Engine problems force Lewis Hamilton to retire from Australia GP after three laps
Mercedes driver tries to remain upbeat despite crushing blow at start of race; Merc hopeful issue won't trigger an engine change
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 17/03/14 7:51am
And it was all going so well - or at least it was until race day when Hamilton's grand prix was effectively over even before it had begun as his Mercedes W05, so impressive 24 hours earlier as it claimed pole position, developed a crippling loss of power.
Off the line, Hamilton was powerless - his car almost literally so - to fend off team-mate Nico Rosberg as the German skilfully exploited his partner's demise and by lap three, with Hamilton falling back into the midfield, it was game over. "That is how cruel motor racing can be," observed team boss Toto Wolff forlornly.
But if Hamilton was feeling any sense of grievance about his bad luck, the pre-season favourite was, to his credit, keeping it well hidden when he faced up to the press afterwards.
"It's a bit unfortunate but that's racing," he told Sky Sports F1. " We will recover from this. It's just a small hiccup, there's a long way to go.
"My start didn't feel great today and I had a lot less power than usual when pulling away, so it was obvious immediately that something was wrong. It looks like we only had five cylinders firing and, while I wanted to keep going, we had to play safe and save the engine.
"The car is quick, that's the positive."
Although the W05 is, by a clear margin, the fastest car in the field at present, as stressed by Rosberg's cruise to victory in Sunday's race, Mercedes' reliability issues are an ongoing concern. Hamilton failed to complete a single race simulation during winter testing and, while disappointing, the sight of the W05 crawling to a halt at the start of Sunday's race wasn't altogether surprising.
"We knew that even on the formation lap that the engine wasn't running on all cylinders," confirmed Mercedes' technical chief Paddy Lowe. "Lewis didn't know, we just thought we would see how the pace was. We knew from the start and you saw it clearly at the start he went back to P3."
The team are, however, hopeful that Hamilton's problem will not trigger one of the five engine changes that every driver will be allotted over the 19-race season.
"We have a problem with this engine, but it might be repairable," said Wolff.
The second race of the season takes place in two weeks' time in Malaysia.