F1 2011 Monaco Grand Prix: Hamilton’s qualifying surprise

FORMULA 1 race ace Lewis Hamilton is looking to surprise his rivals in qualifying for the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver was second fastest in Thursday’s second practice session around the famous barrier-lined Monte Carlo street circuit.

The Herts F1 star was only beaten for pace by Fernando Alonso, but qualifying will be very close on Saturday with Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes GP all battling for pole position on the C�te d’Azur.

Organisers of F1’s most glamorous race have wisely decided not to place the DRS zone in the tunnel. For this weekend’s race, it will be activated just before Rascasse and deployed along the pits straight.

Apart from the tunnel, its use is still unrestricted in qualifying, so will prove quite beneficial up the hill towards Casino.

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However, Hamilton has pinpointed a few areas where he can use his KERS booster to good effect to surprise his main challengers in the quest for pole around a tight and twisty circuit where overtaking is difficult.

Of the MP4-26’s performance aids, Hamilton said: “You quickly get used to DRS and KERS Hybrid, but you’re only really on it for the pit straight and up the hill; you tend not to use it through the slower sections.

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“Maybe I’ll find a few more places to use it for qualifying – but I’ll keep that in my pocket!”

Jenson Button, Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate, added: “DRS and KERS Hybrid both work around here. I have no issues about deploying DRS, but I’m happy we can’t use it in the tunnel; the FIA definitely made the right decision there.

“I think we’ve also worked out where to best use KERS Hybrid.”

Stevenage-born Hamilton won the Monaco GP in his 2008 championship-winning season and he loves the place.

Speaking after free practice, he said: “It’s fantastic out there: I love the track, I love the weather. It’s a beautiful place to be.

“I’m enjoying every lap I drive – and I’ve got the best view of the whole of Monaco when I’m in the car.

“I’m very happy to be here – I’m really pleased with the balance of the car and I kept out of trouble, but it’s going to be close here.”

Barely containing his excitement, Lewis added: “I just love driving the car here – it’s the best thing I’ve ever done!

“It’s so exciting – you can’t afford to make mistakes, the car feels amazing when you’re jumping from kerb to kerb, and there’s no room for error.

“I want to win this grand prix!”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren’s team principal, expects qualifying to be tight with just fractions of a second separating the top four teams.

He said: “While it’s encouraging to see both cars towards the top of the time-sheets, we’re under no illusions that this will be anything other than an extremely closely fought weekend.

“It’s clear that Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and Mercedes GP all look very strong – and that bodes well for a very tight battle for qualifying and an extremely entertaining race on Sunday.”

Qualifying takes place from 1pm BST on Saturday, with the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix starting at 1pm on Sunday.

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