WHAT HAPPENED TO MCLAREN? Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton is baffled by his former team McLaren's performance in 2015. Image: AFP / Paul Crock
BARCELONA, Spain - Lewis Hamilton says he is surprised how much his old team McLaren is struggling in 2015.
He said: "When I saw them so lost in Australia, I thought to myself 'How can that be?'"
Having been mentored and sponsored by McLaren boss Ron Dennis throughout his teens, Hamilton made his debut for the team in 2007, winning his first title a year later.
Eight years on, the now-superstar Hamilton is dominating Formula 1 with his new team, Mercedes, and speculating that McLaren "underestimated" the challenge of switching to works Honda power.
MCLAREN WOES CONTINUE
Hamilton is quoted by Spain's El Pais newspaper: "When you think of their factory, their history, their potential, (where McLaren is now) seems impossible.
"They decided to change the engine and my experience tells me that in F1 it is quite common when challenges are underestimated.
"For example, in 2009 when the double diffuser (introduced by Brawn GP) suddenly came into play, most people underestimated that.
"I love that Mercedes doesn't underestimate anything. It made sense that McLaren would not be fighting to win. I am convinced that they will do so again, the question is when."
'ALONSO ON SAME LEVEL AS SCHUMI'
Struggling with the team in 2015 is Hamilton's first McLaren team mate, Fernando Alonso, who Hamilton says deserves more than his career tally of two titles.
He said: "You make the decisions you make but you also need to be in the right place at the right time.
"Michael Schumacher won seven titles but I see Alonso on the same level as him in terms of talent."
"He (Alonso) made his own decisions but when you look at Ferrari now, how well they are going and you think that he left when he still had a contract, you think 'My god!'"
POOR FORM IN SPAIN
McLaren had a dismal weekend in Barcelona, including 30 laps for Jenson Button that he described as "the scariest of my life" due to handling problems.
Button said: "After today, I don't think I expect points at all this year."
Alonso, meanwhile, almost collected his front jack-man in the pits when his brakes failed.
Five races into his new McLaren adventure, Alonso might be forgiven for finally showing some signs of frustration.
Alonso said: "It seems that many people want myself and McLaren to be frustrated. The truth is that we were four and a half seconds behind in Australia and now it is two. No team in history has recovered two and a half seconds in such little time.
"Before we were racing alone and now we are racing other teams."
Alonso says that despite the Barcelona blip, even more progress is looming: "We are a long way off so we need to make double steps, because everyone else is improving during the season too.
"This is a very challenging project, but we are recovering well and we need to keep it up."
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Formula 1 series.