McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh full of praise for Lewis Hamilton after Abu Dhabi pole
But Lewis insists beating Red Bulls to race win far from formality
Last Updated: 03/11/12 3:22pm
Martin Whitmarsh has hailed Lewis Hamilton's "fantastic" performance so far in Abu Dhabi after the McLaren ace ended Red Bull's run of consecutive poles.
After setting the pace in two of the three practice sessions at Yas Marina Hamilton confirmed his status as the stand-out performer this weekend by heading the timesheet in all three qualifying sessions, his eventual pole margin over three tenths of a second.
Although the Mercedes-bound driver saw his already slim title hopes all-but mathematically ended in India last weekend, his McLaren boss says Hamilton has been determined to end his four-race victory drought from the off this weekend.
"He's been doing a great job all weekend," Whitmarsh told Sky Sports F1.
"He came absolutely determined to get a win here. We've underperformed for two or three races, that hurts everyone including Lewis, so I think this weekend it's absolute determination.
"He's been doing a great job and the car's not too bad I think either. But I think Lewis in particular is doing a fantastic job."
Hamilton himself admitted he was delighted to have finally ended Red Bull's run of four consecutive poles, although the 2008 World Champion conceded he wasn't seeing race victory as a formality.
Asked for his thoughts ahead of Sunday's race, Hamilton replied: "I'm very excited. The first time for a long time to be ahead of the Bulls, not to be seeing their tail at the start of the race, but I know as always it's going to be very, very tough in the race because they've got great race pace. But I hope we are strong enough to fight them."
Although McLaren appeared to close the gap on single-lap pace to their rivals last weekend in India, Hamilton admitted he was surprised to be ahead just seven days later given the team hadn't brought any significant updates to Abu Dhabi.
"The team have done a fantastic job all weekend, the car has felt beautiful all weekend," he added.
"I don't know know why the car works so well here, we haven't really made any improvements to the car since the last race. So I guess it just suits the track and the guys are still massively focused. So I hope tomorrow is a good day for us."
And while content with the MP4-27's longer-run pace, Hamilton said getting a strong start was his main focus heading into Sunday after losing two positions off the line last Sunday.
"We did a couple of long runs which seemed to be okay. One of my long runs I had a lot of traffic but Jenson had a fairly decent long run," he acknowledged. "So like the last race we should be fairly competitive.
"But for me it's about trying to improve the start of the race because these guys are always so quick at the first couple of laps."