Lewis Hamilton has said that he is prepared to go wheel to wheel with McLaren team-mate Jenson Button into the first corner of the Malaysian Grand Prix in a bid to avoid losing more championship ground.

Despite qualifying on pole position at the season-opener in Australia, Hamilton found himself second as the field poured into turn one after make an inferior getaway to Button's, and has vowed to make amends after repeating his qualifying performance at Sepang, even if it is likely to cause raised heartbeats in the McLaren garage.

"A huge amount of Sunday is about the start," he admitted to Sky Sports, "Hopefully, my start will be much better than it was in the last race. It's a long haul down to turn one, so there is a great chance for people to overtake. I'll have to make my car as wide as the track if I can - in a safe way - so no one gets past.

"It's not just me and Jenson, it's obviously Red Bull - they were still very quick in the race - [and] Mercedes have picked up their pace, so it's incredibly intense. But I love that challenge."

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has reiterated that the team would not impose instructions to its drivers on how to approach the start and run to turn one.

"Lewis and Jenson are free to do what they want to do," he insisted, "Lewis will feel he wants to come out of the first corner in the lead after what happened in Australia, but it will be a little bit tense for the first few seconds of the race."

With Pirelli having brought marginal compounds to Malaysia, Hamilton knows that it will be important to look after his tyres in the race, which looks set to be run in traditionally sweltering conditions, with the ever-present threat of rain.

"I've been working towards having a good race set-up, whilst not compromising my qualifying set-up," the pole-sitter revealed, "What's comforting to me is there was a little bit more time in my lap - I had a little bit of a wide moment the last corner - and it's great for the team to know that we have that pace in the car. But we definitely need to keep our pedal to the metal because it's going to be a tough fight for the next few races.

"You never know what's going to happen with the changeable conditions. I hope it stays dry, but these tyres are having a seriously hard time around here, especially under 150 kilos of fuel. It's going to be interesting. I don't know how it's going to go, but I'll do everything I can to make sure we're as competitive as possible."

Hamilton admitted that he finds the challenge of qualifying to be the highlight of the weekend and ranked his maiden pole at Sepang among the hardest of his career.

"I think it's been a tough day to be honest, with the changeable weather conditions and the temperatures climbing," he explained, "We made some set-up changes to the car, and nonetheless still managed to do some good times, but obviously we've got these guys pushing very hard behind.

"I think everyone's under the same amount of pressure. We all put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves and obviously a lot of partners and sponsors are relying on us as well, so it's very intense and probably the most exciting part of the weekend. It's something that I really enjoy."

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