FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton battles for pole position in qualifying for the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this afternoon (Saturday).

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The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star from Hertfordshire was the man to beat in second practice yesterday (Friday) around the Yas Marina Circuit.

Hamilton clocked the fastest lap of the day with a time of 1m 39.586s.

The 2008 F1 world champion said: “It was a really positive day for me.

“The car feels good – our long-run pace doesn’t feel too bad and we seem to be quite competitive.

“The car feels a lot better than it did at the last race – so I really hope I’ll be able to keep that going throughout the remainder of the grand prix weekend.”

McLaren dominated the first two practice sessions, with Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button topping the timesheets in P1.

“The track just got better and better today [Friday], so I slowly chipped away at the set-up,” said Hamilton.

“The tyres are behaving well – at the last race I had degradation and didn’t have the pace, so it feels much better this weekend. That’s a real positive for me.

“When you come through a Friday without any problems, it definitely makes you feel confident for the rest of the weekend.”

Button was third fastest in P2. He added: “I’m still not entirely happy with the balance – although I’m confident we’ll get to the bottom of it.

“Nonetheless, the pace of the car is good – Lewis was very quick today – and our long-run pace is very good.

“I was playing around with overtaking on my long run, but I still reckon it’ll be difficult to overtake people in the DRS zones.

“So I think it’s going to be a bit of a struggle to make moves stick in the race – which means it’s going to be important to qualify up at the front.”

Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, was pleased with the car’s pace.

“To finish first in both sessions is an incredibly promising start to our weekend here in Abu Dhabi.

“Obviously, it’s too early to accurately predict the pace of the teams around us, but it’s encouraging to have been able to power through today’s programme without setback and to have set the benchmark time in both P1 and P2.

“Lewis has been particularly complimentary about the car we’ve brought to this race, and Jenson is positive too, despite feeling there’s still potential for improvement.

“Our aim now is to build on this promising start, further develop the cars’ set-up with the engineers, and push to maintain this position in qualifying.”

Qualifying starts at 1pm.

The 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix starts at 1pm on Sunday.

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