The McLaren team has admitted that it does not yet know the exact cause of the gearbox problem that cost Lewis Hamilton a shot at this year's Formula One world title.

The Woking team saw both its title contenders, who went into the Brazilian finale lying first and second in the standings, lose out to third-placed Kimi Raikkonen, with Hamilton having his task made all the harder by the lap eight gearbox problem, which relegated him to the rear of the field and with a lot of time to make up on both his rivals.

Although he subsequently recovered to seventh place, Raikkonen's race win meant that the Finn ended the year one point clear of both McLaren's, with Alonso one place shy of taking his third crown. Had the Spaniard managed to deprive the second Ferrari, driven by long-time race leader Felipe Massa, of the runners-up spot, he would have been crowned.

"There was an incorrect command given to the system," McLaren boss Ron Dennis told reporters eager to know why Hamilton's 'box selected neutral, ""That fault, why did the system get an incorrect command, we don't know yet. It could be a sensor."

Clearing Hamilton of any responsibility for missing the title - despite the Briton running off the road when challenged by Alonso on lap one - Dennis accepted that the team had to shoulder the blame.

"The only reason that we did not win the world championship was the gearbox problem," he insisted, "That cost us 30 seconds and it was too much time to make up against cars that were relatively competitive. There was nothing that Lewis did that had any relevance to the gearbox."

Having already seen a likely constructors' title taken away as punishment for the team's role in the espionage scandal that gripped F1 in the latter stages of the season, Dennis admitted that seeing Raikkonen - a McLaren employee until this season - take the title was painful - although he magnanimously congratulated the Finn..

"A kick in the teeth is the wrong expression," he stressed, "That imparts a belief that someone did something to us - and no-one's done anything to us. We basically did it to ourselves. We didn't have the perfection that we were striving for."



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