Lewis Hamilton is targeting a second successive pole position after topping the timesheets in both Friday practice sessions in Malaysia. The McLaren driver was decidedly glum after finishing third in Melbourne but was back on form today, leading Michael Schumacher in this afternoon's session.
Although he was happy with the car, Hamilton feels there are improvements still to be made but feels the MP4-27 is quick enough to challenge for a place on the front row tomorrow.
“It's been a good day for me. We've made a few changes to the balance of the car since the last race and I'm much happier – but we'll still be making changes to improve our long-run pace, which can always be better.”
“I'm working as hard as I can to have as good a qualifying set-up as my race set-up and I think we've got a bit more of an understanding of how the car works on heavy fuel. I went wide a couple of times on my long run in P2, and looking after the tyres will be a tough call in the race – so it's all about finding the right balance.”
“Around here, overtaking will be a little more possible than in Melbourne. Nevertheless, starting from the front will still be the best position for the race, and that's what I'll be going for tomorrow. We've got to keep pushing, stay hydrated and remain focused – there's a lot of hard work ahead.”
Teammate Jenson Button had a mixed day with an oil leak bringing his morning to an early end but he bounced back to finish third fastest in the afternoon. The championship leader expects tyre degradation to play a key role this weekend but feels McLaren are on top of the issue.
“The morning was a little frustrating: we had an oil leak which cut my session short, but it didn't really matter as the track was still dirty. In the afternoon, I did some positive running on both tyre compounds – I think we have a good understanding of the tyre. But it's going to be tough on both compounds around here with all the humidity and the heat. I think the race will be tough for all of us – unless the circuit improves a great deal, there's going to be quite a few stops on Sunday!
“We want a good race car, but the aim for tomorrow is pole – you make your life a lot easier if you start from pole position, so we're putting a lot of work into single-lap performance.”
Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is expecting another close qualifying session tomorrow and doesn't think the team's key rivals have shown their hand yet.
“I think Mercedes AMG look very strong and I don't think we've seen the best of Red Bull Racing just yet – as usual, we expect them to be competitive. However, we weren't too displeased with today's running – relative performance doesn't look too different from what we saw in Melbourne.
“We feel reasonably competitive – our car seems to respond well to changes and it's predictable, too. Both Jenson and Lewis found the car to be generally consistent despite the gusty conditions, but Sepang is a much more challenging circuit than Albert Park so we'll carry on working to improve the balance for qualifying tomorrow.
“I think we're in for an exciting championship – a number of teams look extremely competitive and we're going to have another close race this weekend.”