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Hamilton eyes title after strong first round for McLaren

ESPNF1 Staff
March 20, 2012 « Grid penalty harsh but not a disaster - Kovalainen | Williams close to front-runners - Maldonado »
Lewis Hamilton is very confident in his new McLaren © Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is confident he can mount a title challenge in this year's McLaren after taking pole position at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and finishing third.

His team-mate Jenson Button won the race, but the two McLarens were split by Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull, which proved to be stronger in the race than it was in qualifying. Hamilton was unable to explain the gap to Button on Sunday evening, but is confident he can bounce back this weekend in Malaysia.

"I know this is a car I can definitely challenge for the title with," Hamilton was quoted by the Daily Telegraph. "Jenson proved it. He had a fantastic race and it's definitely a good start to the year that both of us finished on the podium and in the points.

"It's still going to be a close season because the Red Bulls are massively quick, and God knows where they came from on Sunday. We're still going to be able to attack, but for us to start at the front is a pretty good way forward.

"As for me, I definitely do feel as though I've got it in myself to go for the title. I feel as ready as ever. I was ready on Sunday, it's just that some things didn't go my way."

He said the key to improving on his third place finish would be to get the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend off to a good start in free practice.

"It's about making sure I start off the weekend in the right way, as I did last weekend," he added. "But we appear to be the team to beat, which is a good sign. The team have been working hard for that. It's definitely the position to be in, and we're strong which is also a good place to be.

"But we can't get too carried away with it because even Ferrari were quick in the race. As for the Red Bulls, they look as though they have less (tyre) degradation than us, maybe. So it's too early to tell. In qualifying we were massively quick and competitive, but they were massively quick in the race. They are still a force to be reckoned with. I guess we're just an edge ahead, but we can't get too complacent. We'll look ahead with increased confidence. We just need to get more one-twos, but we're there. We're as quick as them at least. Malaysia should be a track where we should be quick again. Let's hope we can get a one-two there."

Last year Hamilton said he would like to have more friends and family at race events and in Australia he was joined by pop star girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger and his mum.

"It's been positive having her [Scherzinger] around, a positive having my mum around too," he added. "Their support always means a lot. I hope at some stage this year I'll have my dad and my brother around, that would be great as well. We're straight into the next race this weekend, which is good. I definitely plan to redeem myself."