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McLaren overshadowed by BMW Sauber in Bahrain 06 Apr 2008

(L to R): Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari Manager of F1 Operations with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 6 April 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4/23 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 6 April 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 with front wing damage.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 6 April 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 passes Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 6 April 2008

After their dominant start to the season, it was widely expected that McLaren would excel in Bahrain on Sunday. But the British squad will leave with heavy hearts after being soundly beaten by rivals Ferrari and BMW Sauber at the Sakhir circuit.

The team’s performance raised eyebrows early on in the weekend, with Lewis Hamilton’s crash dominating the headlines on Friday, before their comparatively slow pace on Saturday relegated Hamilton to the second row of the grid and team mate Heikki Kovalainen to fifth.

Matters for Hamilton, however, went from bad to worse on Sunday. A slow start pushed him down to 10th during the opening lap, while a tussle with former team mate Fernando Alonso on the second lap broke his front wing and forced the British driver to make an unscheduled stop. With other damage affecting his car’s performance, he eventually finished in 13th.

“I am really disappointed and feel like I let the team down today as I always am the first to blame myself,” said Hamilton. “I messed up at the start as I didn’t hit the switch early enough and therefore had not engaged the correct engine setting, and the anti stall kicked in. I lost a lot of places but things were still salvageable at that point.

“Then I had the incident with Fernando. I was behind him, and I moved to the right, and he moved to the right and that was it - a racing incident I guess. I am confident that we have the pace to be fighting at the front so the confidence is still there. I have had such a good run in Formula One until now, and it was almost inevitable that at some point things would go wrong. However there is a long way to go in the championship and I intend to win it.”

Kovalainen, meanwhile, enjoyed a much cleaner race in the second MP4-23, and even set the Grand Prix’s fastest lap towards its closing stages. But when it came to the crunch the Finn seemed powerless to make any real challenge for a podium finish. He eventually finished over 19 seconds adrift of Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber and almost 27 behind eventual victor Felipe Massa in the Ferrari.

“Things improved in the second stint and the car worked really well towards the end when we changed to the prime tyre,” he explained. “Fifth was the maximum I could do today. However we still scored points on a difficult day, and that is the main thing. I have total commitment to the team and a good car, and I know we will keep working hard to improve for the start of the European races.”

McLaren’s poor result at Sakhir means the team have slipped to third in the standings on 28 points, two behind leaders BMW Sauber and one adrift of Ferrari. Hamilton has also lost his lead in the drivers’ table and the Briton now shares third with Kovalainen and Kubica on 14 points apiece - five behind the leader, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.