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Sepang, 21-23 March 2008
The Chequered Flag podcast

Lewis Hamilton at the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix
Hamilton came away with four points after an eventful race

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was satisfied to retain his lead in the drivers' championship after battling to fifth in a difficult Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Briton, who was demoted five places on the grid, holds a three-point lead over Sepang race winner Kimi Raikkonen.

"I wanted to do better but I'm leading the championship after the opening two races of the season," Hamilton said.

"Without the penalty, I believe we could have finished in second place but it could have been a lot worse."

Hamilton was penalised five grid places for impeding BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld during qualifying and started in ninth.

But the 23-year-old weaved his way up to fifth after the first lap. A lengthy pit-stop delay and some rigid defence from Toyota's Jarno Trulli then prevented him from climbing higher into the points.

"We were in with a good shot for third place until the poor pit-stop," Hamilton said.


"I pressed very, very hard for fourth. I really wanted that point but it wasn't to be. Jarno did a great job.

"Also my water supply did not work properly so I was very, very thirsty and that meant I didn't feel great."

Despite the set-backs of Sepang, Hamilton, who lost out on the 2007 title by a single point to Raikkonen, is determined to improve at the next race weekend in Bahrain on 4 April.

"We will bounce back in Bahrain," said Hamilton, who finished second at the Sakhir circuit last season.

"We were quick there last year and I believe we have the car to be quick again.

"We must look forward to the next race, we are still leading."

We made a decision it may have been the wrong one

McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh on the tyre choice

The Briton's quest for a podium finish in Sepang was not helped by the difficulties he experienced in qualifying, where he struggled with the car's set up even before the penalty.

Then during the race, the McLaren team conceded they might have opted for the wrong tyre choice.

Hamilton went out on the softer option and put on a new set during the troublesome stop but really began to gather pace once he had swapped to the harder set later in the race.

"On the surface of it, it looks like we made a mistake and we may have done that," said McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh.

"We were led by a combination of data and driver preference. We made a decision it may have been the wrong one. We will analyse it.

"Heikki Kovalainen got to a more comfortable position with the balance of his McLaren and it went away from Lewis.

"By Lewis's high standards he will be disappointed."

McLaren team principal Ron Dennis insisted there is still room for improvement and that it is too early to assess the car's genuine ability.

"We won't really know how competitive our car is until after Barcelona (on 27 April)," Dennis said.

"Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain are very different circuits and do not reflect the true pace of the car.

"If this is our worst weekend of the year then we will take it.

"Leading both championships at this point in the season is not a bad place to be in."

see also
Hamilton wins dramatic F1 opener
16 Mar 08 |  Formula One

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