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Pre-Sepang analysis - Hamilton's turn for Malaysian glory?

28 Mar 2014

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has never won the Malaysian Grand Prix, and he has come to Sepang this weekend determined to correct that omission.

“But it’s not like I need to come here and make a statement,” he said. “It’s not a matter of that. But I do want some points. It’s a very long, long year ahead, but naturally I don’t want to get too far behind.”

One welcome development is that he can still use the Mercedes engine which went on to five cylinders when he started from pole position in Australia, and that is a relief to Mercedes as drivers may only use five engines this year compared to eight in previous seasons. The team believe they have fixed the problem, and he’ll run the same power unit in practice today to make sure.

Team mate Nico Rosberg’s triumph in Melbourne leaves Hamilton feeling very confident, despite his own reliability issue, and the German’s 25-second victory margin suggests that the Silver Arrows will again be the strongest contenders.

“It’s pretty cool that Nico won the race,” Hamilton continued. “That’s awesome. He drove a great race, and when you’re leading you have good downforce and no traffic it’s easier to do it when you have those circumstances. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a race with a lead that big. I've had some good results here, but obviously I've not won. The challenge every time I come is to win, and this is the most extreme track for us because everybody has to open up their cooling to the limit and it’s a real test of driveability and performance, but this is perhaps the year that I have the best car to do it so I'm hoping that we have a chance to capitalise on that.”

He said that mentally it was easy to get over his own disappointment.

“Why? It just was. I was chilled after the race, I’ve slept well and had a good week. And it’s easier because I think that I’m better. In myself I’m better all round. I’ve learned a lot over the years and been through a lot of things, and I’m in a better position.”

Rosberg’s success in Melbourne marked his fourth Grand Prix victory, leaving him one behind his illustrious father Keke… “I understand that it’s interesting to make comparisons and that, and even I find it interesting,” he said. “After Australia, I read that he also won the first time... at the first Australian GP, 29 years ago. It’s fun to read those things but I really don’t think about that. I don’t compare. I’m proud of what my father achieved but I’m just focused on my job and getting the most out of it and definitely, yes, I’m optimistic for the weekend and there is a possibility to win.”

Hamilton said that after Red Bull’s domination of the last four years he would be quite comfortable if Mercedes were to take over that position, but added: “We exist to win and our job is to keep scoring points for our team, but people want to see battles and overtaking. I’m sure even Sebastian (Vettel) wouldn’t really want to win everything…”

The quadruple champion might have had something to say about that, had he not been occupied commenting on the noise of the new V6 turbos.

“I was on the pit wall during the race, and it’s quieter than in a bar! I think for the fans it is not good,” he said trenchantly when asked his opinion. “F1 has to be spectacular - and the sound is one of the most important things. I remember how loud the cars were, and to feel the cars through the ground as it was vibrating. It’s a shame we don't have that anymore."

Toro Rosso stablemate Daniil Kvyat was more positive.

“It’s quite popular to criticise Formula One nowadays, I think, and there is always some new technology coming and it has happened for me to debut in a new Formula One, let’s say. It’s quite interesting, I would say. The standard, with the new technology, has to change at some point and I think it’s quite interesting. It’s still fast, it’s going to be faster all the time and we will see at the end of the year how much better it is or not, so it’s early days.”

And McLaren’s Jenson Button made an interesting observation.

“With the old engines, even with earplugs, there was never a race I finished when I didn’t feel really tired mentally and didn’t have a massive headache. But after Melbourne, for the first time I didn’t have that headache. So that’s a positive!

“The old engines revved to 18,000 rpm. Now in the car it’s still fun because you have the turbo running to 120,000 rpm but the outright scream is no longer there. But instead we have a lot more torque, which makes things interesting…

“On the positive side, you can also hear the crowd, and you never normally get that. Of course we like the noise, but it is the way that it is. When you win, you win. Even if the car is silent, you wouldn’t care!”