McLaren-Mercedes has been pursuing a wild good chase for too long with its underperforming MP4-24, Lewis Hamilton has contended – and whilst he has vowed to keep on pushing for the remainder of the 2009 campaign, the reigning Formula 1 World Champion has suggested that his team would be best-served in turning all of its efforts now towards next year's car.
With just nine points on the board from the opening seven races and little-to-no chance remaining of successfully defending his hard-fought crown, Hamilton has endured a crushingly disappointing start to the present season after clinching the drivers' laurels for the first time on the final lap of a nail-biting Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos last November.
The abject form of McLaren's aerodynamically-poor challenger in high-speed corners was exposed once again in the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul at the weekend, with the Stevenage-born ace falling at the first hurdle in qualifying – behind the similarly Mercedes-powered Force India of former F3 Euroseries team-mate Adrian Sutil – and going on to take the chequered flag an unlucky 13th on race day, what some would say sums his season up to a T.
“We probably should have scrapped this car a long time ago,” the 24-year-old acknowledged, “but it is too late now. If we scrapped it [now], it would be a waste of money and hard work from all the guys, and with the way the economy is it could take five or six months to rebuild a car – and who's to say we would get it right?
“I actually thoroughly enjoyed the race [in Istanbul], considering I was a little way back there. I was very heavy at the start – I was on 83 kilos – and it was impossible to keep up with the guys in front, but I just pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed. I didn't have anything left – I was way over the limit – and that's why I'm still smiling.
“The biggest problem for us is I think I was losing something like half a second in turn eight to everyone else – I was having people nearly overtake me on the exit of it like I was standing still. The car feels like it's heavy, like I'm pushing and trying to get the thing round but it won't go any faster.
“I think I fulfilled my driving potential, and I want to say to the guys back home 'keep pushing – I know this car is clearly not the best, and perhaps we won't be able to win with this one, but let's really knuckle down and focus on bringing it back, especially for next year'.
“I'm going to keep on pushing for the rest of this year too, but I don't think we should rush any upgrades – it's better that we take our time to refine it. It's not like we can claw back 60 points. We will bounce back next year.”
Though he may have trailed in more than a lap behind the Brawn GP of compatriot and current world championship leader Jenson Button – also Mercedes-propelled – Hamilton made a point of stating that if he cannot triumph again in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in a fortnight's time, then he hopes his countryman will be able to do the business for the crowd on home turf.
“I'll be looking forward to seeing all the fans and all the great support that they've given me,” the nine-time grand prix-winner concluded, “and I really wish Jenson all the best – he did a fantastic job here, and I saw him in my mirrors so I kind of got to see him win the race in some sense! Clearly he's doing a fantastic job, and I'm really, really happy for him.”