Lewis Hamilton has admitted that McLaren face an uphill struggle to close the gap to Ferrari and Red Bull.
Although Hamilton drove a strong race, his third place finish came as a result of Sebastian Vettel’s misfortune. Despite this, the 2008 champion was pleased with his day’s work.
Jenson Button was seventh in his first race for McLaren, after jumping Mark Webber during the pit stop sequence.
Lewis Hamilton (3rd): “Third place was a very strong result for us today. I feel that we did a good job: our reliability was great and the pace today was pretty good, but we still need to push very hard to close the gap to the cars in front.
“My race was decided on the first lap when I locked up at Turn Four, ran a bit wide, got in a bad position and Nico [Rosberg] got past me. After that, I spent the whole first stint close behind him, but just couldn’t get close enough to pass him.
“After the pitstop, the guys were able to get me out ahead of Nico – which was a fantastic job, thanks guys and I had some clear air and was able to make up quite a bit of ground to Felipe [Massa]. If I hadn’t been sitting behind Nico, I think I might have been able to challenge Felipe for second place.
“I had a slight vibration towards the end of the race, but I think it was just the result of a locked front wheel. When you’re pushing to close the gap, you lock the tyres just once and it takes several laps to get over the flat-spot. But it wasn’t a big problem.
“It’s going to be difficult for us to close the performance gap immediately, but I think I’ll go back to the factory and give them the biggest push. I know they’re all pushing flat-out as it is, but we need to get some upgrades, and we need to bring as many of them forward as we possibly can.”
Jenson Button (7th): “At the start of the race, I didn’t know what was going to happen to my tyres so I took it a little easy. I was a bit disappointed that we pitted when we did, because I’d probably looked after the tyres a little too much because, in the last five laps of the stint, I was able to push to catch Mark [Webber] and Michael [Schumacher].
At the stop, I jumped Mark, which was great. It was a really good pitstop from the guys both for Lewis and myself actually, because we each jumped the car in front.
“I then paced myself on the tyres until there were about 20 laps to go. I caught up with Michael, but didn’t have enough pace through the middle sector to stay with him and have a go at him in the last sector, which was disappointing. But it was fun all the same.
“Overall, I think our car is pretty good at looking after its tyres, but there’s always room for improvement and I think everybody in the team wants more speed and more downforce.”
Martin Whitmarsh: “Both Lewis and Jenson raced very well here in Bahrain this afternoon. After the disappointment of our qualifying performance yesterday, the fact that our race pace was strong today was extremely encouraging. In fact, in the last part of the race, Lewis’s was the fastest car on the track.
“However, like Jenson, who got stuck in a queue of traffic early on, Lewis was a little delayed by Nico in the first few laps. As a result, neither of our drivers was able to show their true race pace until after their pitstops.
“Happily, both our drivers benefited from excellent pit stops Lewis got ahead of Nico and Jenson got ahead of Mark so I want to take this opportunity to say ‘Well played’ to the team for calling both pitstops at the right time and executing them so efficiently.
“Overall, then, we’re pretty happy with our haul of 21 world championship points today, and will now continue to develop our car on the back of this very promising first outing. Our aim is to be fully competitive in Australia.
“Last but not least, the seventh Bahrain Grand Prix was, as expected, an impressively organised event. This year is the second time it has been the first grand prix of the year, and I’m sure that all who either took part in it or watched it will agree that it was a very worthy season-opener.”