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Monaco GP: Qualifying notes - McLaren

NEWS STORY
23/05/2009

Heikki Kovalainen

P3 programme

Three runs for Heikki - prime-prime-option - as he refined MP4-24 ahead of qualifying. "The car definitely felt calmer and more stable over the bumps," he said. "It's a bit easier to control." Heikki completed four laps/1m17.330s best; five laps/1m16.216s and a final, longer run of eight laps/1m15.278s.

Qualifying

Capitalising on his very strong performance in morning practice, Heikki powered through the opening two qualifying sessions, comfortably setting the pace at the sharp end of the field. Into Q3, his seventh position on the grid leaves him looking strategically strong for the race and he remains confident of another strong showing tomorrow.

"I've felt really comfortable with the car throughout the whole weekend," Heikki said. "Obviously, we wanted to be on pole but didn't manage that - let's see how the race unfolds and where we'll be after the first stops. Lewis was very unfortunate this afternoon - we are always at the limit around here and a little slip-up can put you into the barriers. I touched the guardrails three times during qualifying and I'm lucky that it didn't have any negative consequences."

Lewis Hamilton

P3 programme

Three runs for Lewis this morning: six laps/1m15.622s best (on primes); three laps/1m15.389s (on options) and six laps/1m16.660s (on options). "We've made some very positive changes since Thursday," said Lewis. "The track is grippier and cleaner and our car's traction feels very good."

Qualifying

A disappointing result for Lewis, who looked set for his strongest qualifying result of the year. In the afternoon's first session, he braked late for Mirabeau, unsettled the back of the car and hit the tyre barrier. The damage to his rear suspension meant he was unable to complete the session. His time of 1m16.264s places him 16th on tomorrow's grid.

"I made a mistake," said Lewis. "I just braked too late - it's unfortunate, but these things happen. It's not been a good day: I had been going well all weekend and had the possibility of being on the front row. It's a shame for the team, because they have done such a fantastic job all weekend and the car has felt really strong - as Heikki's grid position shows. Starting 16th is frustrating, but I'll learn from this, drive my heart out tomorrow and see what happens."

Martin Whitmarsh - team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: "Heikki has driven with increasing commitment all weekend. Two very strong laps in Q1 and Q2 showed that he was capable of taking the fight to the leaders. And we are confident that his strategy for tomorrow will push him even closer to the front. Lewis's accident was disappointing - he knows he made a mistake - but we all know he will not give up. That's his nature - and as a result I feel sure he will approach tomorrow's race with undiminished commitment."

Norbert Haug - vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: "The speed was there to be among the quickest, so it's a shame what happened to Lewis after he has been among the fastest during all previous practice sessions but such contact with the guardrails can easily happen in Monaco. Heikki was good, put in a solid performance and has a good strategy. Monaco has its own rules so we still can look good tomorrow despite starting seventh and 16th."

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