Hamilton bullish after Melbourne race
April 01, 2011
McLaren team-mate Jenson Button is also convinced the championship is no longer a dream, as was previously the case over a fortnight ago in testing, but instead has become "a realistic aim."
It was no coincidence both drivers emerged from Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix with smiles on their faces.
Despite Sebastian Vettel's impressively dominant weekend that saw him take pole by a significant margin of 0.8secs and the win by 22 seconds from Hamilton, the McLaren boys are back in business.
The team took a massive gamble in ditching their radical exhaust system, opting to simplify its design, yet the results over the weekend were evidently startling and caught everyone by surprise.
Come the end of testing in Barcelona, Hamilton never believed such a huge stride in performance was possible, whilst Button, now in his 12th season in the sport, has never seen anything like it.
That speaks volumes for the amount of work and professionalism of the entire team, in particular those back at the factory in Woking.
In Barcelona Hamilton did not believe he had a race-winning car, never mind one that could aim for the title, but the whole scenario has dramatically changed in the course of one weekend.
"There is no way in my dreams I could ever have imagined this would have happened," said Hamilton.
"I've had experiences before, like in 2009, but we didn't jump too big a step until much later on in the year.
"That was with a lot of changes. This was just one small part, and it's brought about a second and a half, which is impressive.
"I wouldn't have thought it possible for us to make such a big step by the first race from where we were two weeks ago.
"I honestly can't tell you how happy I am, and I'm sure we're all relieved within the team to see the performance is there.
"The car felt fantastic, and you could see I was able to compete with Sebastian in the race to a certain extent until my car was a little bit damaged."
Asked whether he felt he could now win the title, Hamilton replied: "It is way too early to say.
"But knowing I'm in the fight for the championship, more than everyone else bar one person from race one, I say 'Game on!'
"I know for my guys our result will provide a massive boost of energy, morale and confidence for everyone back at the factory.
"We're on the case, we're on the tails of the Red Bulls, and I am not going to let them have it easy.
"I'm now really looking forward to the next race."
Button's race was a little less straightforward than Hamiltons as he dropped from fourth to sixth in the opening corners after being baulked.
Then after the 31-year-old found himself stuck behind Felipe Massa for almost 11 laps, he cut a corner to avoid a crash and incurred a drive-through penalty that dropped him to 12th.
Come the conclusion, Button's feelings were mixed as to his final sixth place, but looking ahead to the rest of the season, there is no doubting his enthusiasm is bubbling over.
"The title is now definitely a realistic aim," said Button.
"I didn't help my points total in Australia, but if it is the worst points finish this year then that's great.
"Two weeks ago I would have taken sixth place, so we've come a long way, and I am truly shocked at how much we have improved.
"We were so slow in testing. You could drive the car with one hand and one eye, but now I'm really excited looking ahead to the next race in Malaysia.
"Looking at the performance of the car now and seeing where we have come from, it's massively impressive. I've never seen anything like it.
"Everyone is now so hungry to really fight the Red Bulls this year - as they always are - but when you take a massive step forward you just want to take the next one.
"There is still so much more to come, which is really exciting."