Melbourne: Lewis Hamilton is confident McLaren can close the gap on Sebastian Vettel`s Red Bull after staging a stunning turnaround to finish second behind the world champion at the Australian Grand Prix.
The Briton said he felt privileged after coming from such an unpromising position in pre-season testing to a podium finish after the team made dramatic changes to the car for the season opener.
"I think we can take this and be very proud of ourselves," he told a news conference. "A week or two ago, we were not expecting to be anywhere near the top five.”
"So to come away with a second, the car was reliable, this was the longest the car ever lasted. I think it`s a great achievement.”
"Clearly we were catching Sebastian early on in the race... Generally we had very good pace and I`m looking forward to the next race.”
"This is a great platform for us to push on from."
Australia has not been a happy hunting ground for the 26-year-old since he won the race on his way to the world title in 2008.
In 2009, he was caught in a storm over lying to race officials and was stopped by police near the Albert Park circuit and fined for reckless driving in his road car following Friday practice last year.
Even the news that the dominant Red Bull had not used the KERS system, which gives a short boost of power to a driver, in the race could not dim his enthusiasm.
"I think it`s clear they have a fantastic car," he said. "But for us coming here two seconds off the pace to being in qualifying a second off, if they had KERS, (and) the race pace being very, very similar.”
"That`s the most impressive part for me, it`s very rarely you see in Formula One such a massive leap in performance. I`m really privileged to be up here because I thought it was going to be a bad weekend.”
"But I`m back in the fight only behind the guy who has a much, much faster car. But we will close that gap, I`m very sure of that."
It was not all an easy ride for Hamilton. He made a poor start from second on the grid and only just managed to hold off Red Bull`s Mark Webber and then had to contend with some damage to the floor of his car late in the race.
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh was confident Hamilton would not face a penalty for damaging the wooden plank, which runs the length of the floor of all Formula One cars and is supposed to remain intact.
"There`s plenty of precedent for damaged cars," he told reporters.
"I might be wrong but I don`t fear that at all. It`s clear that the car was damaged, I`m sure the plank saw a bit of wear it`s still there I`m quite, sure so I wouldn`t think that`s a problem."