After the disappointing testing sessions in Spain I was looking to the Australian Grand Prix with a mixture of hope and fear.
Lewis Hamilton at the Friday practice session in Australia
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The Friday and Saturday practice sessions didn’t do a great deal to alleviate my fears that McLaren were going to have a rotten race, and probably a rotten season too. Qualifying didn’t prove to be the saving grace for McLaren as Hamilton ended up 15th with Kovalainen 14th. I didn’t end there, a gear box change meant that Hamilton dropped 5 grid places to 20th – at the very back of the grid, not an auspicious start to the 2009 season for the 2008 World Champion!
Thankfully problems with other drivers meant that Hamilton actually started in 18th, not on the back row at least. In the first 5 laps Hamilton had charged his way up to 10th place, a sure sign that he was not resigning himself to defeat, despite driving a car far below his race winning expectations. By the end of the race he was up to 4th place, and behind the safety car he overtook Jarno Trulli when the Italian went off the race track, a legal manoeuvre. Trulli rejoined the race track and then overtook Hamilton to take his 3rd place back, an illegal manoeuvre. An inquest would see Hamilton given 3rd place back, but this was after the race and he didn’t get to claim his quite remarkable podium place.
Lewis Hamilton during the 2009 Australian Grand Prix
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Heikki Kovalainen wasn’t as fortunate as a first corner incident with Mark Weber saw the Fins race finished before even one lap had been completed.
At this point Hamilton was 3rd in the drivers Championship and things weren’t looking as bad as I’d initially feared – in fact I was positively thrilled with Hamilton’s performance and McLaren’s turn of fortune. However, that was all about to change, but we’ll wait till McLaren Moments #3 to discuss the nightmare of the media labelled lie-gate!