SEPANG (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton on Thursday said he may have his best chance yet to finally win the Malaysian Grand Prix, despite a disappointing mechanical flop in Australia which left him trailing in the standings.
He said his Mercedes, which took him to pole position at the Formula One season-opener but then lasted just a few laps of the race, was the strongest he had brought to the Sepang circuit.
"I've had some good results here but obviously I haven't won here. So that's been the challenge every time I come," said Hamilton, who was second in 2007 and finished third last year and the year before.
"The goal is obviously to win, but this is perhaps the year that I've had the best car to be able to do so. So I'm hoping that we have a chance to capitalise on that."
The 2008 world champion was the prime performer in pre-season and he was runaway favourite to win in Australia after snatching a thrilling pole position at Melbourne's Albert Park.
But a misfiring cylinder ended Hamilton's race within minutes as Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg flew to a commanding win 25 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger.
Hamilton, who said he expects to use the same engine this week, said he already had a "serious deficit" to make up on Rosberg, but added that he had no problem playing catch-up.
"It depends how you look at it. Me, I like to chase, so it may have done me a favour," said the 29-year-old Briton.
"Reliability's going to be put to the real test this weekend. Because it's so hot, the engine's going to be on the absolute limit," he added.
"I really don't know how big the advantage (of Mercedes) is going to be. I'm sure people will have made some improvements this weekend so maybe it'll be a bit closer... Everyone's stepping up and everyone's pushing."
Rosberg now finds himself in the novel position of leading the championship standings, and he said he was more than happy with Formula One's new era following a raft of technical changes.
"It's changed around the pecking order which is definitely good for everybody because (with) the same guy winning last year... we needed a bit of a change to that, so that's been good," said the German.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who won his fourth straight world title last year at a canter, also had problems in Melbourne and retired early.