McLaren needed Chinese Grand Prix win - Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton wins the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has said his Chinese Grand Prix win on Sunday could prove to be vital to McLaren's prospects of success this season.

The 26-year-old passed Sebastian Vettel with four laps to go, preventing the Red Bull driver starting the season with three straight victories.

"We needed this win," said Hamilton. "Looking back at the last few weeks, we have done something incredible.

"[The team have] performed miracles. But we can't sit still."

Hamilton's triumph was a coup for McLaren after Vettel cruised to victories in the first two races of the season in Australia and Malaysia in a seemingly superior Red Bull car.

One week later in China, the British driver brilliantly exploited McLaren's three-stop strategy to close to within 21 points of Vettel in the drivers' championship.

The victory was even more impressive because McLaren had to work furiously on his car to get it to the grid in time because of a fuel leak.

Hamilton was thrilled by the speed with which his team transformed the car's performance.

"To have turned the car around and made it a winner - we've never done something that big in such a short space of time," said Hamilton.

"After Malaysia, I really wanted to make sure we'd have enough tyres for the race, so I went into our first engineering meeting of the weekend with my mind made up that I wanted to hold onto my tyres and keep as many sets as fresh for the race [as possible].

"The best thing about McLaren is the way we work as a team. Our teamwork is incredible. And it would have been easy for the engineers to have just looked at me and said 'no', but they always listen and they always find a way of making it work.

David Coulthard, Martin Brundle, Lewis Hamilton and Jake Humphrey

"We really collaborated to make everything work, even on Friday night, when we pulled the car to bits to improve the car - we always keep pushing.

"So not only did we have a good car and a good strategy going into the race, but we were aggressive and we kept pushing throughout the race. You know, the mechanics and the pit crew worked perfectly and my engineers were brilliant."

Hamilton insisted further improvements are necessary before the Turkish Grand Prix on 8 May, which kicks off the European leg of the season.

"We've still got more work to do to be able to match Red Bull," he said. "Don't get me wrong, what we've done has been incredible, but we need to go into the Turkish Grand Prix with more upgrades and improvements if we're to continue fighting at the front. And we know that other teams won't be standing still either.

"So although this win is the perfect way to head back to Europe and prepare for Istanbul, this is just the start of the fight."

It was a pleasing weekend for McLaren overall, with Jenson Button's fourth place contributing 12 points to a team haul of 37, four more than Red Bull accrued.

Button, the 2009 champion, was pipped for third place by Mark Webber on the penultimate lap.

"It was disappointing that I just couldn't get the pace out of the car in China. That's something we'll be looking at next week," he said.

"But, for us, we should be really pleased with the turnaround. We've completed six race distances, which is incredible.

"Don't forget, we're still learning about this car, and some of the lessons we've learned on the road will be put to better use once we get back into Europe.

"Hopefully, we can head into Turkey with an even stronger package and with some of our weak spots improved and our strengths increased."

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