Hamilton cool starting German Grand Prix from pole
AFP · 20 Jul 2008, 11:16
Published: 20 Jul 2008 11:16 GMT+02:00
Hamilton said he had set his sights on heading home a perfect finish for McLaren after capturing a last-gasp pole position at Hockenheim where he reigned supreme in practice and qualifying.
The 23-year-old left it until the final seconds of qualifying to push Brazilian Felipe Massa off the top spot and then said he saw no reason why he and McLaren team-mate Finn Heikki Kovalainen cannot dominate the race.
“It has been a good day,” said Hamilton on Saturday. “I feel pretty chilled and happy with what we’ve done, but today is not where you win points, tomorrow is. And Heikki and I will do everything we can to get a 1-2.”
Hamilton also took time out to rubbish rumours that he is poised to leave McLaren and join Ferrari, speculation having intensified after his father and manager Anthony Hamilton was seen chatting to Ferrari staff during a relaxed team barbecue.
“I am staying here and I have always said that, always,” said Hamilton.
Asked about his qualifying, he said his first run in the pole-position shootout had been below par because he lifted off coming into the stadium section for yellow flags brought out when Kovalainen ran off the track.
“I was quite happy with my final lap,” he said. “It went very smoothly. The first Q3 lap I had was looking to be a good lap, but they put the flags out at Turn 12. I think Heikki ran a bit wide. I had to be careful not to get a penalty, so I gave a big lift.
“I know I had it in me and knew we had the pace. I could have gone a bit quicker if we needed to, so it was pretty cool.”
Developments to the MP4-23 car seem to have given McLaren the edge over Ferrari, but Hamilton believes there is little to choose between the two main championship rivals.
“I am surprised to see how close it is between all the teams. It is a tenth here and there. I feel we have the pace, so we will keep pushing and keep moving forward.”
He added that after years of racing in Europe, including Germany, he felt very comfortable at the Hockenheimring in front of hordes of Mercedes-Benz fans in the 120,000 crowd.
“It is quite cool coming here to Germany,” he said. “I have had some great races in Germany, not just here but at the Nurburgring as well. The atmosphere has always been great.
“This weekend I have been surprised to see how many people are here on the Saturday. Coming into the track it is quite relaxed, but when you do get in, especially when you drive into the stadium, it is like being in a football arena.”
Massa said he hadn’t given up hope of a victory. “It was tough for sure, very tight. I don’t know how much fuel everyone has, but if you look at the (testing) session last week it was very tight in terms of lap times, this morning as well,” said the Brazilian.
“I think it is pretty competitive between Ferrari and McLaren. The race will be a big competition between all four cars. For sure that is very exciting. We need to do everything right tomorrow in the race.”