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Lewis Hamilton Q&A: McLaren not in pole contention 22 Jul 2011

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 22 July 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 22 July 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 22 July 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 22 July 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 22 July 2011

McLaren’s team principal Martin Whitmarsh pointed out recently that Lewis Hamilton has never really had to experience difficult times in his Formula One career before. This year is different and suddenly Hamilton is learning that all he can really do is take things one race at a time. That’s certainly the approach he is taking at the Nurburgring this weekend, where the MP4-26’s pace is again far from certain…

Q: Lewis, how was your day today here?
Lewis Hamilton:
It was a very productive day for us, we went through all the running plans that we had. In the first session we had a few setbacks, but in the second session we were able to recover from this. I think our race pace is closer to the front than it was at the last race. I think we are only two or three-tenths off the Ferraris. This is basically due to the engine mode that we chose. Unfortunately we cannot go any faster through the corners, as the car is just sliding, and we need to change the set-up to find some more downforce somewhere. And that is the reason why Jenson (Button) and I won’t be able to be as quick as the Ferraris or Red Bulls. We have made some improvements this weekend, mostly because we had some small updates, and we just need to go in that direction.

Q: So it looks very much then that McLaren will not be able to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull for pole position tomorrow?
LH:
It doesn’t look like we are able to challenge them for pole, but we also don’t know on which level of fuel load they are. We might be pleasantly surprised tomorrow to find out that we are heavier than others, and that again brings us closer, but usually that is not the case. We assume that we are just behind them. Nevertheless, the race is a totally different thing. We see that both Ferrari and Red Bull are extremely quick, but then anything can happen in the race. And who knows if it is going to rain? During the race that is really when we can make the most damage to the leading teams, and can possibly close the gap with the race mode. Also not to forget the changing conditions compared to the other races, as it is quite cool here, and that might give us at least a chance to challenge one of the Ferraris, or even one of the Red Bulls.

Q: Ferrari seem to have kept the momentum from Silverstone - and are probably thinking that they are can push you from P2 in the constructors’ championship…
LH:
Well, they might have had some advantage in Silverstone but coming here I am pretty sure that we can deliver the right answer. I am convinced that we have returned to the performance we had - at least I hope so. So I am looking forward to a positive weekend.

Q: There are six German drivers on the grid - are you prepared to spoil the party on Sunday? Do you like to come here?
LH:
I like the track, no matter what the weather conditions. It’s almost like back home at Silverstone. And the facilities are awesome for the fans - when you see it in the night you think about a spaceship landing in the boonies. Funny to say, but I seem to get a lot of punctures here. 2007 I had a puncture; in 2009 I had a puncture - so let’s see what this weekend has in the wings for me, but please no more punctures. I promise we will have a much better result that way! (laughs)

Q: How much of a relief is it to go back to the Valencia rules?
LH:
Well, I would not call it a relief because I think that we would have caught up and would have been able to tie in with our performance we had before. Sure, it is always a bit difficult if you work in a certain direction and then you have to turn around and head in another, but our guys here are such top professionals that they can deal with the situation. But of course things are easier when you can proceed with your original programme.

Q: How is McLaren’s team spirit with regards to rising to the challenge and closing the gap to the front-runners?
LH:
I have faith in my team, and that with the engineers with their upcoming designs and development we will be able to close that gap. McLaren has always been known as the best team for being able to turn things around and we still believe in that very much. At some stage I am sure that we will be able to close the gap, and having said that, there is a gap. Ferrari has been able to close that gap to Red Bull, and that means that they have passed us. And that again doesn’t mean that it is anywhere near over yet.

Q: The last two races were something of a drought for you in terms of points. Do you still believe you are in the battle for this year’s championship?
LH:
To be honest, I am not looking at the championship, I am looking at this weekend, looking to win this race. And if you win this race things would look completely different again. So let’s wait and see how it will develop - and please no punctures!

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