MELBOURNE: Lewis Hamilton was “super grateful” to take his first podium of the year in Australia on Sunday, and suggested Mercedes could close the gap on the dominant Red Bulls.
The British star briefly led in Melbourne after starting third on the grid, before finishing second behind Max Verstappen, but ahead of Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.
It was his best result of the year and hugely encouraging after a miserable season last year for his struggling team.
“I didn’t expect to be second so I’m super grateful for it,“ he said.
“I’m driving as best I can and working as hard as I can but still, considering we’ve been down on performance and in straight pace, for us to be up there fighting with Aston is amazing.
“We can close that gap (to Red Bull),“ he added. “It’s going to be tough but not impossible.”
In contrast to Hamilton's podium, teammate George Russell failed to finish after his car caught fire after starting second on the grid.
Hamilton said it was “really unfortunate” for Russell, but couldn’t hide the fact that Mercedes were making progress.
“It was very unexpected (getting second) coming into the weekend, but obviously getting two and three in qualifying yesterday blew us all away,“ he said.
“It was huge boost of energy throughout the team and then today we had a shot at trying to at least overtake Max for a second and we both got ahead, which was amazing to have a Mercedes 1-2 before he came sailing by.”
His stirring battle with Alonso -- a former teammate -- was enthralling, with Hamilton saying his car had better speed on the straight but the Aston Martin excelled on the corners.
“So I think we definitely have some performance to find, it definitely wasn’t easy keeping him at bay,“ he said of the Spaniard.
“But it was really quite interesting to see where we were lacking and where we were good, so there’s lots of positives to take from today.
“For us to still somehow finish ahead (of Alonso) is pretty awesome and I’ll take it.” - AFP