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Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Hamilton fears for title chances

AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX
Venue: Albert Park, Melbourne Dates: 27-29 March Coverage: Comprehensive live coverage of Saturday's qualifying sessions following practice, along with Sunday's race, across BBC TV, radio and online. Find complete listings here


Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton believes McLaren can still come good this season

Lewis Hamilton all but admitted the prospects of defending his world title are not good following a dismal start to his Australian Grand Prix weekend.

The 23-year-old was well off the pace in practice, finishing 16th and 18th in Friday's two sessions in Melbourne.

"The car is the problem. It's not that bad, it's just we can't carry our speed through corners," he told BBC Sport.

"We love winning and haven't forgotten how to, but it's going to take some time before we get back there."

McLaren have struggled in pre-season testing ahead of the opening race, and their fall from the heights of last season continued as the first action of the season got under way.

The team are one of F1's traditional superpowers, but they appear to have failed to adapt to the new rules brought in this season as well as some of their rivals.

Despite the disappointing times, Hamilton said he was still optimistic about McLaren's chances for the season.

"By no means do I think it's going to be a year where we don't win at all," said Hamilton, who saw his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen finish fifth in the first session.

"At some stage we will come back and be at the front.

"The other teams have done a great job and they are a bit ahead of us at the moment. But this is character building."

Hamilton's fastest lap was more than two seconds down on Nico Rosberg's best time of of 1:26.687.

And although he went quicker in the second session, only two drivers - Renault's Nelson Piquet Jr and Torro-Rosso's Sebastien Buemi - finished slower than him.

"I've had much better days at the office but I've had much worse," he said, before paying tribute to the work of the team to turn things around.

"We were under no illusion we had a lot of work to do, so that's what we're trying to focus on. But the team are working harder than ever. It's great to see just how united they are.

606: DEBATE
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"They're working back at the factory day and night. Guys are being pushed over the limit. Without their strength, and our strength as a team, there would be no way of making the improvements.

"It is a fact that we are one of the top teams, and we've got the ability to turn this around. That's what we're going to do."

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso also failed to impress in his Renault on a day which saw the traditionally less successful teams - Williams, Toyota and new boys Brawn GP - shine.

The Spaniard could only manage 10th and 12th in his sessions and had mixed feelings afterwards.

"I think I'm happy, but I could be more happy," he said.

"Pace-wise it's difficult to understand. Obviously it's not the perfect position to find for podiums, for wins.

"We need to find some more performance in the cars, we need to be a little bit quicker.

"We cannot afford to start the race in the middle of the pack if we want to score some good points.

"Expectations for qualifying are more or less the same and we will try to start the race in the top six or eight, otherwise we cannot be too happy."



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Ex-Honda team 'seal F1 survival'
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