Mar.22 (McLaren) Lewis Hamilton scored the first pole position of the new season in Melbourne, but that’s as good as it got for the McLaren driver as he watched his teammate power to victory while he could only cross the line in third. Not a train smash under normal circumstances, but for the 2008 world champion it was not the script he envisaged.
Hamilton goes to Malaysia knowing that he has a race winning car in the MP4-27, and hoping to secure his first win at Sepang. The Englishman spoke about his performance in Melbourne and looks ahead to the Malaysian GP weekend.
After Australia, you said you weren’t sure how you’d lost pace relative to Jenson: do you now understand that, and does that put you in a good position for Malaysia?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, after the race in Australia, it was difficult to understand exactly what happened. I was generally happy with the car all weekend, but just lacked a bit of pace compared to Jenson in the race. Afterwards, I sat down with my engineers and we went through all the data. There was a small issue with the clutch at the start: it wasn’t my fault, but we now understand and know how to improve in the future. My race pace was pretty much identical to Jenson’s, but he was able to switch the tyres on extremely well, which explains how he was able to pull a gap so quickly at the start and also after the restart. “It’s encouraging and reassuring to understand the reasons for our race pace in Australia, and it puts me in a really positive frame of mind for the race in Malaysia. Plus, it always helps to be back in the car only five days after the last grand prix – you move on so quickly.”
You’ve never won in Malaysia – does that make you more intent to tick it off your list?
LH: It’s never really something you’re particularly conscious of during the race weekend, but I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d love to win a grand prix at every circuit I race at. You’re right, I’ve not won at Sepang before, but I’ve had some good races here – and I’d like to put the record straight with a victory this weekend. I think we go into the weekend feeling pretty optimistic because Sepang is quite a high-speed circuit and our car has usually gone well in the high-speed stuff during winter testing. Sepang will also be a test because of the high temperatures, but we’ve traditionally been able to manage the cooling on our car quite well, so I don’t think that will be too much of a concern. Physically, it’s always a tough race, but we’re improving the organisation in every area, and I think we’ve taken some interesting steps this year to ensure the whole team will be better prepared for the heat and humidity.”
Will we get a clearer picture of overall pace this weekend?
LH: Clearly, we’re very encouraged by our pace, both in qualifying and in the race, and I’d like to think we can continue that at Malaysia this weekend. I think both Mercedes AMG and Red Bull Racing have performance up their sleeves, and they’ll both be very fast in qualifying and the race. As far as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is concerned, it’s nice to be the hunted rather than the hunter, which has been the case in the past few seasons. But I know how well our team can respond – the result in Australia will only double everyone’s resolve. The development race has already started and we’ll be pushing like crazy to stay at the front. I think Malaysia will add detail to the overall picture, but it’s the pace of development – between ourselves, Red Bull, Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari – that will define the course of the season.”