Lewis Hamilton was handicapped by a bad set-up call that left him struggling in qualifying for the Japanese GP.
Yellow flags on his final run made the situation worse, and Hamilton will start the race from ninth place. He is immediately behind team mate Jenson Button, who was pushed back from third by a gearbox change penalty.
“Unfortunately in this sport as soon as you start qualifying you’re stuck with it,” said Hamilton of his choice. “As soon as I did my first lap I thought immediately this is wrong. I did everything with the adjustments that I have with the steering, I had the front wing maxed out, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the issue I had.
“We had a long run yesterday with this set-up, and it wasn’t too bad. I’m hoping that perhaps a wind direction change tomorrow and with the downforce level that I’ve got I’m hoping that perhaps it will work a little bit better than it did today.”
Asked where he thought he would have ended up without the yellow flags, Lewis said: “Probably about fourth or fifth. I wasn’t quicker than Jenson. I was about three or four tenths up at that time, and I still had more time to find later on. It still wouldn’t have been spectacular for us, I was really struggling, but it definitely would have been better than ninth.”
Hamilton remains optimistic for Sunday’s race, although he conceded that McLaren should have been ahead of some of his title rivals.
“Obviously we knew this weekend we have to win – we know we have to win every weekend, and of course looking at the Ferraris this weekend, we could see the Ferraris were struggling, but we have to remember that obviously the Lotuses are close as well. But Sebastian – all of a sudden they’ve got a very quick car this weekend, and he had a very quick car in the last race, and he got maximum points.
“He’s probably the main competitor for Fernando. But we still have six races including tomorrow, and anything can happen in those races. Perhaps they won’t finish those races and we will capitalise as a team, so we should never give up. We will keep pushing tomorrow in the hope that something magical happens.”