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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 17:54 UK

Hamilton lauds McLaren progress

HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX
Venue: Hungaroring Dates: 24-26 July 2009 Coverage: Live coverage of Friday's practice sessions, Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race - which starts at 1300 BST - across BBC TV, radio and online platforms. Find full listings here

Heikki Kovalainen

Highlights - Kovalainen fastest in Hungary

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at the Hungaroring

Lewis Hamilton thinks McLaren have returned to form after he and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen claimed a late one-two in Friday practice in Hungary.

But the world champion insists McLaren still have some work to do to match the pace of Brawn and Red Bull and has ruled out a victory on Sunday.

"McLaren are back," said Hamilton. "It's great to be in a competitive car.

"We still have quite a step to take before we are able to score wins in future races, but it's a huge step."

McLaren held sway in Friday's final practice to show further improvement at the Hungaroring.

Two weeks ago in Germany, updates to Hamilton's McLaren saw him find an extra 0.8 seconds in pace.

Hamilton has carried forward that momentum to Hungary and Mark Webber, Red Bull's race winner in Germany, says McLaren's pace is genuine.

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But Hamilton concedes they must eke out even more pace if they are to close in on Webber's team and championship leader Jenson Button's Brawn GP, who have shared the victories between them this season.

"We've completely turned the car around by improving the flow of air around the whole car and gaining downforce," said Hamilton.

"We've come from two-and-a-half seconds off the pace to maybe half a second but we have to keep working away to catch that up.

"It's good to see we're extracting more from the car but we've got a lot of work to do to beat the Red Bulls, at least."

Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug agreed the team were unlikely to end their winning streak this weekend but was also encouraged by the showing in practice.

"We are not in a position to go for race wins but since Silverstone, where we were nowhere, we have improved a lot," Haug said.

"We are coming back to pace and maybe we can catch a few guys in front of us at the start."

Hamilton started fifth on the grid at the German Grand Prix, raising hopes of a first podium for McLaren in 2009, before a shunt with Webber at the first corner effectively ended his race.

However, the Englishman, who has the advantage of the kinetic energy recovery system (Kers) to deliver an 80bhp boost of power per lap, played down his podium chances at the Budapest circuit.

"It's definitely possible but it's going to be tough," said Hamilton, who won here in 2007. "The other cars are extremely quick especially on the heavier fuel.

"I'm aiming to get into the final qualifying session again and to be consistent.

"If we get pole it will be because someone else has made a mistake - but we're definitely competitive and hopefully we can get in the top five."

Kovalainen, who is now running with the package of updates that Hamilton received in Germany, was also determined to build on McLaren's most successful sessions of the season.

"We will try to target pole but I don't know if it's realistic," said the Finn, who claimed his maiden victory at last year's race at the Hungaroring.

"We will see the true pace of the other teams on Saturday but I think we have genuinely improved the car this weekend.

"I think we are in better shape than at any other race this year."



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see also
Hungarian GP practice photos
24 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Hungarian Grand Prix practice results
07 Jul 09 |  Results
Hamilton top as McLaren set pace
24 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Hungary GP practice as it happened
24 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Piquet Jr dropped by Renault team
04 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
There can be no excuses - Button
23 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Webber agrees new Red Bull deal
23 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Alguersuari joins Toro Rosso team
20 Jul 09 |  Formula 1


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