Lewis expects tough fight in Barcelona

hamLewis Hamilton knows he will have another fight on his hands for points in next week’s Spanish Grand Prix as McLaren confirm they will only make minor upgrades to their car.

It was in Barcelona during pre-season testing that McLaren first identified problems with their new car, accurately predicting a tough start to the 2009 campaign. Their worst fears came to fruition in Melbourne as Lewis Hamilton started at the back of the grid.

Piecemeal but significant aerodynamic upgrades to the car over the last few races have lifted Hamilton out of the midfield into the points, and in last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix he matched the pace of the Toyotas to take fourth place.

But the defending world champion, now with the team’s lie-gate scandal behind him, knows that he will be hard pressed to repeat this performance in Barcelona since his rivals will benefit from the first round of major aerodynamic upgrades this season.

“After such a positive performance in Bahrain, we re fully aware that the characteristics of the Barcelona track won t suit our car so well,” said the 24-year-old. “In addition, we won t have the bigger upgrades of some of the other teams as we already introduced several new parts during the opening flyaways, so it will be interesting to see where we sit in the order.”

“Nevertheless, the engineers are optimistic that our new diffuser and front wing will once again help us to make progress towards the front of the grid.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, whose leadership proved decisive in helping the team escape tougher sanctions from the FIA for lying to race stewards, concurs that McLaren’s rivals may have the advantage in Barcelona.

“Our decision to introduce performance updates at each race rather than concentrate all our developments into a single upgrade package has helped us score some reasonable points in the opening flyaway races,” he said. “With our rivals expected to introduce some more substantial improvements in Barcelona this weekend, we once again expect a fight to score points.”

“And while the high-downforce nature of the Circuit de Catalunya may show up some of MP4-24 s shortcomings, everyone within the team remains confident and motivated that we can sustain the momentum we have gathered to push and close the gap to the front this weekend.”