May 22 2013 Latest news:
By Alan Davies, Sports reporter
Friday, March 9, 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton is looking for a strong start to his world championship challenge in next weekend’s opening 2012 Australian Grand Prix.
The 2012 FIA Formula 1 World Championship opens next Sunday around the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne.
Hertfordshire-born Hamilton, 27, has 17 wins to his name in 90 grands prix and is looking for a healthy performance in Australia.
On his hopes for the March 18 race, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star said: “It’s a realistic aim: to score some useful points and use the race to kickstart our challenge for the world championship.
“That might sound like we’re aiming low – we’re not – but, at this time of year, it’s good to remember that it’s going to be a very long season.
"Of course, we haven’t tested it in competition yet, but there’s plenty to feel optimistic about."
“There’s no point putting all your eggs in one basket – I’d love to win in Melbourne, sure, but there are 19 races afterwards, so it’ll be important to get some points on the board.
“As long as I can leave Australia feeling confident that we have a car that’s able to fight for the title, then I’ll feel happy. It’s as simple as that.”
Hamilton has had just six days behind the wheel testing McLaren’s new MP4-27 challenger but is happy with the team’s pre-season progress – a far cry from 2011.
“I actually feel more relaxed and ready for the new season than I think I’ve ever done,” said Hamilton.
“Everything has gone smoothly with the car, which is more than we can say for last year, and it just seems to be a responsive and reliable package.
“My final day in the car – with the aero package we plan to run next weekend – also felt good: the car was a useful step forward.”
Hamilton, however, isn’t getting too carried away, with the real business starting in Melbourne next week in practice and then qualifying on March 17.
“Of course, we haven’t tested it in competition yet, but there’s plenty to feel optimistic about,” said the 2008 F1 world champion from Herts.
“It’s a bit weird to have driven the car for a whole month and still not done a really fast lap – I guess we’ll really find the limit next Saturday.
“Obviously, this is always the time of year when you’re feeling positive, but we’ve got plenty to look forward to.
“I’m going to get off the plane in Australia with a big smile on my face.”
Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate Jenson Button is also optimistic ahead of the season curtain-raiser in Australia.
“I’m happy with our preparations,” said Button, last season’s world championship runner-up behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
“You always want more laps and more time in the car, but, unlike last year, we’ve had a very solid start to our pre-season.
“It’s been very difficult to read pace over the winter because a lot of teams have been playing their cards close to their chests.
“I think it’s going to be extremely close, and I can’t wait to find out where we sit in the pecking order.”