Lewis Hamilton admits he never expected to score so strongly in the Australian Grand Prix after finishing fourth, only to be promoted into third as a result of stewards inquiry.
The McLaren driver started at the back of the grid after taking a penalty for changing his gearbox after qualifying.
But an aggressive race strategy allied to some sensational overtaking manoeuvres – including a pass around the outside of Toyota’s Timo Glock at the high speed section of the Albert Park track – saw the defending world champion running as high as fifth before his second pit stop.
Hamilton was promoted to fourth when Robert Kubica and Sebastien Vettel collided with each other in the dying laps and on paper finished behind Jarno Trulli after the Toyota driver overtook him under safety car conditions.
But Hamilton was awarded third place after stewards deemed Trulli’s actions to be illegal and reprimanded the Italian with a 25-second time penalty.
“We scored way more points than we could have realistically expected, said Hamilton after the race. “I was looking to try and get one point, so to get six is a great achievement.”
“We’ve definitely not forgotten how to win: our strategy was perfect and the team did a fantastic job. Considering the package we’ve got, I wrung every last ounce of pace out of the car, drove one of my best ever races and absolutely raced my heart out – I’m so satisfied.”
“Also, my heartfelt congratulations to Jenson he’s driven brilliantly all weekend and both he and his team really deserve this success.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh was impressed by Hamilton’s performance.
“Today was one of those days on which Lewis demonstrated very clearly just what a fantastic racing driver he is. Throughout the race he showed great speed and tenacity, tempered when necessary by commendable patience.”
“The car we supplied him wasn t as competitive as we d have liked it to be we ve made no secret of that but we re working flat-out, night and day, to improve it.
“The points Lewis scored today are of course very welcome and, as and when we regain our form, we hope they ll take on a greater significance still.
Hamilton and McLaren admit that they still have a lot of work to do before they can challenge at the front, and Heikki Kovalainen’s accident at the first corner was a stark reminder of the problems that come from racing further down the grid.
“Obviously, my race was very short,â€ Kovalainen said afterwards. “Webber had a moment at the first corner and his front wheel hit my left-front. It was a racing accident these things unfortunately happen.â€