Lewis Hamilton has hailed his McLaren team for "performing a miracle" to turn around its car for the start of the 2011 season following his first win of the year in China.
The British squad struggled for pace and reliability during winter testing, but started the season strongly, with Hamilton finishing in second place in Australia. Last Sunday in Shanghai, the Briton scored his first win of the season after a superb charge to beat Red Bull rival Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton said he has been amazed by the work done by McLaren, although he made it clear the team has to continue to push hard to catch Red Bull.
"We needed this win," said Hamilton. "Looking back at the last few weeks, we have done something incredible at this team. To have turned the car around and made it a winner; we've never done something that big in such a short space of time. I take my hat off to everybody back at the MTC – once again, they've performed miracles.
"But we can't sit still. We've still got more work to do to be able to match Red Bull. Don't get me wrong – what we've done has been incredible, but we need to go into the Turkish Grand Prix with more upgrades and improvements if we're to continue fighting at the front. And we know that other teams won't be standing still, either. So although this win is the perfect way to head back to Europe and prepare for Istanbul, this is just the start of the fight."
The 2008 World Champion insisted he was relieved to make it to the grid in China, after his mechanics were forced to work against the clock following a fuel leak. Hamilton left the pit lane with less than a minute to go, and drove around the track with some pieces of bodywork still missing.
"It was a really unusual moment: we've had times before there's maybe been a problem with the car, or a delay in leaving the garage, but it's never happened before when it's been so tight or so important," he said.
"I could hear over the radio that there was a problem starting the engine, and I could see people were starting to react a bit more quickly. To be honest, I just wanted to keep calm: I was strapped into the cockpit and I knew this wasn't something where I could help.
"Andy [Latham, race engineer] did a great job of keeping me informed, but also just staying calm. And Philip [Prew, principal race engineer] kept an eye on the countdown and made sure we made it out to the grid in time. It's never been closer, but we made it!"