Lewis Hamilton has admitted that it would be great to break his Malaysian Grand Prix duck by standing on the top step of the Sepang podium this weekend.
While the Briton has finished in the points, and even the top three, at the Kuala Lumpur venue, he has yet to add Malaysia to the list of countries he has conquered as an F1 racewinner, but sees his second season with Petronas-backed Mercedes as an ideal time to put that right.
Having helped set the pace in pre-season testing, Hamilton's Australian Grand Prix was a short one. The Briton started from pole position before an engine problem forced him to retire on lap three, but he saw Mercedes' potential confirmed as team-mate Nico Rosberg went on to claim victory. Now he wants to taste the same success.
“I finished second on my F1 debut [at Sepang] in 2007 and have been on the podium at the last two Malaysian grands prix, but I've yet to win here,” Hamilton confirmed, “It would be amazing to stand on the top step at one of our home races and I'm looking forward to bouncing back after a tough weekend in Australia
“Although it was not the result we were hoping for, every setback is a chance to learn more about this new car, which is important as they're incredibly complex machines. I know the team at Brackley and Brixworth is pushing harder than ever and I'll be doing the same.”
With an unusual two-week break between the opening rounds of the season – Australia and Malaysia frequently run back-to-back - Mercedes has had time to investigate Hamilton's problem from Melbourne, and technical chief Paddy Lowe is hoping that reliability will be better at Sepang.
“While we were pleased to come away from Melbourne with a win, we were also left with plenty to think about,” he conceded, “As is to be expected with such new technology, we are learning more about the car with every lap. This inevitably brings more problems to the surface, all of which require careful management.
“Our priority is therefore to arrive in Malaysia in better shape mechanically than we left Australia. This race presents a very different set of challenges in terms of both the climate and the demands of the circuit layout. As always, reliability and endurance will be crucial, but we believe this venue will provide a more accurate representation of the relative pace between teams, as Sepang is a permanent race track which is generally a lot more differentiating of the cars, particularly with regard to aerodynamics. It should be an interesting weekend.”
Like Rosberg, Hamilton is a fan of the Malaysian layout, but is also aware of the extra preparation that needs to precede the race there.
“Sepang is a fantastic circuit and it's always an exciting challenge with the heat and humidity,” he acknowledged, “As a driver, it's a weekend you have to be well prepared for physically, as it can be very easy to lose concentration towards the end of a long race in these conditions. During my first race there in 2007, I didn't have a drinks feed available during the race so, by the end, I was totally exhausted and had lost about four kilos in weight!”