McLaren braced for `toughest` race of season

Last Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2012 - 21:51

Sepang: Lewis Hamilton knows he faces a monumental challenge if he wants to turn pole position into a Malaysian Grand Prix victory on Sunday, describing the race as the toughest of the Formula One season.

Hamilton led a McLaren one-two in qualifying for the second week in a row on Saturday and, after finishing third behind team mate and fellow Briton Jenson Button in Melbourne, the 2008 world champion is ready to give his all for a tilt at a first victory in Sepang.

"This is a very tricky circuit because of the track temperatures and of the humidity," Hamilton told reporters.

"It`s going to be massively tough tomorrow but we just have to make sure we prepare ourselves in the best way we can."

Behind the McLaren pair lies the triple threat of Michael Schumacher`s Mercedes and the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and world champion Sebastian Vettel, giving Hamilton plenty to think about on the dash to the first corner.

"It`s a very long haul down to turn one," he said.

"Just in the conditions, you never know what is going to happen. I hope it stays dry. But these tyres are having a seriously hard time around here, especially under 150kgs of fuel.

"It`s going to be interesting. I don`t know how it will go but I will do everything possible to make sure we`re as competitive as possible."

Button loves nothing more than a combative start and after passing his team mate in Melbourne early on he is relishing the prospect of repeating the feat in Malaysia.

"I think it will be an exciting start. Not just us two on the front row, the Mercedes is renowned, especially Michael, for getting good starts, so it`s going to be a fun turn one," the 2009 world champion said.

"This is a fast, flowing circuit and a circuit that`s tough in many ways for the car, for the tyres and for us sat in the cockpit as well.

"So it`s a long, hot afternoon tomorrow but I`m looking forward to it. I think we have a good race car, difficult to know how good but I think our long-run pace yesterday showed some reasonable consistency."

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh praised both drivers on their performances so far in Malaysia and is hoping the good form continues through Sunday`s race.

"It was tough. It was very close and both drivers did a great job," Whitmarsh said.

"Lewis did just that fantastic first lap and Jenson, as ever, just pulled it out at the end. It was close and competitive but both guys did great laps and a well-deserved front row.

"It`s a long and a hot race so there`s a long way to go yet, no points on the board but a pretty good result all round."

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First Published: Saturday, March 24, 2012 - 21:51

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