While amazed and slightly taken aback by the revelation that the race-winning Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel triumphed by 22 seconds without the use of KERS, Lewis Hamilton admitted that he had cause to be thankful for the system being fitted to his McLaren.

Having turned in a stunning lap to separate the two Red Bull entries on the grid in Melbourne, the Briton almost undid his good work when he was greeted with masses of wheelspin when he let the clutch out at the start. While Vettel made a clean and decisive break to lead the opening lap by 2.4secs, the 2008 world champion had to fend off local favourite Mark Webber and team-mate Jenson Button in order to ensure that he led the pursuit.

"The start was not particularly great," Hamilton conceded, "I really got a lot of wheelspin and lost quite a bit of ground to Sebastian. There was nothing I could do, just try to keep my position. Fortunately, with the KERS, I was able to hold second and, from then, on it was quite a smooth race."

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Also at a disadvantage by being on the dirtier side of the grid, Hamilton said that he would have to study the McLaren team's data post-race to determine how big a role the track surface played in his struggle to get off the line, or whether the settings on his car had been at fault.

"I don't know [if its was the track]," Hamilton admitted, "I would have to sit down and analyse it. I'm sure the dirty side had an effect on that, but the guys behind me had a better start - at least, I saw Jenson had a slightly better start than me [from fourth on the grid].

"I don't know if it was the input that I had into it or... What I do know is that, when I dumped the clutch, I just got masses of wheelspin. I did make a change to the clutch settings on the way around as I was asked to, and maybe it was too aggressive. After that, I was just really trying to recover from it, so I was just wheel-spinning. Fortunately, I had KERS to save me but, if I hadn't had that, I would have lost position to Mark and, potentially, to Jenson."

Asked for his reaction to the news that neither Red Bull entry had been fitted with KERS for the Melbourne weekend, Hamilton paid brief tribute to the Milton Keynes team, before switching the spotlight back to McLaren and the fact that, without its own efforts since the final pre-season test, the gap between them could have been even bigger.

"I think it makes it very clear that they have a fantastic car - as they have had for the last year-and-a-half," he said of the RB7 and its predecessor, "They've had the fastest car since towards the end of 2009, and they continue to have the fastest car.

"But to turn it over to what we've done, coming from a car which was probably going to arrive here two seconds off the pace to being maybe a second off in qualifying if they had KERS, I think that's probably the most impressive part for me. I think it's very rare that you see such a big leap in performance in F1, and I feel really privileged to be up here because we thought it was going to be quite a bad weekend."

Indeed, such was the relief at finding himself able to run at the front, Hamilton did not shy away from suggesting he would be even closer to Vettel in the future.

"I'm back up here, back in the fight, only a few points behind the guy in front, who has a much, much faster car," he mused, "But we'll close that gap, I have no doubts about that and, it clearly showed from today that, after our first stint, we can compete with them in the race, get ourselves up at the front and give them some pressure. Strategy is one [area] that we can work on but, generally, we have got good pace and I am looking forward to the next race."