Hamilton Downbeat

LEWIS Hamilton begins the defence of his Formula 1 title at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend — but admits he may struggle to keep up in Melbourne.

After a winter of radical rule changes and financial uncertainty, this season promises to be keenly contested.
McLaren have struggled during testing and Hamilton admits they face an uphill task to keep up with their rivals.

“We’ll have pretty much the same people challenging for the title as last year — except for us obviously,” he said.

Hamilton’s downbeat assessment comes after a miserable winter for McLaren — team principal Martin Whitmarsh said two weeks ago the team “had not done a good enough job. Whitmarsh added: “We have an underdeveloped car, we do not have sufficient aerodynamic downforce and we would like to focus on rectifying that as quickly as we can.”

And Hamilton is quick to play down his chances of retaining his crown.

“World champion is a great title to have next to your name,” said the 24-year-old Englishman. “But I have reset the targets.

“I do want to be a world champion again — but it will be tough this year.”

The mood at McLaren was not helped on Thursday when Hamilton apparently hinted that he could talk to other teams if McLaren continued to struggle.

“I haven’t had any offers from other teams, and I am not talking to anyone.” he said. “But I would listen to an offer if someone asked. It would be a compliment and it would be silly if I did not.” Hamilton later played down these comments, insisting he is “happy” at McLaren.

“All I said was that it’s quite cool if you find out other teams are interested in you,” he added. “It’s good to know you are wanted.” — BBCSport.