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GP Week : Issue 109
McLaren competitive despite poor pre-season McLaren put a reliability-stricken pre- season testing campaign firmly behind them with an impressive podium finish in australia. The pace of the MP4-26, fitted with a revised exhaust system, surprised many at the weekend, as few had expected the Woking team to be anywhere near the front-running pace. While the searing pace of the red Bull was significantly out of reach, 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton did an admirable job in securing a comfortable second place. It was far from a straightforward race for Hamilton though, as he had to rely on his KERS to re-pass Webber at the start after getting bogged down with too much wheelspin. He then kept pace with Vettel during the first stint, but started falling back when the front of his undertray got damaged at half-distance. Nevertheless, he was delighted with the result. “Second position is a great result. The car felt fantastic, really nice to drive, and I was able to look after my tyres throughout the race,” said Hamilton. “I don’t really know what happened with the floor, but it didn’t feel too bad to drive. After the race I had a look at it, and it looked quite badly damaged. I was just glad to be able to bring the car home, I was nursing it.” It was a case of what could have been for Jenson Button in the sister McLaren after he was justifiably given a drive-through penalty for overtaking Felipe Massa by cutting Turn 12 on lap 11. He lost 25 seconds because of the drive-through, without which he could theoretically have finished as high as third. He claimed he had not broken the rules, although TV pictures did not show him being ahead of Massa just before cutting the corner. “I tried to overtake him around the outside of Turn 11. I was in front before we turned in, but he went really deep into the corner and pushed me wide so that I couldn’t take my normal line,” explained Button. “After my drive-through penalty I had to fight my way back – which was fun but also frustrating. I just wish I could have got the best out of it today, but at least Lewis did a good job.” Team principal Martin Whitmarsh was delighted to have come away from Australia with 26 world championship points, having looked totally at sea in pre-season testing. “Overall when you consider where we were a few weeks ago, you’d have to say that for us to come away from Australia with 26 world championship points is a pretty decent outcome,” said Whitmarsh. “More important, though, it means that we’ve got a very promising platform from which to develop our car and compete for world championship honours this season.” 32