Lewis Hamilton has admitted that McLaren has work to do following the opening round of the 2010 F1 season in Bahrain, despite securing a podium finish from the first race of the new campaign.
Hamilton took third place in the race behind Ferrari duo Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, although the Briton would have missed out on a podium finish had it not been for the mechanical issues that affected early leader Sebastian Vettel.
The Briton had lost out to the start after dropping behind the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg before managing to jump ahead of the German during his one and only pit-stop – something he admitted may have cost him a better finish – but he reflected that McLaren may now have to bring forward scheduled upgrades in an effort to take the fight to its rivals.
“Third place was a very strong result for us today,” he said. “I feel that we did a good job: our reliability was great and the pace today was pretty good, but we still need to push very hard to close the gap to the cars in front.
“My race was decided on the first lap when I locked up at turn four, ran a bit wide, got in a bad position and Nico got past me. After that, I spent the whole first stint close behind him, but just couldn't get close enough to pass him. After the pit-stop, the guys were able to get me out ahead of Nico – which was a fantastic job, thanks guys – and I had some clear air and was able to make up quite a bit of ground to Felipe. If I hadn't been sitting behind Nico, I think I might have been able to challenge Felipe for second place.
“It's going to be difficult for us to close the performance gap immediately, but I think I'll go back to the factory and give them the biggest push. I know they're all pushing flat-out as it is, but we need to get some upgrades, and we need to bring as many of them forward as we possibly can.”
With new team-mate Jenson Button finishing the race in seventh, McLaren leaves Bahrain lying second in the standings to Ferrari and team boss Martin Whitmarsh said he was encouraged by the performance, even if he too said there were improvements to be made ahead of round two in Australia.
“Both Lewis and Jenson raced very well here in Bahrain this afternoon,” he said. “After the disappointment of our qualifying performance yesterday, the fact that our race pace was strong today was extremely encouraging. In fact, in the last part of the race, Lewis's was the fastest car on the track.
“However, like Jenson, who got stuck in a queue of traffic early on, Lewis was a little delayed by Nico in the first few laps. As a result, neither of our drivers was able to show their true race pace until after their pitstops.
“Happily, both our drivers benefited from excellent pit stops – Lewis got ahead of Nico and Jenson got ahead of Mark – so I want to take this opportunity to say 'Well played' to the team for calling both pitstops at the right time and executing them so efficiently.
“Overall, then, we're pretty happy with our haul of 21 world championship points today, and will now continue to develop our car on the back of this very promising first outing. Our aim is to be fully competitive in Australia.”