F1 2011 Italian Grand Prix: Hamilton happy with car ahead of Monza qualifying
FORMULA 1 star Lewis Hamilton is happy with his McLaren’s performance ahead of 2011 Italian Grand Prix qualifying at Monza.
"Jenson and I are both running the same wing set-up as each other, and I feel really happy with it."
The Herts-born Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 driver was quickest around the famous Monza circuit in first practice this morning (Friday).
He was nearly a second faster than McLaren colleague Jenson Button after clocking a lap of 1m 23.865s.
Reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel topped the afternoon timesheets for Red Bull, with Hamilton just 0.036s slower with a 1m 24.046s.
The 26-year-old from Hertfordshire was happy with today’s two track sessions ahead of Saturday’s all-important qualifying.
“We spent today working on wing set-ups – it looked like some teams may have been running lower downforce than us – but once we used DRS we were looking pretty good,” said the former Stevenage schoolboy.
“It’s interesting to see the different downforce levels – some teams are faster along the straights – but we’re faster through the middle sector.
“It’s always a compromise, but our long-run pace doesn’t look at all bad.”
Tewin’s F1 hero was encouraged by his performance in relation to closest rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.
He added: “We were pretty strong in both sessions and, on heavier fuel, I think we’re slightly stronger than the Ferraris.
“At the end of P2, the Red Bulls were looking pretty strong, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t on the same fuel load as us, which is encouraging.
“Jenson and I are both running the same wing set-up as each other, and I feel really happy with it.
“We’ll make some small changes overnight, but I think we can challenge the Red Bulls this weekend.
Recent Italian Grand Prix winners
2006: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2007: Fernando Alonso (McLaren)
2008: Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso)
2009: Rubens Barrichello (Brawn)
2010: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
“The car is going really well, and we’re continuing to make small improvements, but it’s going to be a hard race.”
Although Button was second quickest in P1, he was down in seventh place in second practice and wasn’t as satisfied as Hamilton with today’s running.
The 2009 world champion said: “Some of the things we tried on my car throughout the day worked better than others, so we’re not really where I feel we ought to be yet, and we haven’t yet determined what downforce level to run.
“I don’t yet feel totally at one with the car, but we’re working on it.
“In fact, I think there’s going to be quite a lot of data to look over tonight before we choose a direction for the rest of the weekend.”
It’s difficult to get the set-up perfect at Monza, with its long straights and the famous Lesmo and Parabolica turns, as McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh pointed out after practice.
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal said: “Monza is always a very challenging circuit: obviously, you want to be as fast as you possibly can along the straights, but it’s actually a very delicate trade-off between drag and downforce through the corners.
“You don’t want to damage the tyres too much by running too little wing and allowing the car to slide excessively – but if you run too much, you risk struggling along the straights.
“To make it even harder, we need to further balance the set-up for an end-of-straight speed with and without DRS, and, furthermore, to optimise the car for more extensive use of DRS during qualifying.
“Consequently, today was very much about analysing our downforce levels to ensure that both Lewis and Jenson felt comfortable with the car, and that our engineers were happy with our pace.
“There’s still some more work to be done, but we’re encouraged by our initial pace today [Friday] and feel confident that we can make good progress before tomorrow’s sessions.”
Whitmarsh added: “Lewis was particularly happy with his car’s balance today, Jenson perhaps a little less so.
“Nonetheless, we’re comfortable with both drivers’ pace and we’re looking forward to another encouragingly constructive day tomorrow.”
Final practice takes place from 10am to 11am on Saturday, with qualifying starting at 1pm.
* To take a lap of the Monza circuit in Italy, click on the video with commentary from Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ principal race engineer.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.