‘Small’ chance Hamilton to avoid grid penalty

There remains a chance Lewis Hamilton will not have to move back five places on Sunday’s Chinese grand prix grid.

It emerged on Thursday that McLaren had discovered a problem with his Malaysia gearbox, requiring an out-of-sequence change and penalty in Shanghai.

“Of course it’s not the nicest thing to hear that we’ve got a problem, but you just have to take it on the chin,” the 2008 world champion told reporters. “We’re still here, we’ve still got a great chance to win.

“It just means I have a steeper hill to climb this weekend,” Hamilton is quoted by the Times.

Indeed, Hamilton set the pace in the initial practice session. And it then emerged that he had comfortably outpaced his rivals with the very gearbox that is bearing a worrying crack.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh confirmed to the British broadcaster Sky there is a “very, very small chance” Hamilton can keep the damaged gearbox throughout the weekend, thereby avoiding the penalty. However, he also confessed that the chance it will be replaced by a fresh gearbox on Saturday morning is “99 per cent”.

Either way, defending Chinese grand prix winner Hamilton – who has started the first two races in 2012 from pole – insists he is not overly fussed.

“When I was a kid I always used to like coming from the back of the grid,” he smiled.