Lewis Hamilton may have upheld his unbroken podium record since his Formula 1 debut back in March, but his McLaren team is well aware its form at Magny-Cours was well below what will be needed if the British rookie is to maintain his title challenge season-long in the face of a resurgent Ferrari.

Although Hamilton finished third in France - making it eight rostrum finishes from eight starts in the top flight - that statistic hides the fact he was a full 32 seconds adrift of race-winner Kimi Raikkonen at the chequered flag, a far cry from the Silver Arrows' recent run of dominance stretching back to Monaco four races ago.

"I'm pleased to have finished third today and continued my run of podium finishes in Formula 1," the 22-year-old insisted afterwards, though his post-race demeanour told a somewhat different story. "I didn't have the best start and I don't know exactly what the reason was. My car was very good in the opening stage of the race and I pushed hard to get past Kimi, but unfortunately it didn't work out.

"I am happy for my team as we are still heading both the drivers' and constructors' rankings. We will now focus on the British Grand Prix next week where I think we will be competitive again. I am confident for a better weekend at my home grand prix as everybody in the team has worked very hard for this, as we do for every race."

Team-mate Fernando Alonso was even less fortunate, having been forced to start down in tenth position following a gearbox failure in Q3. The Spaniard ultimately wound up a lowly seventh after spending much of the race embroiled in frantic and entertaining battles with Nick Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella, both of whom would beat him to the finish line.

"I did the maximum I could today," the reigning double world champion stressed, "but we knew it would be difficult starting tenth with a fuel strategy that was originally aiming for a top three grid position. This meant that at the pit-stops I was always changing positions and ending up behind those I had already passed.

"The fight with Nick Heidfeld was fun, but it was a lot of hard work too. I also made a good move on Giancarlo. I am contesting the world championship, so I had to do whatever I could today and was not worried about the risks. It is a disappointing result, but we will have to look to improve next week, where we should be strong."

Although Hamilton and Alonso both still sit comfortably atop the drivers' standings on 64 points and 50 respectively, team boss Ron Dennis is well aware Ferrari is now closing in courtesy of its revised car at Magny-Cours. With the home grands prix for both McLaren and engine supplier Mercedes-Benz next up, however, the 60-year-old is optimistic of regaining the upper hand.

"It was a difficult race," Dennis admitted. "Both drivers put in solid performances, particularly Fernando who for me was the man of the race with his various battles against Heidfeld and Fisichella. We had the option of switching between a two or three-stop strategy for Lewis, and we opted for the latter to ensure he had minimal traffic and maintained his strong and safe third position.

"Fernando's race was always going to be challenging starting from tenth, but our aim was to score points which he did. It is clear we were not as competitive as we had hoped, but coming to our home grand prix at Silverstone next weekend we are still leading both world championships and will be strong there."



Loading Comments...