Defending Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has conceded that there is 'no quick fix' to McLaren-Mercedes' aerodynamic struggles in the top flight this year after lapping well down the order in practice for the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend – confessing that his car lacks grip 'everywhere'.
Hamilton wound up a lowly and entirely unaccustomed 18th on the timesheets at the close of Friday proceedings – having placed a 'high' of 16th in the morning – almost two full seconds away from the leading pace, and around a circuit where only twelve months ago he led from virtually lights to chequered flag. He is well aware that a similar result this time around is little more than fantasy.
Whilst acknowledging that the MP4-24 has 'a good Mercedes-Benz engine' in the back of it – contributing to excellent straight-line speed – the 24-year-old revealed that cornering was rather more of an issue, as both he and similarly afflicted team-mate Heikki Kovalainen scrabble desperately around for grip Down Under. He is confident, however, that progress will be made.
“It's great to be back,” the British star enthused of the return to competition after the long winter break. “Obviously we are not as quick as we would love to be, but we are working very hard and we got though quite a good programme and made some decent steps for us at least.
“We didn't try any new bits; we had everything we needed on, but I am sure over the course of the first few races that there will be some new bits coming. I don't really know what everyone else is doing on the track, but I am happy with what we have done today.
“In general it is a good car; it is just a general lack of grip everywhere, pretty much. It is not particularly one area of the track – it is everywhere. We cannot carry the speed through the corners that we would like. It is predominantly aero, but we are working very hard.
“We have made some steps forward with it and for sure the gap to the others is nowhere near as big as it was back in Barcelona, but we have still got a long way to go. The guys back at the factory are working very hard to rectify that. There is no quick fix. It is going to take some time.”
Hamilton came in for a good degree of criticism in 2008 for his driving when battling in the middle of the order – particularly in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, when he had to fight his way through from just 15th position on the grid after a topsy-turvy qualifying session. He is adamant, however, that he has no qualms about racing in the midfield – even if he does not plan on making a habit out of it.
“I think it's tough for anyone,” the nine-time grand prix-winner mused, “but we've got a lot of experience as a team. Personally I've got a lot of experience of running at the back in other categories, so it's not completely new to me. We have had some races where I have been a bit further back.
“For sure we're not in the place where we would rather be, but we're working extremely hard – as hard as we can – and it's actually a good opportunity for us to try and turn it around. We've got a steep, very tough challenge ahead of us but if anyone can do it, I believe my team can. We've just got to remain positive and keep pushing.”