F1 champ Hamilton's McLaren hit by gearbox problems

VODAFONE McLaren Mercedes officials tried to put on a brave face after Lewis Hamilton suffered gearbox failure in qualifying for Sunday s Australian Grand Prix. The reigning Formula 1 world champion from Herts was 15th fastest in the first session of qual

VODAFONE McLaren Mercedes officials tried to put on a brave face after Lewis Hamilton suffered gearbox failure in qualifying for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

The reigning Formula 1 world champion from Herts was 15th fastest in the first session of qualifying in Melbourne.

However, he then suffered a sudden loss of drive and limped back to the pits.

A five-place grid penalty for changing the gearbox relegated Hamilton further down the field.


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McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh explained: "A gearbox failure - a broken fourth gear - on Lewis's car in Q1 prevented him from setting as quick a time as he might otherwise have been able to, but at least he got through to Q2, even if he was unable to take part in it."

Norbert Haug, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, added: "It's a shame that Lewis suffered a gearbox problem, which should not happen when he was on his best lap so far.

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"There was not such a problem during more than 7,000km of testing."

Hamilton's boss Whitmarsh feels the team have made strides forward today, even if the McLaren cars are still lagging behind the rest.

"The reality is that we've made progress in the past couple of weeks, but clearly not enough," said Whitmarsh.

"There's more to come, though, and everyone at Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart is working as hard as they can to turn things around in the shortest time possible."

Nevertheless, Hamilton faces the prospect of opening his title defence from almost the back of the grid on Sunday.

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