SHANGHAI • Formula One's Lewis Hamilton insisted yesterday that a five-place grid penalty imposed on him because of a gearbox change gave him "an opportunity to rise" in China this weekend.
The reigning world champion, who trails Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by 17 points after the German won the season's first two races in Australia and Bahrain, faces a battle to prevent that gap from widening in Shanghai.
But Hamilton told reporters: "Arriving with a penalty of course changes the approach to the weekend, it changes the mindset a little bit. But for me a challenge is an opportunity to rise.
"It is going to be easier for Nico for sure. But it doesn't mean I can't give him a good run for his money from wherever I start, so I'm going to be pushing as hard as I can."
Mercedes determined that China was the best place to change the gearbox, which was damaged in Bahrain and needed replacing. The Shanghai International circuit is one of the few that offers numerous overtaking opportunities.
"Not the ideal start to the weekend, admittedly, but of all the places to take a grid hit, this is one of the better ones," the team tweeted.
Under Formula Ones rules, drivers have to use a single gearbox for six successive races, meaning the highest grid position Hamilton can now hope for on Sunday is sixth.
The Briton already has his hands full stopping a surging Rosberg, who has won five straight races dating to the back end of last season.
"It doesn't mean I can't win the race," added the 31-year-old.
"Which is my thought process rather than damage limitation. It's a race this weekend, rather than being at the front and have less of a race."
Rosberg, meanwhile, was quick to play down his rampaging start to the season, as well as the significance of Hamilton's penalty.
"It's two races into the longest F1 season we have ever had with 21 races," smiled the German. "It's still massively early days. I'm battling Lewis Hamilton and we all know how quick he is and his track record in the last two years.
"A Hamilton who starts sixth is still going to challenge for the win. I'm not taking anything for granted at all."
Hamilton is the most successful driver in Shanghai, with four wins (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015).
Meanwhile, former world champion Fernando Alonso has been provisionally cleared to return for McLaren this week.
The double world champion, who suffered a crash at the season opener in Australia, will undergo further tests after today's first free practice to determine his "further eligibility". Alonso insisted he was "120 per cent ready".
"I feel good," said the Spaniard, who sat out the Bahrain race two weeks ago with a fractured rib after failing a medical. "The pain level is zero."
F1 CHINESE GP
Practice 1 & 2: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 9.55am & 1.55pm