Mercedes driver believes McLaren can recover from a poor Melbourne to perform well in Malaysia.
Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton Wednesday denied any feelings of relief at quitting McLaren and backed his old team to bounce back from their “small blip” after a dismal Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who finished fifth in Melbourne in his first drive for Mercedes, said the successful outing had vindicated his decision — but he was not comparing life under the two teams.
“No, I don’t look at them (after Melbourne) and think I’m happier. I look at our performance and realise just how good of a choice it was obviously,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur ahead of this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
“The team have made some fantastic steps forward… let’s hope that this car stays competitive through the year and we can continue to develop it,” the Englishman added.
McLaren’s Jenson Button finished just ninth in the season’s first race while Sergio Perez, Hamilton’s replacement, was 11th. But the 2008 world champion leapt to the defence of his former team, calling it “fantastic”.
“They have always been very strong at catching up… I feel that this is only a small little blip in their journey this year. I’m sure they’ll catch up,” Hamilton said.
Meanwhile, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn predicted “a very challenging weekend” at the hot, humid and often rain-soaked Sepang circuit but hoped to be among the six quickest cars in qualifying.
“The car has shown some encouraging signs… We now need to show the proper potential of the car, which I don’t believe we did in Melbourne.”
“Assuming that we have a more normal weekend, I’d be very disappointed if we are not fighting in the top six of qualifying.”
He admitted, however, he still saw Mercedes as trailing Red Bull and Ferrari, who came first and second last year. Mercedes were fifth.
“It’s healthy for us to assume there is a gap. I think it’s too early to say, and you need a few races to make the judgement. But it’s our view that we have a gap to close and we are working to close the gap,” he said.