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Hamilton makes history; Alonso struggles 15 Apr 2007

Second placed Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 15 April 2007

The fairytale start to Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One career continued in Bahrain on Sunday. His second place made him the first driver in history to finish his first three Grands Prix on the podium. Not only that, he also took the joint lead in the drivers’ championship standings.

Having secured his maiden front-row start in Saturday’s qualifying session, Hamilton kept a cool head into Turn One, slotting into second place behind poleman Felipe Massa, who had vowed to give British youngster minimal room after losing out in their battle in Malaysia last weekend.

From there, though the McLaren didn’t have the ultimate race pace of the Ferrari - as witnessed by Fernando Alonso’s fifth place - Hamilton did an excellent job of keeping Massa in his sights and, more importantly, keeping Kimi Raikkonen behind him during the critical second round of pit stops.

“To have finished on the podium three times out of three is fantastic,” said Hamilton afterwards. “We have definitely closed the gap to Ferrari and I know everybody will continue to push hard to improve even more in time for the Spanish Grand Prix.

“I was able to keep up with Felipe in the first stint but I really struggled with the balance of the car in the second. I had a lot of under steer and wasn’t able to brake as late as I would have liked. However, after the second pit stop when I changed to hard tyres I was able to push again. I really enjoyed the race and with a few more laps I might have been able to challenge Felipe for the lead.”

In contrast, Alonso had a trying afternoon in Bahrain, as he fought to extract adequate pace from his MP4-22. He was overtaken by BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld mid-race, and despite pressuring the German in the latter stages was unable re-pass and was forced to settle for fifth.

“This was not a great race for me but these things happen,” said the champion. “I was struggling for pace and overall grip which means that you can’t drive the car as well as you would like. You always start the race believing you can win but after six or seven laps I knew that it would be tough. I couldn’t keep up with the Ferraris and Lewis. I was close to Heidfeld in the end but there was nothing I could do.”

Alonso and Hamilton now share the championship lead with Raikkonen, all three drivers tied on 22 points.