Lewis Hamilton is happy to be hunted by rivals

 

Sepang

You only have to look at Lewis Hamilton's two brilliant pole positions this season to see that the old fire is burning within him again. Yes, he was a bit glum after finishing third in Australia last week, but his driving is flowing again and he knows that he has the car with which to win another world championship.

He and team-mate Jenson Button stressed throughout the winter that the most important thing was to make a strong start to the season. McLaren have not done that since 2008, the year in which Hamilton won the title. In 2009 the MP4-24 was a dog for much of the year; in 2010 and 2011 the MP4-25 and MP4-26 became race winners, but only after a huge amount of engineering effort from the Woking team as they played catch-up with Red Bull, who dominated both seasons.

Now the boot is on the other foot, and it's McLaren that starts with the advantage. Button beat Hamilton off the line in Melbourne, and Hamilton was later unlucky with timing of pit stops, and a safety car deployment, which helped Sebastian Vettel to pass him during the second round of them.

"You can't be happy if you start first and finish third," Hamilton said this weekend. "If you start 20th and finish 10th, that's OK, you can be happy with that. But not first to third."

It transpired that after he left the grid for the final formation lap before the start, his engineers instructed him to change the clutch settings; that minuscule alteration made the clutch drag too much, hence Button's better start. On such things can the result of races turn.

"Sometimes those things work for you," he said philosophically, "and sometimes they don't. But the important thing is that Jenson proved that we have a winning car and we had the front row in qualifying there and here, so there are lots of positives.

"As for the pit stops, I wanted to come in a lap sooner than I did. Normally I call it when my tyres are finished and they were by then, but Jenson was leading and wanted to come in, so in the end we stopped together, and with the safety car being deployed a lap later I lost a place to Seb. That's racing."

These things are never easy to take for a competitive racer. But Hamilton is not about to fall apart the way he seemed to at times in 2011 when his personal life was in turmoil. His girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger, is back with him and came to Australia and Malaysia, as did his mother, Carmen, as he took a leaf from Button's manual on finding your comfort zone.

"I'm very encouraged by our pace," Hamilton continued. "I think both Mercedes AMG and Red Bull Racing have performance up their sleeves, and they'll both be very fast in qualifying and the races. But as far as we're concerned at McLaren, it's nice to be the hunted rather than the hunter, which has been the case in the past few seasons."

And he knows that no team can bring as much technical development to their cars during a racing season as McLaren. Now, the important thing is to maintain momentum and advantage, and move further ahead.

"The result in Australia only doubled everyone's resolve, here at the tracks and back in the factory in Woking," he said. "The development race has already started and we'll be pushing like crazy to stay at the front. It's the pace of development – between ourselves, Red Bull, Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari – that will define the course of the season. And I know that we are very good at that."

Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy