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Lewis Hamilton Q&A: McLaren struggling with new hard tires
With so many teams bringing major updates to Spain, and the Circuit de Catalunya asking such serious questions of a car’s aerodynamics, we could just see a shake-up on the grid this weekend. Friday’s form suggests that if anyone is going to beat the Red Bulls it will be McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. The former champion concedes Vettel and Webber may still have something in hand, and is less than happy with Pirelli’s new hard tire compound, though he admits the latter could help throw up another thrilling race…

Q: Lewis, hand on heart, do you really think you will be able to beat the Red Bulls this weekend?
Lewis Hamilton:
I think we are just as competitive as we have been in the past, which doesn’t mean that we are close to them. Let’s wait until tomorrow to see how close we really are to them. It really depends on what engine mode they are on. But from our performance I can say that the car felt really good - and in fact much better when we put on the usual tires, as the super hard ones are a disaster. They definitely were not nice to drive.

Q: When do you think that the real chance to beat the Red Bulls will come?
Well, I don’t know. But I definitely plan to beat them tomorrow and in the race on Sunday. Today we’ve been sticking to our program, just looking that we wouldn’t be too far off. But then it is Friday and you never know what everybody else was running on. We might have a little bit in the back, but they also might have a little bit in the back so the showdown will be tomorrow afternoon and reality will hit on Sunday in the race.

Q: The times today suggest that you are really pretty close to them…
Yes, from today’s times it looks pretty good. But so far when it came to qualifying they seem to switch on something that gives them a half second break, so undoubtedly they have still the quickest car. On the long runs they are still faster.

Q: What do you mean when you say the super hard tires are a disaster?
I don’t think that I have to explain the word disaster, do I? It’s two seconds or more per lap - do I have to say more? Probably I’ve already said too much, but they made us struggle quite significantly.

Q: Like every other team, McLaren have brought some new aero parts to Barcelona. Do they deliver what they are supposed to?
Yes, we did bring some pits and pieces and so far I can say they work. We definitely have improved in a couple of small areas, which is good. The front wing was changed and it seems it works a little bit better, so from the car’s side I can say we are definitely moving forward. It was just feeling very poor with the new tires. They are very difficult to switch on - and then to last - so my guess is that everybody will remain largely on the option tires this weekend, as it is so much nicer to drive.

Q: How do you think the new tires will influence the strategy this weekend?
My guess is not too much. My guess is that we will again see a three-stop race using the new tires on the shortest stint possible.

Q: Very recently you were quoted saying that this race will be the biggest test for car and tires so far this season. Do you still stick to that?
No. No one can predict what’s going to happen in the next race. But I am sure that we will again put on a very good show - and even more so with such a big difference in tires. Again I would predict that the fans will love it.
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