There has always been a degree of needle between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, right from the moment they were paired up together at McLaren-Mercedes in 2007 - so to some, perhaps, it will come as little surprise that their fight over the final step of the rostrum in today's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang ultimately ended in tears.

Having run ahead of Alonso from the start and having at one stage even looked capable of taking the fight to Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel for victory, Hamilton slipped from the pace in the mid-to-latter stages of the race in Kuala Lumpur and was lying in third position when his former team-mate and the man he recently described as his 'nemesis' [see separate story - click here] closed in on him.

After duelling for a little while, matters came to a head when with just ten laps left to run, Alonso - unable to attack on the straights following the failure of his DRS (Drag Reduction System) - made a misjudgement heading into Turn Four and clipped the back of the McLaren-Mercedes ahead of him, requiring a new front wing for his Ferrari and leaving Hamilton with a damaged floor for the remainder of the grand prix.

They went on to take the chequered flag respectively sixth (Alonso) and seventh (Hamilton), although subsequent 20-second penalties for both [see separate story - click here] dropped the British star a place down the order to eighth. For a race in which both drivers had clear designs on the podium, it was undeniably a disappointing manner in which to conclude the weekend.

"We were not lucky," reflected Alonso. "If the moveable rear wing had worked all the time, I could easily have passed Hamilton down the straight, but instead we had to fight hard. He defended very well and, unfortunately, we touched - that broke my wing and I had to come back into the pits to change it, thus losing any chance of getting to the podium. These things happen; today went badly for me, but another time we will have better luck.

"I am still happy with this race, though - not with the result, but because we were finally competitive, capable of fighting wheel-to-wheel for a place on the podium. This is further motivation for the forthcoming race in China. Here, the car seemed capable of managing the tyres really well, which meant I could fight with the others. With the package we have today, we cannot fight for the win, but I hope that changes soon.

"In Shanghai, we realise we can expect another difficult weekend. We will have something new, but we don't know how much progress it will see us make. Everyone knows that, at the moment, we just have to grit our teeth and that's what we will do. There is still a long way to go in the championship, and we must leave nothing to chance."

"Today was just one of those days," mused a phlegmatic if visibly despondent Hamilton. "It's never satisfying to start second and finish seventh (prior to his penalty), and I did everything I could to keep up, but that's racing. We just have to take it on the chin and move on from it.

"At the start, I was on the outside going into the first corner. I got squeezed, and it was difficult to defend without risking hitting Jenson [Button - team-mate] or Nick [Heidfeld] - that was an awkward position to be in. Then, during the race, my tyres kept dropping off; we pitted earlier than was optimal - all the time we were pitting earlier than everyone [else] - and my tyres were done at the end. I'd hoped to make the end of the race on a set of used 'Primes', but they didn't last so we had to pit again, unfortunately.

"There were a lot of factors that made this afternoon very difficult - the delay at the pit-stop, being chased by a couple of cars when I was trying to look after my tyres and being hit from behind by Fernando. I think he got a bit too close and, when he pulled out, he just clipped me with his wing and broke my car's rear floor. I don't how much downforce that lost me. Today wasn't the greatest of days, but I'm going to China aiming to win. I'm only looking forwards."

Hamilton's disappointment was shared by McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who conceded that a race that had started out looking so promising, ended up degenerating into something of a nightmare.

"Lewis had a difficult afternoon, his frustrations beginning at the very first corner of the very first lap, when Nick unexpectedly nipped past him from way back in sixth place on the starting grid," acknowledged the Englishman. "After that, he tried his utmost to reclaim the place, nearly doing so on a number of occasions, but inevitably his tyre conservation was compromised in the process.

"That's racing, though, and for Lewis, I guess it was just one of those days. For example, we performed a total of seven pit-stops today, six of them in under four seconds but one in around six seconds, and as luck would have it that slower one was one of Lewis' pit-stops. Equally, we weren't able to give him a second stint on 'Option' tyres today because they'd been damaged in qualifying yesterday.

"Towards the end of the race, Lewis was struggling on 'Prime' tyres and, although from a conventional point-of-view a further pit-stop looked like an unattractive option, it was what he was calling for and in truth it was probably therefore the safest thing to do. Tyre drop-off was a problem for everyone today, and ultimately you have to listen to your driver in such situations."



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