McLaren drivers expecting ultra-close qualifying
5 October 2012 – McLaren finished Friday second and seventh quickest at Suzuka, but both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are suspected to have carried significant fuel loads. Heading into Saturday’s qualifying session, for which the latter has a five-place gearbox change penalty, both men forecast a tightly-contested battle.
“I have the coolest job - Suzuka is such a phenomenal circuit!” began Hamilton, who a week ago confirmed that he is switching to Mercedes-Benz next year. “The first lap out of the pits felt great, but you need to be careful - at Spoon we saw a few people making mistakes today. If you put a wheel on the dirt, it’s very easy to lose the car.
“As always, we’ll be fine-tuning the car tonight ahead of tomorrow’s sessions, but it looks very close between ourselves and Red Bull. I feel comfortable with our car – it’s the best that it’s ever been around here – and I think I could have matched Mark (Webber)’s fastest time with an optimal lap. It’s going to be very close in qualifying.”
Button won the Japanese Grand Prix last year, confirming what was his first all-dry Grand Prix victory and the 12th of his 14 Formula 1 wins to date.
“I didn’t do too many laps in FP2; the balance wasn’t quite right and we knew we couldn’t go back on the changes we’d made until after the session, so there wasn’t any point doing too much running,” the Frome driver explained.
“Still, we know how to dial the car in for FP3 tomorrow and that’s the important thing. The car felt good this morning, so we’ll go back to something similar with just a few detail changes. Overall, the car is working well here. Qualifying will be very competitive, but I think we’ll be up there.”
By virtue of his penalty, Button’s best possible grid position will be sixth.