Belfast Telegraph

Fired up Hamilton predicts Melbourne McLaren magic

Former world champion Lewis Hamilton has set his sights on a McLaren one-two at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix after dominating practice in Melbourne — and then finding himself in trouble with the police.

The afternoon session was disrupted by intermittent spells of rain over the Albert Park circuit but Hamilton took advantage of a dry spell to clock the fastest lap of the day with team-mate Jenson Button just 0.275 seconds slower.

After setting the fastest time Hamilton was departing the Albert Park circuit when he foolishly opted to perform stunts in his loaned Mercedes.

Unfortunately for the 2008 Formula One world champion, the incident was in full view of a police patrol vehicle, which resulted in the 25-year-old promptly being pulled to one side.

Hamilton said: “This evening, I was driving in an over-exuberant manner and, as a result, was stopped by the police. What I did was silly, and I want to apologise for it."

Both Hamilton and Button were unable to match the pace of the Ferraris and Red Bulls at the season-opening race in Bahrain two weeks ago as they qualified fourth and eighth respectively.

The pair made up one position each during a frustrating race that yielded few moments of overtaking but Hamilton is confident this weekend will be a different prospect entirely.

“I definitely think we've made some improvements to our pace compared with Bahrain,” said the 25-year-old.

“Despite this afternoon's wet weather, we went out early in the second session when it was still dry and got some good running under our belts in order to see how some of the changes we'd made between the sessions felt.

“I would love to get a win and secure a one-two. That is always our goal as a team but we don't know what we can achieve this weekend.

“We know that we can be quick so we will just try to do a good job.”

The return to Melbourne has been one of mixed emotions for Hamilton after claiming a maiden victory in his title-winning season in 2008 before he was at the centre of the infamous “lie-gate” scandal last year.

Last season was all the more frustrating for Hamilton as he struggled with a woeful McLaren but he believes his current car is the best he has had in Australia.

“I actually feel very relaxed,” he added. “I've got a car that probably feels better than I've ever had at this track, so that's a major positive.

“I feel more confident that, going into qualifying, we'll be able to attack the guys who were at the front two weeks ago.”

Hamilton's team-mate Button was also happy with the performance of his car during practice.

“The car should feel better than it did in Bahrain,” he said.

“It feels like we have the correct downforce level for this circuit.

“Both tyre compounds are working well too, so it's all positive.

“It's important for us to find a good balance and get a good feeling with the car.”

Belfast Telegraph

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