McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button expect the cars behind to push them hard for victory in tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix. The British duo locked out the front row for the second successive race but they didn't enjoy the same comfort zone as in Melbourne with the top eight covered by just four tenths of a second.
Hamilton claimed pole position despite a mistake at turn 15 on his hot lap and the 27 year old is concentrating on a good start as he looks to convert pole into victory this time.
“Qualifying is an intense experience and, as drivers, we all put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves, but it's probably the part of the race weekend I most enjoy. On my quickest lap in Q3, I lost a little time in the final corner – maybe a tenth and a half – so it's massively encouraging to still be in the position I'm in. It's great for the team to have another one-two, too: that's a huge achievement from everybody, but we just need to make sure we keep pushing because the guys behind us won't give up.”
““Tomorrow, there's a long haul down to Turn One, but I'll be making sure to get a good launch and stay ahead cleanly. Anyway, the key will be to look after your tyres in the race – they'll have a tough time, especially on 150kg of fuel. But we've hopefully got a car that has better race pace than it does qualifying pace. It's been a good weekend for the team so far, but we'll keep pushing massively for another strong result tomorrow.”
As in Melbourne, Button had no answer for his teammate in qualifying and will have to come from behind to extend his championship lead. Button feels the race winner could come from any of the top four teams but hopes McLaren's strong long run pace will prevail.
“Qualifying has been pretty good to me in the last two races. We've worked well as a team, and it's always nice when your engineer cues up on the radio at the end of Q3 and you can hear all the mechanics in the background cheering. I was pretty happy with my quick lap but it'll be a long, hot afternoon tomorrow so I'll be working hard to ensure I'm properly prepared and hydrated for the race.”
“This place is so physically tough – not just on the cars and drivers, but it's tough on the mechanics too – they're wearing fireproof racesuits during the pitstops, which people often forget, so hopefully they're fit and ready for some strong pitstops tomorrow. For the strategists too, the heat and humidity are so high that you really don't know how the tyres will work and what strategies will best play out in the race. We've really got to be on your toes.”
“Anyway, the most important thing is that we're on the front row. It's a long race tomorrow – I think anybody in the top four has a chance of winning this race, but our long-run pace in practice was reasonably consistent and I think we've got a lot of confidence as a team in what we're doing.”
Button grabbed the advantage from Hamilton off the line in Australia and team principal Martin Whitmarsh has stressed that the two are free to race on the long run down to turn one tomorrow.
“Today was very close and very tough. Lewis did a fantastic first lap in Q3 and Jenson pulled it out of the bag at the very end of the session – both drivers did a fantastic job under huge pressure.
“Lewis could probably have found another tenth on his fastest run, but he wasn't going to take any risks at the end. Jenson and Lewis are free to race into the first corner. After last weekend, I'm sure that Lewis will want to come out of the first corner in the lead, but it's a long and difficult race ahead of both of them tomorrow.
“I'm proud of every person in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team – the front row is a good place to be, but the odds are very finely stacked: we'll have a fight on our hands tomorrow, that's for sure.”