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FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton bids for his third pole position of the season in qualifying for the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday.

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The 27-year-old F1 racer from Hertfordshire was fourth fastest in today’s (Friday’s) second practice session around the Circuit de Catalunya.

Hamilton was happy with the performance of his MP4-27 in sunny Spain after Vodafone McLaren Mercedes introduced a number of new parts, including a revamped nose box.

“It’s been a positive day and we’re in the fight,” said Hamilton, who qualified on pole for the opening two races of the season but has yet to win a race this year.

“The upgrades we brought to this race seem to be working well and we’ve got good pace on the longer runs.

"It’s been a positive day and we’re in the fight."

McLaren F1 driver Lewis Hamilton

“The guys back at the factory did a fantastic job.”

McLaren teammate Jenson Button went quickest in today’s second practice session, clocking a time of 1m 23.399s.

“It was a positive afternoon. I did a good lap on the Option tyre, the car is running well, and our upgrades seem to be working,” said the 2009 F1 world champion.

“But there are still some improvements to be made.”

2012 Spanish Grand Prix

* Race distance: 66 laps (190.825 miles/307.104km)

* Start time: 14:00 (local)/12:00 (GMT)

* Circuit length: 2.892 miles/4.655km

* 2011 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)

* 2011 pole: Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing)

* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari F2008) 1m 21.670s

As for McLaren’s chances in Spain, Button added: “There are a lot of quick cars out there, but, aerodynamically, I think we’ve got a strong car.”

After clocking a best lap time of 1m 23.909s in Barcelona, Stevenage-born Hamilton said: “The car already feels better than it did at the last race [in Bahrain] – there’s a good series of improvements within the car.

“My long run this afternoon was very satisfying and there are positives to take from that, but there’s still more time in the car, as Jenson showed.”

Hamilton, whose family live in Tewin, added: “I struggled a little with set-up today. It’s a little bit inconsistent, so it’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s needed to make it better.

“But we’ll be looking at the data to find out where the most significant issues are, and I’m confident we can make improvements overnight.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “It’s pleasing to hear both drivers express their initial satisfaction with the suite of upgrades we’ve brought to the circuit this weekend.

“It’s now time for the engineers to sit down and look in detail at the data to determine what’s working and in what areas we can make further improvements.

“The Circuit de Catalunya is always a very stern test of machinery, so it’s gratifying to see Vodafone McLaren Mercedes assume the top spot on the timesheets at this early stage of the weekend. It was a very strong lap from Jenson.

“Looking deeper at the timesheets, it’s clear that, once again, we’re set for an extremely finely pitched and closely fought race – it’s going to be a fascinating weekend.”

The Circuit de Catalunya’s wide variety of corners make it a severe test of man and machine, which is why it’s a favourite test venue for the teams.

An abrasive track surface, combined with high cornering speeds, makes the circuit very demanding on tyres, with drivers using Pirelli’s hard and soft compounds this weekend.

Hamilton was second in Spain last year behind the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.

“Our performance at Barcelona during winter testing looked promising – but the form of the season is still very hard to read, so it’s difficult to predict who’ll be at the front,” said Hamilton.

“Nonetheless, we had a great race there last year – I pushed Sebastian [Vettel] all the way to the finish.

“I think we have a comparatively stronger car this year, so I hope we can have another strong race.”

He added: “It’ll be interesting to see how straightforward overtaking will be this year.

“It’s always been a tough place for passing – as I found out last year – but I really hope DRS and KERS-Hybrid combined will make it a little easier.

“I think it’s going to be one of the toughest tracks of the year for overtaking, but I’ll be hoping for a strong performance in qualifying in order to make it as straightforward as possible in the race.”

Qualifying for the 2012 Grand Prix of Spain starts at 1pm on Saturday.

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