Hamilton predicts 'very close' battle
Lewis says McLaren firmly in the mix, but Vettel 'incredibly quick'
Last Updated: 22/09/12 8:43am
Lewis Hamilton has confirmed what most observers of Friday's two practice sessions around Marina Bay suspected, that the battle at the front is too close to call.
Although Sebastian Vettel topped both night-time sessions to surely serve definitive notice of Red Bull's return to form, Ferrari and Hamilton's McLaren team also had their moments - with the three title-chasing teams appearing particularly close on race pace at the end of second practice.
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And Hamilton, who slipped to fifth in the faster second session but remained within 0.8s of the fastest time having earlier all-but matched Vettel in P1, suggested McLaren were right in the mix heading into Saturday.
"I think we're obviously in the top five," he told Sky Sports News' Craig Slater.
"It's very going to be very close. Jenson [Button]'s very fast, Fernando [Alonso] also and Sebastian's incredibly quick. So it's going to be tough but we just need to keep working on the route that we're on."
During his longer runs late in the second session Hamilton was told over the radio that his lap times were comparing favourably to those of his key rivals'. Asked by Craig if that surely gave him confidence for Sunday, a cautious Hamilton replied: "[The] race is another day. One day at a time.
Hamilton: It's going to be tough
"We've got to focus on tomorrow, try to optimise the car for qualifying and hope that it will also be pretty good in the long runs."
Team-mate Jenson Button, who finished second on the P2 timesheet, was also wary of rushing judgement on McLaren's likely competitiveness, pointing out he hadn't quite yet got the handling of his MP4-27 right.
Asked how he expected them to perform in qualifying, the 32-year-old admitted: "Don't know. The important thing is how the car feels, it's not the lap time at the moment, and at the moment it's not feeling quite there. But hopefully we'll do that tonight."
Singapore GP - Friday practice
"I've just been with the engineers quite a while after practice and we've got a few ideas and we think we know how to solve it."
Button elaborated on the issues he was having, saying that even on the grippier super-soft tyres the car still wasn't completely to his liking around the bumpy street track.
"On the softer tyre I think everyone's happy because there's more grip," he said.
"But still the balance issues are there on both tyres even though, as I said, with the softer tyre it feels great [for grip], even though the underlying issues are still there."
He added: "We tried a couple of things that are different to what we normally run because of the nature of the circuit. Some of them aren't correct I don't think so we're going to go back on them."