Gallery: Hamilton's 'Fantastic' F1 drive in Australian Grand Prix

LEWIS Hamilton s performance in coming third in yesterday s Australian Grand Prix has been described as fantastic by his McLaren team boss. While fellow Brit Jenson Button stole the headlines for his winning debut for the Brawn GP team, Hamilton s super

LEWIS Hamilton's performance in coming third in yesterday's Australian Grand Prix has been described as "fantastic" by his McLaren team boss.

While fellow Brit Jenson Button stole the headlines for his winning debut for the Brawn GP team, Hamilton's superb drive from the back of the field also won widespread acclaim.

The 24-year-old from Tewin battled his way from 18th on the grid to claim an unexpected podium from the opening race of the Formula 1 season in a McLaren car that isn't the finished article yet.

Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, felt the reigning F1 world champion produced a performance worthy of the mantle.

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Speaking directly after Sunday's race in Melbourne, Whitmarsh said: "Today was one of those days on which Lewis demonstrated very clearly just what a fantastic racing driver he is.

"Throughout the race he showed great speed and tenacity, tempered when necessary by commendable patience."

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The McLaren boss admitted that Hamilton's MP4-24 isn't the fastest on the circuit at the moment.

He said: "The car we supplied him wasn't as competitive as we'd have liked it to be - we've made no secret of that - but we're working flat-out, night and day, to improve it.

"The points Lewis scored today (Sunday) are of course very welcome and, as and when we regain our form, we hope they'll take on a greater significance still."

Norbert Haug, vice-president of McLaren partners Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, also applauded Hamilton's display behind the wheel in Melbourne.

He said: "Lewis drove an excellent race under very difficult circumstances and proved his world-champion class."

Herts hero Hamilton had doubts beforehand about how well the McLaren would perform and a gearbox failure during qualifying seemed to confirm most people's fears about the MP4-24.

However, he profited from an aggressive first stint on low fuel and option tyres to quickly slot into the top 10 by lap five.

He then clawed his way up into the top three.

Hamilton later paid tribute to race winner Button, who took the chequered flag from pole position.

"My heartfelt congratulations to Jenson - he's driven brilliantly all weekend and both he and his team really deserve this success," said Lewis.

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