Fourth and sixth for McLaren

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The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Team can look back satisfied to the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying session. Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow's race from 4th postion, while team mate Heikki Kovalainen will be 6th on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton:
P3 programme
1m21.009s (19 laps, 1st)

Lewis completed three runs this morning. Starting on Prime tyres, he ran a four-lap stint (1m22.280s fastest time) to measure the changes made to the car overnight. He declared himself more satisfied with the car’s rear-end and completed two further runs – a single lap of 1m22.074s (the run was cut short following Adrian Sutil’s crash into the tyre barrier) and a five-lap run on the Option (1m21.009s). He finished the session fastest overall.

Q1 1m20.842s (2nd)
Q2 1m20.465s (2nd)
Q3 1m21.839s (4th overall)

With a change in weather conditions making the circuit trickier to drive, both drivers struggled for pace this afternoon. Lewis ran three laps on the Prime before switching to Options and setting a 1m20.842s, second fastest. He completed two single-lap runs on Options (1m21.064s and 1m20.465s) in Q2 to again finish second. Into Q2, despite some confusion over the overall positions following a brief failure of the timing system, he set a 1m21.839s to line up fourth, on the dirty side of the track, for tomorrow’s race.

“It was so hard out there this afternoon,” said Lewis. “Maybe we could have been closer to the front because my final lap wasn’t a great one, but fourth is a good position from which to start tomorrow’s race. We’re still not quick enough and need to keep pushing but, nonetheless, it feels great to be back up there competing for the first few rows on the grid.

“I have a few cars to try and boost past so I hope there’s some good grip on my side of the grid – it would be fantastic to get the lead into the first corner.

“Finally, I want to send my best wishes to Felipe. It looked quite a big crash so I just hope he’s okay.”

Heikki Kovalainen:
P3 programme
1m21.655s (20 laps, 4th)

Three runs for Heikki too this morning. Two four-lappers on Primes (1m22.833s and 1m22.414s bests) and a final run on Options (four laps, 1m21.655s. Like Lewis, Heikki declared himself satisfied with the changes made to MP4-24 overnight. He ended the session fourth overall.

Q1 1m21.750s (15th)
Q2 1m20.807s (7th)
Q3 1m22.095s (6th overall)

Again struggling with grip in Q1, Heikki ran first on Primes (1m22.340s) and then Options (1m21.750s) to finish 15th. He completed two runs on Options (1m21.428s and 1m20.807s) in Q2 to comfortably graduate into Q3. For the final session, Heikki’s best lap placed him sixth overall, on Options, with a 1m22.533s.

Heikki said: “It was harder to find grip on the track this afternoon, and the car was sliding around quite a bit. It was better on heavier tanks, but it was still difficult to get enough heat into the tyres. At one point, I overcooked them – it was tricky to get the right balance, so sixth was the best I could do today.

“The most encouraging thing about today is that we’re much closer to the front. With the same upgrades as Lewis, we’ve made great progress, and it shows the incredible efforts of everybody in the team. I don’t know if any other team in the paddock could have made such a big step. We should all be encouraged by that – but the work starts again to get us back to the very front.

“I really hope that Felipe is okay. I really hope he isn’t injured as it reminds me of my accident in Barcelona last year.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “Both Lewis and Heikki drove solid laps in Q3, and the result was our best overall qualifying performance of the year so far. We believe we have a good race strategy, and we should therefore be competitive tomorrow. Our goal is to have a car, or ideally cars plural, in podium positions by flag-fall – and that looks possible.

“Felipe’s accident was very unpleasant to watch on the TV monitors, and we all very much hope that he’s sustained only minor injuries from which he’ll make a full and fast recovery.”

Norbert Haug, Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “First and foremost, our thoughts are with Felipe Massa who suffered a terrible accident in Q2, which was beyond his control. Hopefully he will recover soon.

“After such a shocking accident, it is difficult to go back to evaluating the performance immediately after qualifying, which turned out to be due to a malfunctioning timing system – more of a guessing session.

“But Lewis and Heikki did great laps and the team has made big steps forward during the last month. Starting from the second and third rows – even if both our drivers will be positioned on the less grippy side – is a good basis for tomorrow’s race. I obviously hope that Lewis and Heikki will be able to ‘do a Nurburgring’ on their colleagues ahead of them by making up, in the best case, respectively three or five places to the first corner.”