x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

One race in the books and Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes looks better now

Englishman's off-season move does not look so bad one race into the 2013 Formula One season as he finishes four spots ahead of his former McLaren teammate Jenson Button, says Gary Meenaghan.

Looking relaxed during the drivers’ parade before the Australian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was still smiling at the finish as he was two places ahead of former teammate Jenson Button.
Looking relaxed during the drivers’ parade before the Australian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was still smiling at the finish as he was two places ahead of former teammate Jenson Button.

MELBOURNE // It was billed as a potential career-killing decision and yet Lewis Hamilton's switch from McLaren-Mercedes to the Mercedes' works team looks shrewder by the day.

The 28-year-old Englishman arrived at Mercedes in the winter expecting a year of tedious transition before looking to benefit from being placed at a factory-owned marque when next year's radical regulations overhaul is implemented.

Progress seems to be ahead of schedule.

On Sunday, at the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton qualified third behind the dominant Red Bull Racing duo and then finished the race fifth, four places ahead of his former McLaren teammate Jenson Button.

Naturally, he cut a surprised figure in the Albert Park paddock.

"I think it's great - I'm really happy," said Hamilton, who could have finished higher had he not been forced to change tyre strategy mid-race.

"I think it's way better than we probably ever expected in the first race of the season, so it's a good place to start. The important thing is that we have a car that we can really work with and the team have done a fantastic job to get us to this position."

Ross Brawn, Hamilton's team principal at Mercedes, was buoyed by his new driver's performance and believes a strong season can be in the offing if small improvements can be made.

"If we can put the pieces of the puzzle together, we have the ingredients to race well," he said.

In contrast, McLaren have looked off the pace all weekend with Martin Whitmarsh, Brawn's counterpart, conceding on Saturday night he has demanded factory staff be pulled off the team's ongoing 2014 project and assigned with the task of improving this year's car.

Button, who finished two places ahead of new teammate Sergio Perez, said he was surprised to have finished as high as ninth, but warned there is no quick-fix solution.

"There is a lot of work for us to do," the 2009 world champion said. "It's not something we are going to change overnight. We extracted everything we could, but we are not going to suddenly be competitive.

"Having said that, I think we should be pretty satisfied with what we achieved here. I scored two world championship points, which makes 1,001 in my career, and to be honest I don't think I could have scored any more than that."

Perez said the season-opening race had proved a bittersweet occasion.

"This will always be a very special day for me, because it was the day I made my McLaren debut, which is something that every driver always dreams of," the 23-year-old Mexican said.

"It would have been even better if I could have scored points, but that'll come soon."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

 

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