Hamilton not expecting to improve in Sepang

hamiltonMcLaren ace knows he has to fight harder than ever in Malaysia.

Lewis Hamilton says he expects McLaren to be even further behind the leaders in Sepang this week despite coming third in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

The British driver qualified in eighteenth place for the season-opening race in Melbourne providing confirmation that McLaren are significantly slower than the current pace setters Brawn GP.

An aggressive charge through the field on race day, allied to the high attrition rate of the grand prix and a penalty for Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, saw Hamilton finish third, but the McLaren driver is under no allusions that his team still have a lot of work to do before they can challenge for race wins.

If anything, Hamilton expects McLaren to be further behind the front runners in next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

“Firstly, we shouldn t get carried away by our podium in Australia,” he said. “Yes, we had a fantastic race but we re all aware that our car isn t capable of repeating that sort of performance on sheer pace alone.”

“And Sepang is one of the tougher tracks on the calendar, one where we will probably be further from the frontrunners than we were in Albert Park. The track is both fast and technical so requires good mechanical and aero grip.

“It s much more aero-dependent and rear-limited than Melbourne so it may highlight some of the shortcomings in MP4-24. Nevertheless, we re all really encouraged by the progress we ve made and I know we ll be pushing as hard as ever to put more points on the board in Sepang.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh confirmed that Hamilton’s third place in Melbourne was not a true reflection of the team’s current pace.

“Despite a good result in the race, our performance in the Australian Grand Prix was not what we would like it to be, and the reality is that this weekend s race in Malaysia is unlikely to offer a significant improvement in fortunes,” he said.

Ever since they first unearthed the problems with their new car in pre-season testing, McLaren have been working tirelessly at their headquarters in Woking to find additional lap time.

But Whitmarsh concedes that it could be a few races before they begin to make significant in-roads on their rivals.

“We are still pushing to introduce performance to the car,” he said. “The close proximity to the opening race means there won t be many large changes to the car but there will be several upgrades to existing components.”

“For us, the mission is clear: we must introduce laptime to our car faster than our rivals to enable us to, firstly, catch the leading runners and then to be able to compete against them. It s a task we take incredibly seriously and are confident that progress will be made sooner rather than later.”