Turkish GP: Qualifying notes - McLaren


Heikki Kovalainen

P3 programme

Three runs this morning, evaluating both Prime tyre (three laps/1m29.264s and three laps/1m28.738s) and Option (four laps/1m28.857s) ahead of qualifying. Reporting similar locking and rear-end instability issues as yesterday, the team worked throughout the session to hone the balance to Heikki's satisfaction.

"I was pushing to the maximum this morning," he said. "But I flat-spotted the left-front on one run and was always trying to cope with the snappiness of the rear-end. Through Turn Eight, the car was very difficult to drive smoothly."


Two strong runs of 1m28.199s and 1m28.629s in Q1 on the Prime saw Heikki move into the second session in 14th. Into Q2, he did two more runs (1m28.318s and 1m28.207s) to finish the session 14th overall.

"Our car doesn't have enough grip for us to attack the fast corners," Heikki said. "The others seem to gain grip through the weekend and are able to better use the Option tyre while we're using the Prime and losing performance. Braking and acceleration are still very good but we're just losing grip as the track temperature increases.

"The gap to the leaders is still too big so we need to do some more work back at the MTC to move closer to the front. We'll never give up, but tomorrow's race will be difficult."

Lewis Hamilton

P3 programme

Three morning runs for Lewis too. He initially reported that the front felt well-balanced but, throughout the session, he continued working with his engineers to get the car's rear-end to operate more effectively. He ran the following programme: four laps/1m28.563s/Prime; three laps/1m28.736s/Prime; three laps/1m28.944s/Option.

Lewis said: "The car felt great this morning - it was very well-balanced at the front but we still had to work to get the rear working properly. We anticipated this weekend would be a bit like Barcelona and that looks like being the case."


Struggling for grip on both the Option and Prime tyre, Lewis completed two runs, setting times of 1m28.318s and 1m28.402s to conclude the first qualifying session in 16th.

"Our car seems to have got slower relative to the others as the grip has gone down on the track," said Lewis afterwards. "I pushed as hard as I could today but I just had no grip out there. We now need to make sure we don't rush into making too many changes to the car for the forthcoming races: we'll take our time, refine things and sort out the problem with our car. The team has done a fantastic job though: they really have been working night and day with the same determination and drive as ever. This is clearly going to be a challenging year for us, but I have no doubts that we'll bounce back."

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: "At the risk of stating the obvious, today's qualifying session was a pretty disappointing one for us. Having said that, we didn't allow our pace yesterday to cause us to be unduly optimistic about our prospects for today and tomorrow, simply because we'd been aware for some time that our car wouldn't perform particularly well on the Istanbul Park circuit's higher-speed corners. Even so, with hindsight, perhaps we should have run Option tyres for Heikki's second run in Q2 - some drivers did so and went faster as a result. On the other hand, other drivers stayed on Primes for their second Q2 runs and posted quick times on them. The fact is that, such is the level of competitiveness all through the field in modern-day Formula 1, it's very difficult to get into Q3 if your car is in any way sub-optimal."

Norbert Haug, Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: "A poor result which reveals our weakness in fast sections. Whilst we are with the frontrunners in the final sector, with its long straight and tight corners, we lost more than a second around the rest of the circuit. It looked better yesterday, but today we have to accept the reality. We all need to work very hard to make sure that our level of competitiveness will improve sooner rather than later and that we come back to where we used to be."

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    Published: 06/06/2009
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