LEWIS Hamilton bids for his first Formula 1 victory of the year in Sunday’s controversial 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old F1 driver from Hertfordshire will start the race from the front row alongside Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull’s reigning world champion pipped Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star Hamilton to pole position in qualifying today (Saturday) around the Bahrain International Circuit.
Mark Webber lines up on the second row for Red Bull with McLaren’s Jenson Button fourth on the grid, ahead of Chinese GP winner Nico Rosberg for Mercedes.
Hamilton is looking to convert his second place on the grid into victory in the grand prix itself, having claimed podiums from the season’s opening three races.
“Fingers crossed for tomorrow: both Red Bull drivers will be very hard to beat in the race, but we’re less than a tenth behind on race pace,” said the Hertfordshire-born motor racer.
“The start could be key – we’ve had good launches all season so I expect us to be able to challenge Seb [Vettel] down to Turn One.”
McLaren’s 2008 F1 world champion was pleased with his performance today (Saturday), maintaining his excellent qualifying record so far this year.
He said: “I’m very happy with how qualifying went and the job the team has done so far this weekend.
“I’ve put the car on the front row at every race this year, and I feel this was one of my best qualifying performances so far.
“Both my laps in Q3 were very good and I feel I got everything out of the car.”
Hamilton added: “This season is shaping up to be very interesting: it’s anyone’s for the taking, at the moment.”
McLaren colleague Button said: “We’d expected the Red Bulls to be very quick in qualifying, so to be close to them is a positive.
“A nice surprise is that we’re ahead of Nico [Rosberg] who was on pole just a week ago.
“A good launch tomorrow will be very important – both Lewis and I will be starting on the dirty side of the grid, which makes things more difficult, so we’ll need to get it right. Tyre management will be crucial, too.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh is looking for one of his drivers to take the Bahrain chequered flag.
He said: “The race will inevitably be a physically challenging one for all the drivers, as is always the case in hot climates such as Bahrain’s, but we’ve got two tough racers in Lewis and Jenson and our intention is to go for the win.”
Despite political unrest in the island state and violent protests, grand prix organisers insist the race will go ahead.
The 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix is due to start at 1pm BST on Sunday.