Date:Monday March 19 2012
Lewis Hamilton's Saturday evening mood and Sunday evening mood couldn't have been more different.
After finishing second quickest in Free Practice 1 in a rain affected session, behind team-mate Jenson Button, the McLaren's then concentrated on set-up and analysis of the car during Free Practice 2 and both Hamilton and Button were well off the pace, 4 seconds slower than the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.
McLaren didn't complete a whole lot of running while the track was slippery because the team didn't have many spare parts with them in Australia, but the team remained confident and that was confirmed on Saturday morning when Lewis Hamilton topped the timing charts in Free Practice 3.
That low fuel pace was then confirmed in qualifying when Hamilton stuck his McLaren on pole ahead of team-mate Jenson Button.
The McLaren's at this stage looked to possibly be in a class of their own, Romain Grosjean for Lotus was third quickest, the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher was fourth, with the two Red Bull's of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel fifth and sixth quickest over 0.7 seconds behind Hamilton.
“I’m massively proud of my team. We’ve been working incredibly hard throughout the winter: we’ve never given up, and everyone has just kept pushing and pushing. We’ve had some tough years, but everyone in this team wants to succeed: to be the best. I’m proud that I was able to do the job for them today.' Hamilton told formula1.com on Saturday evening.
'Today we showed that we not only have the most beautiful car in Formula One, but also the fastest! Of course, there’s still a long way to go tomorrow – looking after the tyres will be key - but we’re in the best possible position to have a strong race.”
So everything was looking positive for the 2008 Formula One World Champion, who was keen to put the 2011 season behind him in the best way possible, winning the opening race of 2012.
But that wasn't to be, poor traction away from the line gifted the advantage to Jenson Button and by the first turn, Hamilton was second.
That proved crucial because at the first round of pit-stops Hamilton had to play second fiddle to Button who had the choice of when to pit, that left Hamilton pitting one or two laps later than he would have liked, further extending the gap between himself and Button and pushing him closer into the sights of Vettel behind him.
When McLaren pitted for a second time, slick work enabled the team to change tyres of Button and Hamilton with no time delay at all, with Hamilton pulling in for his pitstop just as Button was pulling away.
But when lady luck isn't on your side then no matter how slick your tyre stops are you are going to miss out and when the safety car was called out for the stricken Caterham of Petrov, all the advantage was handed to Vettel who pitted the very next lap and was able to get in front of Hamilton where he then stayed until the chequered flag fell.
“Congratulations to Jenson and the whole team for such a great result today. While it’s a bit disappointing not to have been able to convert pole position into victory, I’m not downhearted - there are still plenty of races ahead and lots more opportunities to score points. I struggled out there a little - it wasn’t my day. But what’s most important is that we showed today that we have a very quick racing car - that’s a massive positive for the team.' Hamilton said after the race.
But while Hamilton might have claimed he wasn't downhearted his body language screamed otherwise.
He barely bothered to acknowledge the crowd when lifting his trophy, he barely joined in with the champagne celebrations on the podium and he barely joined in with the McLaren's post race celebrations.
But Hamilton is a winner and he is kicking himself for not being able to take a race winning car to the top step like his team-mate did [who also made it look easy], this is a different sort of frustration from Hamilton to what we saw last season, this is just the competitive side to a racer, disappointed not to have won and not many in the McLaren garage will be too disappointed to have a driver who is only happy when winning.
Date:Monday March 19 2012
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