Lewis Hamilton feels he faces the hardest challenge of his career to help McLaren again become World title contenders.
Against the odds, the reigning World Champion clinched third place in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix in a car he has revealed is the hardest he has ever driven.
From 18th on Melbourne's Albert Park grid, Hamilton was given a helping hand as three accidents during a dramatic season-opener accounted for four of his rivals, whilst Jarno Trulli was handed a 25-second penalty after the race.
But on the other side of the coin, there was Hamilton's undoubted talent as he produced a masterclass to underline just why he is defending World Champion, conjuring up a number of memorable overtaking manoeuvres.
The fact it was in one of the worst designed McLarens to take to a circuit gives you some idea of just how well Hamilton performed.
But these are tough times, potentially worse for Hamilton than anything he has previously endured over the past two years in F1.
"Every year gets harder and I would say right now is the biggest challenge for myself, and also for the team," said Hamilton.
"We've had some serious challenges over the last two years, and this is another big one for us, if not the biggest.
"But like I've said from the beginning, if anyone can do it, we can.
"I've a huge amount of belief in this team we can turn it round, and this is a good foundation for us to work on."
However, the characteristics of Albert Park make it an anomalous circuit, so do not expect a repeat next Sunday in Malaysia.
"Going into the weekend I knew we could have a race where we didn't get any points," added Hamilton.
"Ferrari only got one last year, but they came back and were strong later on, so anything is possible.
"But in going to Malaysia there will be a bigger difference between us and the Brawn cars. We'll be further behind.
"It's going to be even harder for us because the car is incredibly tough to drive, probably the hardest I've ever had to drive.
"Malaysia is more dependent on downforce and aero, so I think there will be a bigger gap, but hopefully by China (a fortnight later), and from then on, we'll be a little closer."
The post-race penalty for Trulli, for passing Hamilton under yellow flags following an accident involving Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica, deprived the fans of seeing the Briton on the podium.
That mattered little to Hamilton as he said: "Podium or no podium, it's the result we need to keep everyone motivated and encouraged."
Source : Planet F1