Although they failed to qualify either car on the front row in Brazil, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh is confident that both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton can challenge for victory at Interlagos tomorrow.
Whitmarsh had some tentative suggestions as to why his two drivers could not challenge Red Bull for pole position today, but praised both of them of their efforts, and looked towards what could be a very unpredictable race tomorrow.
“Perhaps we didn't quite get the best out of the Option tyre in Q3 this afternoon – it could have been a tyre pressure issue although we're not yet sure about that – but we still put both our cars on the second row which is a pretty decent result,” he said. “Jenson nailed a particularly impressive lap to end up in third place – his best qualifying performance ever at Interlagos.
“Lewis delivered a very good lap too, just two-tenths shy of Jenson's best. He experimented with driving two flying laps in Q3 – a fast-ish one followed by a really hot one in an attempt to get more out of the Option – but in the event it didn't appear to confer any benefit over the conventional one-flying-lap approach adopted by Jenson.
“Looking forward to tomorrow, it may well rain – and, if it does, the race will surely be incident-packed and therefore unpredictable. We geared both our cars with the probability of a wet race in mind, in fact.
“But, rain or no rain, Jenson and Lewis are both hungry to notch up Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' seventh victory of the season, and we're confident that both their race cars will be fully competitive on the day.”
Button was delighted to end his run of poor qualifying results in Brazil today, and agrees that tomorrow’s race should be exciting.
“All in all, Q2 was a bit nerve-wracking for me – but enjoyable in the end because I haven't managed to get past Q2 here in Brazil since 2005!” exclaimed the 2009 champion.
“So, as I say, it was satisfying to get into the top 10. In Q3, the car was working well too: balance-wise, I think the car was as good as we were going to get it.
“My quick lap was pretty ragged. I was pretty aggressive on the throttle, which you have to be to be fast around here. That's not normally my style, but it was definitely quick and in fact I crossed the line thinking I'd be farther up the grid than I eventually was. But that was because the two guys in front of me did a great job too.
“If it rains here tomorrow, as we're told it may well do, then it'll almost certainly pour down – and that's bound to make things very tricky. Still, this place lends itself to good overtaking – over the years there have been some great moves into Turns One and Four for example – so I think everything is well set for Formula 1 to put on a fantastic show tomorrow.”
Hamilton was impressed by his team-mate’s pace today, and says that he finds it encouraging. “Jenson was massively quick today,” he acknowledged. “I ended up a couple of tenths away from him, so clearly I could have gone a bit faster, but the fact is that although I didn't make any mistakes on my best lap I just wasn't quite quick enough on the day. While that's inevitably a little disappointing for me personally, Jenson's pace is very encouraging for the team. We have reason to be optimistic about tomorrow too: we're both on the second row, and we can definitely mount a strong challenge from there.
“I don't think we're quite there in terms of race pace in the dry, but hopefully we'll be there if it's wet. Whatever happens though, it's going to be a tough, long race; and if the weather is wet or changeable, as predicted, then it's going to be very interesting indeed.
“Interlagos is a place that makes you feel inspired as a racing driver: it's Ayrton Senna's homeground, and the Brazilian fans are unbelievably passionate. I've started fourth here a few times before [in 2008 and 2010], so I hope four is a good number for me. Let's hope we can turn it into something even better tomorrow!”