Lewis Hamilton hails 'one of best laps I've ever done'

By Sarah HoltBBC Sport at the Nurburgring

Lewis Hamilton said McLaren have answered their critics after he delivered one of his best qualifying laps at the German Grand Prix.

After two tough races for the team, Hamilton qualified second behind Red Bull's Mark Webber with a stunning lap.

"It was one of the best laps I've ever done," said the 2008 champion.

"What we were able to do reminds me of what a strong team I have and how they never give up - which is what we've been telling people for a long time."

Hamilton's ability to split the front-running Red Bulls of Webber and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who was third, represented an impressive turnaround in form.

After Friday's two practice sessions, Hamilton bleakly summed up his chances of challenging Red Bull and Ferrari saying: "We won't find an answer tomorrow. We definitely can't challenge them for pole."

But despite cool track conditions at the fast and flowing Nurburgring, Hamilton came to within only 0.055 seconds of denying Red Bull pole for the first time this season.

"I can't remember coming across the line in a qualifying session feeling so ecstatic and feeling so energised," said Hamilton, 26.

"I didn't realise it meant that much to me. It was just a great reminder of why I love doing what I do.

"It was as perfect as I could do. I don't know where I found the 0.4secs to split the Red Bulls. I looked at the data and I knew I could find 0.2secs but to find 0.4secs…

"No matter how much I pushed, the gap in the middle sector generally stayed the same, so I really had to nail the other sectors and make up the time where the car was at its best. Bit by bit I found time and I was constantly refining my line.

"I was going into Q3 [the final phase of qualifying] thinking I'm going to have to eat humble pie.

"I guess we have been hard on ourselves - I have definitely been hard on us."

Hamilton's team-mate Jenson Button starts in seventh after aborting his final lap in qualifying.

The 2009 champion battled back from last to first place at a rain-hit Canadian GP and he faces another fight back at the Nurburgring.

"All morning the car felt strong but when I got to qualifying it felt like I didn't have the grip and the balance wasn't too bad at all," Button explained.

"The lap time wasn't there. I don't know if I could get the tyres working or not.

"It's a little bit strange and a pity to be so far back but a lot can happen in the race especially if we have mixed conditions. I'm over it now and looking forward to Sunday."

McLaren arrived in Germany hopeful that a return to pre-Silverstone rules on engines after a row on how exhaust gases are used to create extra downforce would help them regain ground on their rivals.

But boss Martin Whitmarsh indicated that the team had also added other aerodynamic upgrades to the car, including a new floor, which helped them go faster.

"Everyone returned to that mode and it wasn't a bad move for us but I think we've made other enhancements to the car and found performance," said Whitmarsh.

"Lewis did a great lap. He was strong through all of qualifying that was clear. It was just a good job."

It has been more than a year since Hamilton last took pole at the Canadian Grand Prix but after his performance in Germany he is confident he can now consistently challenge for first place on the grid.

"We can continue like this," added Hamilton. "We just have to continue pushing.

"I have a feeling I can always push more, we can always push more and I felt like this weekend we've taken another step in this direction.

"Even when you feel it's not possible to push any further than you're already pushing we exceeded our own expectations today. It's a massive positive for the team."

Hamilton is also looking for his first win since April's race in Shanghai and believes he now has a chance to add to his 2008 success in Germany (Hockenheim) and increase his tally of 15 race victories.

"I want to be P1 into Turn 1, that's the plan, even from the dirtier side, that's what we need to do," he continued.

"I don't care if it rains, we'll do the best job we can and put our car in the best position to compete for the win. I'll be ready."