McLaren aim to capitalise
Whitmarsh, Hamilton and Button delighted to snare Monza front row
Last Updated: September 9, 2012 5:53pm
McLaren are confident they have the race pace to capitalise on their first front-row lockout since the early races of the season in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.
The momentum the Woking squad have built up either side of the summer break with consecutive wins continued at Monza on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton headed team-mate Jenson Button on the decisive Q3 timesheet, although the team's path to their first lockout since Malaysia was eased somewhat by the demise of Fernando Alonso with a mechanical failure in the closing minutes.
With Ferrari therefore shorn of its lead gunner at the front of the field, and Red Bull struggling for single-lap pace all weekend, McLaren now have a golden chance to close the gap in both championship races.
"Qualifying's always tense. These days it doesn't matter how strong you feel, the tyres, temperature, wind, it's such a variable," Whitmarsh told Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz. "I think we played it right. Both guys kept their nerve and ultimately did a fantastic job.
Whitmarsh also delivered a thinly-veiled dig at Ferrari, who sent their cars out together at times during qualifying to help each other gain a tow.
"We've been strong in sector one and sector two all weekend, sector three's been a bit more of a challenge for us. There's a lot of tows going on out there, I think it was possible to be a bit too clever about it. We didn't concentrate on anything [like that] and just did our own thing and showed the pace," he added.
"We did a lot of race preparation yesterday so I think we're in quite good shape with the knowledge and data we've got. But it's a long race and anything can happen, but it still feels quite nice to have the front row to ourselves and hopefully we can make a good start, [have] an interesting first corner - but not too interesting! - and hopefully we can do a decent job."
Hamilton 23rd career pole comes come amid a weekend in which he has already been the permanent centre of attention at Monza owing to the impact speculation that he is considering an end-of-season switch to Mercedes has had around the paddock.
The Briton, who remains McLaren's best hope of the Drivers' Championship despite his first-corner exit at Spa, praised the performance of the team's low-downforce package, although he hinted he hadn't been entirely happy with his pole lap.
"It's been a tough weekend but we've managed to work on the set-up and the package the guys brought from the factory and have done a fantastic job. So congratulations to the team and a great effort from the lads," Hamilton said.
"I managed to get a half-decent lap at the beginning of Q3 so pretty happy and it's great to have me and Jenson at the front."
Button, fresh from his victory in Belgium last weekend, knocked Felipe Massa off the front row in the dying embers of Q3 and said the McLaren lockout further underlined the team's step forward in recent races.
"For us both to be on the front row it's fantastic for the team," he said.
"The last few races have really shown our strength and qualifying both of us on the front row is great - I don't know if any other team has been able to do that this year.
"Tomorrow we'll start thinking about in a little while but even being on the front row is not going to be an easy race here. But it's the best place to be."