Although Lewis Hamilton finished runner-up at the Australian Grand Prix, the Mercedes driver says he still does “not feel connected” to his W14.
Hamilton secured his first podium result of this season, his 192nd overall, as he held off Fernando Alonso at the Albert Park circuit in an intriguing game of cat and mouse between the World Champions in which they balanced attacking versus tyre wear.
Telling his race engineer Pete Bonnington that “these guys are quick behind me”, Bono urged Hamilton not to fall for Alonso’s trick and push his tyres too hard.
But with 10 to go it was game on, Hamilton letting his team know “there’s no way I’m losing to him!”
He didn’t, the Briton bringing his car home in second place in what was a chaotic race with no fewer than three red flags.
But while Sunday’s race was Hamilton’s best of the season, his previous results including a P5 and P4, the seven-time World Champion admits he’s still not feeling at home in the W14.
“I still feel uncomfortable in the car though,” he said. “I don’t feel connected to it.
“I’m driving as best I can with that disconnect and I’m working as hard as I can to to try and create that connection but I think it’s a long project.
“But still considering we’ve been down on performance, we’re clearly down on end of straight pace compared to the Red Bulls, for us to be up here fighting with Aston this is just amazing at this point in the season, and we just got to keep on fighting.
“A big, big thank you to all the people at the factory who keep pushing. We can close that gap, it’s going to be tough but not impossible.”
The race saw Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell grab the lead at the start, taking the inside line at Turn 1 on the opening lap to lead for the first time this season.
Hamilton took over when his team-mate pitted under a Safety Car on lap 8, that becoming the first of the day’s three red flags, but he lost that to Max Verstappen on lap 12, the Red Bull driver winning the race.
Russell’s day went from bad to worse when his Mercedes’ engine failed, the Briton pulling over onto the side of the track with flames coming from the back of the grid. That left Hamilton alone to fly the flag for Mercedes, his haul for the day 18 points.
“I think it was really unlucky for George today,” Hamilton said. “something we got to look into.
“Our reliability has generally been really good so that’s really unfortunate.
“But otherwise to get those points is really amazing today. I definitely didn’t expect to be on second so I’m super grateful for it.”
Between race winner Verstappen, Hamilton and Alonso there were 11 World titles up on the podium on Sunday afternoon.
“What a legend,” said Hamilton. “We got a World Champion up ahead, we’ve got two World Champions in a top three or three World Champs in the top three, that’s pretty mega.”