Lewis Hamilton has described conditions in the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang as 'impossible' and 'the most dangerous' in which he has ever competed – as the reigning Formula 1 World Champion admitted that he was relieved simply to keep his McLaren-Mercedes on the circuit and open his 2009 account.
Hamilton is an acknowledged master of wet weather racing – with his triumphs in the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji and 2008 British Grand Prix at Silverstone nothing short of mesmerising in their expertise – but if he admits that he generally enjoys driving in the rain, he got precious little enjoyment out of his outing in Kuala Lumpur, save for the single point awarded to him for seventh place following a determined drive in a car patently lacking the downforce and grip of many of its competitors.
“It was a very tough call because you could only see the clouds, and then some parts of the track were wetter than others so it was hard to commit,” the 24-year-old related of his first pit-stop, when the decision was made to switch to full wet tyres rather than take a gamble on intermediates.
“When the rain came down, it was impossible to drive. I was aquaplaning everywhere – these were the most dangerous conditions I've ever raced in.”
“All I could do was try and keep the car on the track. It was the correct decision to stop the race because it was just too dangerous for everyone. I love it when it rains, but this was just too much.”
Hamilton did fare rather better, though, than team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who for the second grand prix in succession this season departed the fray on the opening lap as the result of driver error.
“My start was okay,” related the Finn. “I was taking it quite carefully and trying to slot in behind Lewis, then I just lost the rear and spun out. It was my mistake. Game over.”
Nonetheless, the Woking-based outfit's team principal Martin Whitmarsh described the outcome of the grand prix as 'a step in the right direction' following McLaren's nightmare start to proceedings in 2009, with Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug reckoning that every driver who finished was 'a hero' in such treacherous conditions.
“The extremely changeable dry-wet conditions made today's race a very challenging one for all competitors,” reported Whitmarsh, “but, as ever, Lewis' ability shone brightly in the gathering gloom and the race brought another really impressive performance from him.
“He kept his head throughout, and the result was a hard-earned point for seventh place. That may not sound like a great deal by our usually high standards but, given where he started, it's a step in the right direction. Overall, then, in testing conditions the team did a great job – as did Lewis.”
“A race like a battle,” added Haug. “Despite starting from the sixth row on the grid, Lewis was in good shape – and everybody who kept his car on the track in these conditions was a hero today. Congratulations to Jenson Button and Brawn GP on the second consecutive win with Mercedes power, both of which were achieved from pole position.”