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April 13th, 2012
Lewis Hamilton is upbeat about the long-run pace of his McLaren, which he hopes will make him a contender for victory in China despite a five-place grid penalty.
The McLaren driver discovered yesterday that he would be hit with the grid drop after the team discovered a cracked component in the gearbox, forcing them to change it before Saturday morning.
But Hamilton, who ended morning practice fastest and was second in the afternoon session, is confident that his race pace is strong enough to be a factor.
“The longer runs look competitive,” said Hamilton. “It’s the race I’m focusing on a little bit more than qualifying compared to the other races and we are improving consistency and the way we look after the tyres.
“The car is looking very good. We have a few improvements to make to the balance but hopefully we will be there or thereabouts.
“We had a good couple of sessions today so I will try and improve the balance a bit and also see if I can try and find some time elsewhere on the track.”
Despite focusing on the race, Hamilton did not discount having a run at a third consecutive pole position tomorrow even though he knows that he will end up being relegated to sixth place.
“The car feels quite good but the others seem like they have made a good step as well like the Red Bulls and the Mercedes,” said Hamilton. “We will keep on pushing and I hope we can be as high as possible especially when we have a bit of a penalty to take.”
Jenson Button was less positive than his McLaren team-mate after a difficult day.
He struggled with tyre temperatures and car balance and admitted that he needs to make some progress overnight.
“It wasn’t a great day but there’s still a lot of information to look at [to understand] the reason why we couldn’t get a good balance today,” said the 2009 world champion.
“The car is obviously working, we’ve just got to get it in the right area to get the tyres working, which Lewis is doing very well. The pace is in the car, we’ve just got to extract it.”