A pessimistic Lewis Hamilton played down his chances of preventing Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull from claiming pole in Abu Dhabi.
Despite topping first practice and trailing only Vettel in the second session, the Briton said he had been struggling with his car, and in particular on the option compound. With a lack of major upgrades from McLaren, Hamilton said the overall picture hadn't changed and that his best chance of landing pole therefore depends on Vettel making mistakes.
"If we get pole it will be fantastic, but we shouldn't get our hopes up; Sebastian has a faster car," Hamilton said. "Nothing has changed – we have not improved, so I don't know why [Red Bull beating beatable] would be the case.
"The reason I say that is because the last four races have been won by a certain guy and [his] car is very quick around here. But I'm going to give it my all, everything I can and hope maybe his lap isn't so great and mine is. If we get ahead it will be a huge bonus for us."
Hamilton said he was satisfied with his pace on Pirelli's prime tire, but confessed he couldn't find a jump to match McLaren's rivals once on the softer option.
"We seemed quite good in P1, [but] P2 was a bit of a struggle for me. "It was very difficult to get the time [on the option] – we had a good time on the prime, but people seemed to find eight tenths on the option and I wasn't able to get any time out of it. I don't really know [why] – perhaps it's about switching the tires on.
"I expected that Sebastian would all of a sudden go very quickly: I don't know what they do in the first session but I guess they're cruising and then second session they switch everything on. They picked up some good pace. I generally didn't have great pace, I was struggling with the car. I'm not really sure why, but we have plenty of time to figure it out."