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Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

McLaren blame form on title bid

Venue: Albert Park, Melbourne Dates: 27-29 March Coverage: Comprehensive live coverage and reaction from Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race across BBC TV, radio and online. Find complete listings here

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton will start from the back of the grid for the first time in his F1 career

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh says last season's title push has cost the team their competitiveness this term.

Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton finished qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix in 14th and 15th places.

Hamilton was demoted to last place after a gearbox change, but will start in 18th place after Toyota were penalised for breaching regulations .

"Last year we were developing our car up until the last race and so we are under-developed," he told BBC Sport.

"That was a decision we took last year and, given that we won the drivers' championship, you have to say it was the right call.

"But some of our competitors - as you saw in qualifying - have probably been developing this year's car since this time last year and, consequently, have a much more developed car than us.

"We must face that fact and catch up as quickly as we can."

Hamilton and Kovalainen have long been tempering the hopes of their supporters by admitting the McLaren is not yet up to scratch.

And that was borne out throughout practice and qualifying, with the duo well off the pace of the leading pack.

The pair were consequently virtually out of the running for a podium place even before their poor qualifying effort, but Whitmarsh insists the team will bounce back to challenge for honours later in the season.

"We know that at the moment our car is, frankly, not quick enough to win races," he said.


"But Lewis and Heikki are professional and can see we've improved it in the last couple of weeks, before which it was in a pretty poor shape.

"In the coming races we'll be improving our car even further and hopefully quickly enough to get up there as quick as we can.

"I think it's a long season and certainly no-one in this team is giving up yet. At the moment the championship is wide open."

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see also
Toyotas excluded from qualifying
28 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Button on pole for stunning Brawn
28 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Australian GP qualifying photos
28 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Australian GP practice photos
27 Mar 09 |  Formula 1

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