Lewis Hamilton made a disappointing start to his reign as Formula Ones youngest world champion with a sluggish performance in Fridays practice sessions for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old Britons gloomy prediction that his McLaren car would be well off the pace at the start of the new season instantly proved correct.
On the Albert Park track where he launched his championship success 12 months ago,Hamilton struggled to 16th place in the first practice for Sundays race,then 18th in the second.
Were not in a place where we want to be but were working extremely hard,as hard as we can, the driver told a news conference.
Weve got a steep,very tough challenge ahead of us but if any team can do it,I believe my team can. Weve just got to remain positive and keep pushing.
The first signs that McLaren would be slower than their main rivals at the start of this season emerged during winter testing in Spain. (Reuters)
Force Indias Adrian Sutil VJM02 posted a lap of 1:27.993s in the first session and then returned for another ninth-place finish in the second segment. Team mate Giancarlo Fisichella finished 14th in the morning session and moved up a place in the afternoon.