Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button buoyed by McLaren performance

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button endured contrasting fortunes in yesterday's Australian Grand Prix, but their message was the same: "We're back."

Hamilton was a distant second to race winner and current Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel in his all-conquering Red Bull, whilst McLaren team-mate Button was sixth after incurring the wrath of the stewards.

After fending off Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber at the first turn, Hamilton's runner-up run was straightforward other than damaging the undertray of his car after running over a kerb.

Button, however, was baulked at the start, dropped from fourth to sixth, and then incurred a drive-through penalty for cutting a corner in attempting to avoid a collision with Felipe Massa that plummeted him to 12th.

However, if you had offered the McLaren duo second and sixth just over a fortnight ago at the end of testing when there were serious issues with the car, they would have snatched your hand off.

"Just a week or two ago we were not expecting to be anywhere near the top five, so to claim second is a great achievement from the guys," said Hamilton.

"This is a great position, a great platform, for us to push on into the next few races.

"We have upgrades coming and we now a better understanding of the car, a better understanding of the tyres and the strategy.

"So I feel really privileged to be up here because we thought it was going to be quite a bad weekend.

"Yet I'm back up here, back in the fight, only a few points behind the guy in front who has a much, much faster car.

"But we'll close that gap, I have no doubts about that."

As for Button, there was obvious disappointment in not securing a more positive result given his starting position on the grid.

There followed nearly 11 bitterly frustrating laps behind Massa before his corner-cutting move on which McLaren received no word from FIA race director Charlie Whiting after asking for guidance.

That was annoying for Button and the whole team, which turned to exasperation when the penalty was handed out, one that potentially cost him a place on the podium alongside Hamilton and Vettel.

Yet with the team having cured what ailed them in testing by going with a far more simplified exhaust system and new floor, the gains were apparent around Melbourne's Albert Park.

"It's disappointing not to pick up any more points when the car is as good as it is, but I think we should be very happy with what has happened this weekend," added Button.

"Our performance was great, and both cars completed a race distance for the first time this year

"Going into the next race I am fully confident we can make more improvements with this car - we have to if we want to race the Red Bulls.

"But to be the second quickest car up there with Ferrari, we have to be happy, and now we just have to keep plugging away."

Formula One's third Briton on the grid in Scotland's Paul di Resta finished 12th on his debut with Force India.

However, the 24-year-old was elevated to 10th after both Saubers were disqualified, although the team have served notice of their intent to appeal.