MELBOURNE, March 16, 2012 (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton was confident his McLaren team would challenge for pole position at the Australian Grand Prix after he emerged from a chaotic opening day's practice on Friday.
The 2008 world champion told reporters that he was very encouraged by their performance on the rain-lashed first day's action, and felt "massively excited" about what lay ahead.
Hamilton was 16th after completing only 11 laps in the second practice session, one position behind his team-mate and 2009 champion, Jenson Button.
Button was fastest in the opening session ahead of Hamilton as the McLaren team dominated in drier conditions.
Hamilton said: "We feel like we are there or thereabouts, but again we don't know what fuel loads people are on.
"I think it looks quite close between us, maybe Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. It's going to be interesting tomorrow.
"People usually go through the same programmes in P3 (the third practice session) so I think then we will get a better understanding of just how quick people are. I'm massively excited to see how it goes."
He said weather conditions dictated the amount of running in the second session, when the track dried slowly after a deluge.
He said: "It wasn't frustrating, just a bit boring. It dulls the intensity -- I'd rather be in the car.
"In practice tomorrow we will try and make sure we get out immediately and maximise the whole session, make the correct set-up changes so that we are in the window, in the zone.
"The tyres are the tricky part, trying to get them working in the cold conditions is not the easiest!"
Asked if it was significant that the race has been won from pole four times in the last five years, Hamilton said: "Pole is definitely a step in the right direction, but I don't think it is the be all and end all."
Hamilton has pledged to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season, when he finished fifth in the standings.