, I went a tenth down in the first sector and never really caught that up for the remainder of the lap, so I aborted it.
“Third is usually a pretty good place to start – it's on the clean side of the track – but around here it can be pretty tough to find a way past the first two cars on the run down to the first corner. But we're focused on tomorrow, the team is in a good position, and we can definitely score some good points.
“I think we've correctly chosen the appropriate drag and downforce levels, and the right gearing too, so we should be happy with the work we've done so far this weekend.
“I don't think Red Bull will have it all their own way tomorrow. I think we'll be in the mix, which is what the fans want to see.”
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh shared the expectation of many fans who believed that Vettel could be beaten to pole here in Monza, and is slightly disappointed that his drivers sit only second and third on the grid. However, he has a lot of faith in his drivers talents, a believes that either of them could win tomorrow.
“It probably sounds a bit churlish for me to say that we're a little disappointed today – because second and third is a pretty decent result when all's said and done – but our car is performing very well here and it would have been nice if we could have bagged pole position,” he said.
“Lewis and Jenson had each posted a good, fast lap in Q3 – but, in their efforts to improve, pushing to the limit, they both made small mistakes in the first half of their laps, losing time in the process. We therefore elected to abort both their laps.
“So second and third it was, and second and third it is. As I say, pole position would have added the icing on the cake, but the reality is that, in P2 and P3, Lewis and Jenson are both very well placed to win tomorrow's race.
“They're both great racers, so that's what they'll both be aiming to do.”