Lewis Hamilton has confirmed his rivals' claims that changes made to the Formula One regulations over the winter have had little discernible effect on the quality of racing.

The ban on mid-race refuelling and the introduction of a narrower front tyre were both designed to alter the strategic approach to grands prix but, if the season-opening Bahrain race was anything to go by, events look set to be as processional as ever. There were few passes for position that weren't influenced either by mechanical woes - see Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Hamilton on Sebastian Vettel - or as the result of clear pace differential, as shown by the recovering Adrian Sutil and Robert Kubica, and Hamilton admits that, once behind a closely-matched rival, overtaking it was still a tough task.

"[Nico] Rosberg got past me and, unfortunately, I was held up behind him for the first half of the race," he revealed, "I was much faster, but it is very difficult to follow here while trying to look after your tyres.

"It is a different challenge [starting the car on heavy tanks and soft tyres], but it definitely didn't make racing more exciting in terms of being able to overtake. I wasn't able to follow [closely]. Through the first half of the circuit, I was close to Nico but, as soon as we go to the fast sectors, it was impossible to stay behind. With the tyres, there just wasn't enough grip to be able to hold with him."

Despite his frustration, however, the Briton did at least hold out some hope of an improvement in the situation as the year wears on.

"I think it is an interesting season ahead of us," he insisted, "Bit by bit, everybody is learning how to use the tyres. I think that is probably the most interesting part, trying to understand the tyres, trying to conserve your fuel load and know when to attack and not to attack. I think this is a real challenge.

"I think it's just something you learn throughout the weekend and in the race. When you start, it's really dictated by the guys' pace in front of you and then you try and control from there. The race is quite straightforward. You start on heavy fuel, you do one stop and then you... it's pretty much a train the whole way. I thought it would be harder to manage the tyres but it wasn't, it was quite easy."

Without having been held up, Hamilton reckoned that he may have had a shot at catching Massa for second but, by the time he realised that the Brazilian was backing off in order to conserve fuel, it was too late for a realistic charge.

"I think our race pace was a lot stronger than our qualifying pace, but I think we're lacking in a little bit of downforce compared to the Ferraris and, especially, the Red Bulls," he reasoned, "We're not in a bad position, I think we just need to try to make a step closer to them which will enable us to compete for the win.

"Today, I think if I wasn't behind Nico for that first half of the race, perhaps I would have been a lot closer to the guys at the front] and perhaps I would have had a chance to compete with Felipe at the end.

"As I say, I was right up on Nico's tail for the whole of the stint and, unfortunately, I wasn't able to pull out the time that I needed. These guys were just pulling away - I would come onto the back straight and they were already around the next corner, so the gap just increased. There was nothing I could do at that time but, as soon as I got in some clean air and there were some new tyres on, the car felt great and I think the pace that I had was quite good. It's good to know that were able to match or do similar times to the guys at the front. It shows that we're not as far away as we thought we may have been.

"However, I think there was a point where the gap [to Massa] was so big that I thought I would look after the tyres - and then I realised I was quite a bit faster than him. I think I was half a second faster, so I began pushing and I think it got to 0.8secs some laps, 0.3secs on some other laps, but there wasn't enough laps to catch up with that kind of gap. There were five laps with perhaps seven seconds to catch up and once I caught him, it would take a couple of laps to get past at least, so I thought I would just look after the car."



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