He might have revealed that he was 'so happy' for his team-mate Jenson Button when the defending F1 World Champion achieved the first victory of his McLaren-Mercedes career in the Australian Grand Prix last weekend courtesy of a flawlessly composed performance as all around him tripped over one another or themselves, but it is clear that Lewis Hamilton hopes next time it will be him standing up on the top step of the podium - and he is confident he will not have to wait too long.

As Button sailed serenely on to glory Down Under in Melbourne, Hamilton was becoming embroiled in all sorts of scraps and scrapes, twice coming together with Red Bull Racing rival Mark Webber and ultimately winding up sixth, having complained vociferously both en route and in a post-race interview about the 'freaking stupid' decision to bring him in for a second pit-stop mid-race, a move that the 25-year-old was adamant cost him a sure-fire rostrum finish, if not even better.

Allied to a run-in with state police on the Friday night, an off-key qualifying performance that left him with all the work to do come race day and being colourfully labelled 'a dickhead' by the Victoria roads minister after the weekend for his road car high-jinks, and the Australian Grand Prix was unquestionably not Hamilton's finest hour as an F1 driver.

However, having since made peace with his team, put the spat behind him and accepted the reasoning behind his extra pit visit, the 2008 world champion is back on-form with a vengeance in Sepang this weekend ahead of round three on the 2010 calendar, the Malaysian Grand Prix, lapping quickest of all in both free practice sessions on the opening day in Kuala Lumpur.

"Honestly, I was just so happy for Jenson because he is a great guy, and a great part of the team," underlined the eleven-time grand prix-winner. "The fact is that I have got a very competitive team-mate, which is great as that is what we need as a team.

"You have to rely on your team. When I am in the car, I don't know exactly what is going on around me. After sitting down with the guys in the garage, I had a good understanding of why we did [the second pit-stop in Melbourne], and from that experience, we will definitely take it forward for the next race and future races.

"I do feel at some stage that I will get my chance to win races, and we are only two races into the season. I think [Australia] showed that I definitely had the pace in the race at least, and I am as quick as the front guys. Definitely having a race like that lifts you up after a tough weekend overall. It gives you that confidence that you are still there.

"Sepang is a very special place; it's not a stop-start circuit - it's a flowing, high-speed track which is all about getting the car to flow from one corner to the next. You need lots of rear-end grip, a strong balance and a car that can ride the kerbs well while also conserving the tyres - and that's never an easy combination to achieve.

"I think we had a good first day. I've got a good feeling in the car - it's probably the best feeling I've had in the car around this circuit. Every time I get to a track this year, it always feels light years better than the last time, which is very positive. We're still trying to get a better feeling for the tyres, but we've made some positive first steps.

"This evening, I want to sit down with my engineers and make a couple of changes. We don't yet know where the others are so we need to keep focussing on our performance, but we're optimistic that we've made a small step forward - and hopefully the weather will be okay for qualifying tomorrow!"

"The timesheets in both sessions suggest that we are headed in the right direction," concurred the Woking-based outfit's team principal Martin Whitmarsh, "but our focus this evening is to maximise the car's performance, particularly over a long run, where we know tyre performance will be crucial. Lewis made excellent progress throughout both sessions, and we've all been encouraged by his view that the MP4-25 is the best McLaren he's ever driven around this circuit."