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KUALA LUMPUR: Formula One star Lewis Hamilton warned last week’s fifth-place finish with new team Mercedes was no “lucky shot” and suggested he could be among the leaders at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The 2008 world champion, glowing after a successful team switch from McLaren, said set-up problems had affected his pace early in Sunday’s season-opener in Melbourne -- and he vowed not to make the same mistake at Sepang.
“I feel very optimistic. I came away from there with 10 points and I feel really happy with 10 points because when I made the switch I didn’t know where we’d be, and I definitely didn’t think we’d come away from the first race with 10 points,” said the Briton.
“And also with the feeling that that’s not just going to be a lucky shot in the first race -- that’s going to be something we can try to continue for the rest of the year. “You see all the other top teams are really good at developing the car and moving forward very fast. I think that’s something the team is learning to do and I’m seeing it coming through. Hopefully that shines this weekend.”
Hamilton’s buoyant mood is a far cry from recent seasons when he has been under a cloud first because of relationship problems with his pop star girlfriend, and then over his protracted break-up with long-term employer McLaren. But the move to Mercedes looked inspired after Sunday’s opening race when he easily outpaced former team-mate Jenson Button and his McLaren replacement Sergio Perez, who finished ninth and 11th.
“I was so positive after the race. I feel really positive about the car, I feel really positive about the team,” he said.
“They’re moving very very fast in terms of developing the car, in terms of learning how I like to work and I think I’m learning quite quickly how they like to work. “Of course we could have done things better but it was our first race together and it doesn’t matter how much you prepare for it, you can’t really prepare perfectly for a race. It’s not until you do a race that you really get experiences to know how you work together.”
Hamilton said he had struggled with the car’s balance in the first part of Sunday’s race, and also had to pit because of a bald spot on one of his tyres. But he insisted the Mercedes could compete with the Red Bull of three-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel, who qualified in pole position at Albert Park.
“I don’t think they (Red Bull) had frightening pace in qualifying. I think if I was out at the same time, if I was out as late as they had gone out, I think I could have matched their time,” he said. “But then we got to the race and they had great pace again, as they always do and he (Vettel) disappeared, along with everyone else,” added Hamilton. AFP