- Australian Grand Prix
Hamilton plays down importance of winning start
Lewis Hamilton believes McLaren's race pace ranks among the top three or four teams, but has played down the importance of getting the season off to a winning start.
The 2012 season will kick off in Australia this weekend with Red Bull and McLaren expected to lead the way after solid pre-season testing campaigns. Hamilton is confident his team will be competitive in the race, but is not ruling out the likes of Lotus and Mercedes.
"Looking at the data on the long runs it looks like we are in the top three or four in terms with our long-run pace and how we deal with [tyre] degradation," he said. "I've not been on low fuel so I don't know how we compare to others on low fuel and I don't think we'll find out until Saturday. I'm expecting Lotus to be quite quick, I'm expecting Red Bull to be quick and I have a feeling that Mercedes will be fast, also Ferrari."
Asked if he was expecting a better result than last year, when he finished second despite struggling in pre-season testing, Hamilton said: "I'm not expecting anything. I'd like that to be the case, but I'm not expecting anything. Whatever the case we are going to be working as hard as we can to get to the top and do the best with what we've got."
And he played down the significance of a strong result at the first round.
"[It's] not as important as you probably think. It's obviously important to have consistency, but I had a good start last year and it didn't really add up to much."
The top teams have lost rear downforce this year with the ban on exhaust-blown diffusers, but Hamilton said McLaren's overall package is actually stronger this year.
"Last year when we took our exhausts off and Red Bull took their exhausts off, for example, we were quite a chunk [of performance] behind," he added. "Now, without the exhaust, we've improved the foundations of the car so it should mean we have a better car this season."