Lewis Hamilton was the pacesetter in FP1, racing in mixed conditions, and was second in FP2, 0.172 seconds down on Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes. On the other hand Jenson Button finished 8th in the morning and improved slightly to 6th in the afternoon.
McLaren and Lewis have already confirmed that they will have to change the gearbox on car No.4 on Saturday morning which will result in a five-place grid penalty for Lewis. So, that has left only Jenson to head McLaren’s challenge for pole position in qualifying.
But Jenson didn’t have the best of days today as he grappled with understeer especially in the afternoon session, when the track had dried up and provided the best chance to do some long runs and find the right balance on the car. The teams were not able to get enough practice in the morning session due to a wet track and poor visibility.
Jenson was not too upbeat about his chances for the rest of the weekend. “It wasn’t a great day, but there’s still plenty of data to look at to try to understand why we couldn’t get a good balance,” Jenson told Sky Sports News. “But the car is obviously working, we just have to get it in the right areas and get the tyres working – which Lewis is obviously doing.”
Lewis will be on damage limitation mode tomorrow, as he tries to grab pole so that he doesn’t have to fight for the podium positions from too far back on Sunday. He seems very optimistic: “I always do like the challenge of having to come through,” Lewis told SSN. “But it’s incredible at the start of the race; trying to gain positions while staying out of trouble is always key. But I’m really looking forward to qualifying tomorrow. Hopefully we can be as high up as possible so then the penalty is not too bad. But I think we’ll still be in the race, in amongst the group. If you see at the last race, Fernando won from quite far back so hopefully that gives us positives going into the race.”
McLaren might have to work late into the night to try and solve Jenson’s problems so that they are able to complete their hat trick of pole positions in 2012.