Robert Kubica was finally forced to admit defeat in his dogged efforts to keep himself in the battle for the 2008 Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship following the Chinese Grand Prix, in which he slipped irrevocably out of the hunt for the laurels just one race from season's end.

The Pole has been many observers' star driver this year, invariably dragging more performance out of his BMW-Sauber than it is willing to give and proving to be as consistent as principal title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa have been inconsistent.

Even his magic touch, however, would ultimately prove not enough to keep him in play after a troubled qualifying session around the Shanghai International Circuit left him with too much work to do come race day from eleventh place on the starting grid.

Though he would improve to sixth spot at the chequered flag, just under five seconds adrift of fifth-placed team-mate Nick Heidfeld, he admitted afterwards that his main goal now is to protect his third position in the drivers' standings from a resurgent Kimi Raikkonen, who in finishing three positions ahead of him in China closed to within only six points.

"After a very difficult qualifying I'm pleased with sixth," the man from Krak?w reflected once the chequered flag had fallen. "I made up a position at the start and then another two when Jarno Trulli and S?bastien Bourdais touched in the first corner.

"The balance of the car was still not good in the first two stints, and it only changed in the final stint after we changed to the softer compound. There is now one race left, and I shall try hard to defend my third place in the drivers' championship."

"I'm quite happy with today's race," added Heidfeld, who set the third-fastest lap time of the grand prix behind only Lewis Hamilton and Raikkonen. "At the start I gained positions and in corner two I overtook Sebastian Vettel on the outside. He touched the rear of my car, but he has already told me it wasn't on purpose and, anyway, nothing happened.

"After a few corners I was sixth again - just where I thought I would start from after qualifying. Later in the race I reduced the engine revs to save it for Brazil.

"It is a fact we now don't have any hopes of claiming the constructors' title, and neither can Robert win the drivers' championship, but we shouldn't be too disappointed. The team has had a fantastic third season, and Robert especially has had a very good year. It's not over yet."

Indeed, lying 21 points adrift of Ferrari, BMW's chances of constructors' glory are similarly gone, but with McLaren-Mercedes only ten markers ahead, should the Silver Arrows endure an Interlagos nightmare, the team with what is arguably now only the fourth-quickest car in F1 may yet steal second spot at the close.

"Coming fifth and sixth is a good outcome after yesterday's disappointing qualifying," summarised BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen. "Both drivers put in the ground work for this result at the start, and after that drove fine races without any mistakes. The strategy was good, all pit-stops worked out perfectly and we had no technical problems."

"If you start from ninth and eleventh on the grid and finish the race fifth and sixth you do have to be satisfied," agreed the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's technical director Willy Rampf. "The drivers gained three positions each right at the start. Robert, in particular, reacted perfectly when a car spun right in front of him.

"During the race both drivers were doing well with the strategy. Thank you to the whole team for the good work, especially during all the pit-stops."

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