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Hamilton's Malaysian strife tarnishes Melbourne shine 23 Mar 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren on the grid.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 23 March 2008 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4 leads Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 23 March 2008

Following his dominant performance in Melbourne, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had set a formidable benchmark for his 2008 season. But a week later at Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix the situation couldn’t be more different, with Hamilton forced onto the back foot after a difficult Sepang weekend.

Hamilton’s troubles started on Saturday, with both he and team mate Heikki Kovalainen dropping five places on the grid, after stewards decided the duo had blocked rivals during the closing stages of Q3. An excellent start by the British driver, however, saw him leapfrog up the field but he was then caught behind Red Bull’s Mark Webber and was unable to get by.

“I got a really good start and was pretty happy as we jumped five positions from ninth to fifth,” explained Hamilton. “I was pushing Mark for a very long time, but being behind someone, no matter how quick you are, it is really difficult to get past. We were in a good position for a shot at third place at least.”

A subsquent problem with Hamilton’s right-front wheel doubled his time in the pits and he dropped down to 11th. Despite fighting his way back up the field, traffic, and then the unexpectedly quick Toyota of Jarno Trulli, once again added to Hamilton’s predicament and he eventually finished in fifth.

“I did the best job I could,” he added. “However we take away the fact that the car ran very reliably in these extreme conditions, and I was able to push Jarno right until the last second. I have to say that both Mark and Jarno drove really well today, and it was great to fight them out on track today.”

Hamilton’s Malaysia outing eventually earned him four points towards his championship tally, but Kimi Raikkonen’s win means the Finn and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld take up second and third places in the standings, each on 11 points - just three shy of Hamilton’s total.