• Malaysian Grand Prix

Mercedes yet to show true potential - Hamilton

ESPN Staff
March 21, 2013 « Hulkenberg not on the back foot | McLaren not ruling out switch to 2012 car »
Lewis Hamilton: "I really don't feel like we extracted the maximum from the car" © Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes has yet to show its true potential and is confident he can start to maximise the car's potential this weekend in Malaysia.

Hamilton qualified third in Australia and went on to finish fifth, but said a balance issue in the first stint and over-compensation for that first issue at the first pit stop meant the car was actually capable of more.

"I do really feel positive about the car, I feel positive about the team and they are moving very fast in terms of developing the car and learning how I like to work, and I'm learning very quickly how they like to work," he said. "Of course, we could have done things better and it was our first race together, so you can't really prepare perfectly no matter how much you prepare for it. It's not until you do a race that you understand how to work.

"I came away from there with 10 points and I feel really happy with 10 points because when I made the switch [from McLaren] I didn't know where we would be. I also had the feeling that that wasn't just a lucky shot in the first race, I felt it was something we can continue throughout the year. If you look at all the top teams, they are really good a developing and moving forward very fast and I think that is something the team is learning to do and I'm seeing it coming through.

"We were strong in a lot of good places and I really don't feel like we extracted the maximum from the car, so here I feel really positive and optimistic about the weekend."

Hamilton managed a relatively long stint on the super-soft tyres at the start of the race but eventually moved on to a three-stop strategy, which proved slower than race winner Kimi Raikkonen's two-stop. Easing the tyres through the race will be crucial to success this year and Hamilton said he is planning to see in Friday practice just how good his car is at preserving rubber.

"Time will tell. On that [first] stint it definitely looked like it was kind on tyres, but that could be down to the balance so that's why we're going to test it in P1 and P2. Kimi did something like 19 laps in P2 [in Australia] and then up to 24 laps on his runs in the race. So whether we can go that long remains to be seen, but the rear end was working pretty well and we were too far to the extreme with understeer so the front tyres went out too quickly."

Asked whether he thought the Red Bull's pace in qualifying was frightening, after lapping 0.6s off Sebastian Vettel's pace in Australia, Hamilton said that he felt he could have matched the RB9s if it weren't for the mixed conditions.

"I don't think they have frightening pace in qualifying," he said. "If I went out at the same time I think I could have matched their time. I don't think it was frightening pace, it was a circuit that was drying up, and of course they did a great job, but the circuit was getting better and better so the guy who was out first was undoubtedly going to be slower than the guy who was out last on track. The track was evolving so quickly."