Hamilton - Best win yet

Hamilton: Confidence
This win perhaps feels better than any because I feel I've improved in many areas.

British star stays cool in Melbourne heat

Lewis Hamilton has hailed his victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix as the best of his career so far.

Starting from pole position, the 23-year-old McLaren-Mercedes driver led the race from start to finish, taking the chequered flag some 5.4 seconds ahead of BMW Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld.

The victory was the fifth in a F1 career spanning just 18 races and came in a chaotic race which produced just seven finishers and saw the safety car deployed three times.

Indeed, the manner in which Hamilton controlled the race and appeared calm in the face of repeated interruptions appeared reminiscent of his maiden victory in last year's Canadian Grand Grand Prix.

However, Hamilton begged to differ - the difference between the two being, according to him, a greater level of experience.

"Coming into a new season, turning over a new leaf, we really wanted to get off on the right foot," he said after taking the chequered flag in sweltering conditions at Albert Park.

"It's quite different to my first win in Montreal, just because that was really not expected.

"This win perhaps feels better than any because I feel I've improved in many areas.

"I wouldn't say it's the perfect win... but I think in terms of managing my tyres, controlling my pace and confidence and being comfortable in the car, it's the best race I've had so far."


However, while Hamilton and McLaren celebrated - team-mate Heikki Kovalainen finishing fifth - the race proved disastrous for Ferrari, with world champion Kimi Raikkonen retiring five laps from the end with engine failure.

The Finn endured a torrid afternoon at the wheel, rising from 16th on the grid as high as third place - but also spinning off the track twice.

Meanwhile, starting fourth on the grid, team-mate Felipe Massa spun at the first corner before colliding with Red Bull's David Coulthard on lap 26 and retiring for good soon afterwards.

And, seven days ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, Hamilton warned McLaren's arch-rivals that they have more performance to come from their MP4-23 chassis.

"We could have gone quicker so I am not bothered by Ferrari's pace," he insisted.

"The car was phenomenal, a dream to drive compared to the car we had last year."