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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform