Lewis Hamilton admits Red Bull were too strong for Mercedes in Japanese qualifying
But Briton hopes he can still give Bulls something to think about in GP
By James Galloway. Last Updated: October 13, 2013 7:14am
Hamilton: Strong started needed to beat Red Bull
Lewis Hamilton has expressed hope that he will at least be able to prevent the Red Bulls from 'walking away too easy' in the Japanese GP after admitting the RB9s were out of reach for him in qualifying.
Unlike in Korea last weekend, Hamilton was unable to split the Red Bull pair on the Q3 timesheet at Suzuka with his best lap of 1:31.253 coming up over a tenth slower than Sebastian Vettel's, who had KERS problems, and more than 0.3s adrift of Mark Webber's pole time.
Given he was more than happy with the handling of his own W04 around Suzuka's fast sweeps, Hamilton admitted the RB9 had once again clearly been in a different league.
"I'm really happy," he insisted. "The team did a great job so far this weekend and realistically it was difficult, or almost impossible to finish ahead of these [Red Bull] guys.
"They've had a much better package generally for a long, long time but we've come a long way and to be as close as we are I think is a huge compliment to the team.
"My car felt awesome so I can't imagine how it felt for them. Congratulations to Mark, I'm looking forward to racing them tomorrow."
With Red Bull having shown ominous long-run pace in Friday practice, Hamilton's chances of seriously taking the fight to Webber and Vettel would realistically appear slim - although he is hoping to take advantage of starting on the cleaner side of the grid into the first corner.
The Briton struggled with rear tyre degradation in Practice Two but hopes Mercedes will be able to keep the situation under control and at least exert some pressure on Red Bull.
"Degradation is really going to be the key tomorrow," Hamilton added.
"I hope we can get a good start being on the cleaner side and be able to at least put up a little bit of a fight for these guys and not let them walk away too easy."
Team Principal Ross Brawn agreed that tyres could be a "pretty major issue".
He added: "Our drivers have gone slightly different ways with the set-up of the car tomorrow. We'll see what impact that has.
"But it will be a pretty heavy race tomorrow. Not only our numbers: I was watching some of the other cars running yesterday and today and I didn't see any that had flat degradation.
"Everybody was suffering with degradation of a fairly high degree, so it will be a multi-pitstop race tomorrow I'm sure."