Former world champion Lewis Hamilton has blamed an 'aggressive' move from Ferrari rival Felipe Massa at the start of Sunday's F1 2010 curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix for costing him the chance to battle the Brazilian's team-mate Fernando Alonso for victory in Sakhir.
Massa and Hamilton began the race in the desert kingdom from second and fourth spots on the grid respectively, but the McLaren-Mercedes ace claims that he was 'squeezed' when the lights went out – causing him to cede track position to the Mercedes Grand Prix of Nico Rosberg as he found himself forced off-line and consequently lost momentum.
Despite his best efforts on a heavy fuel load, the British star would not succeed in clearing the young German until the pair made their sole pit-stops of the race on laps 15 (Hamilton) and 16 (Rosberg). Although he subsequently went on to put on a charge that took him to barely seven seconds adrift of his earlier duellist Massa at the chequered flag, the 25-year-old contends that had things worked out differently at the start, he could perhaps have been challenging Alonso for the top step of the podium rather than occupying the bottom one.
“I didn't even know who it was,” Hamilton told the BBC
after watching a re-run of the first few seconds of the grand prix, making it clear that in his opinion Massa had overstepped the mark. “He was squeezing, he looked in the mirror...it was pretty aggressive. I didn't realise how far I was ahead. I probably wouldn't have risked banging wheels at that speed.
“If I had pulled that move off on the outside, I would have been able to keep up with Fernando. I honestly feel that I would have been able to keep up, but it's all about if and when.”
That said, the eleven-time grand prix-winner did concede that the Ferrari is 'definitely the car to beat' at the moment – but equally he knows where McLaren needs to improve if it is to consistently take the fight to the Scuderia
in the races to come.
“In clear air, on new tyres, the car felt great,” Hamilton mused of the MP4-25's performance, “[but] we have to make a big step, because in the middle sector [of the lap] we are really lacking. Since I have been here at McLaren we have never really had an amazing rear end. The car is great in the high-speed but not so good in the low and medium-speed corners at the rear, so we really need to pick up some downforce there.”