Formula One: Hamilton and Button now believe they can land title
Lewis Hamilton yesterday delivered a title warning to Sebastian Vettel by telling the Formula One world champion: “It's now game on.”
McLaren team-mate Jenson Button is also convinced the championship is no longer a dream, as was previously the case over a fortnight ago in testing, but instead has become “a realistic aim”.
It was no coincidence both drivers emerged from Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix with smiles on their faces.
Despite Sebastian Vettel's impressively dominant weekend that saw him take pole by a significant margin of 0.8secs and the win by 22 seconds from Hamilton, the McLaren boys are back in business.
The team took a massive gamble in ditching their radical exhaust system, opting to simplify its design, yet the results over the weekend were evidently startling and caught everyone by surprise.
Come the end of testing in Barcelona, Hamilton never believed such a huge stride in performance was possible, whilst Button, now in his 12th season, has never seen anything like it.
“There is no way in my dreams I could ever have imagined this would have happened,” said Hamilton.
“I've had experiences before, like in 2009, but we didn't jump too big a step until much later on in the year.
“That was with a lot of changes. This was just one small part, and it's brought about a second and a half, which is impressive.
“I wouldn't have thought it possible for us to make such a big step by the first race from where we were two weeks ago.
“I honestly can't tell you how happy I am, and I'm sure we're all relieved within the team to see the performance is there.
“The car felt fantastic, and you could see I was able to compete with Sebastian in the race to a certain extent until my car was a little bit damaged.”
Asked whether he felt he could now win the title, Hamilton replied: “It is way too early to say.
“But knowing I'm in the fight for the championship, more than everyone else bar one person from race one, I say 'Game on!'
“We're on the case, we're on the tails of the Red Bulls, and I am not going to let them have it easy.”
Button's race was a little less straightforward than Hamilton’s as he dropped from fourth to sixth in the opening corners after being baulked.
“The title is now definitely a realistic aim,” said Button.
“I didn't help my points total in Australia, but if it is the worst points finish this year then that's great.”