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Page last updated at 08:57 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 09:57 UK

Lewis Hamilton pinpoints Red Bull and Ferrari threat

Chinese Grand Prix
Venue: Shanghai Date: Sunday 18 April Start: 0800 BST Coverage: Live on BBC One, Red Button, Radio 5 live, online and mobiles
BBC coverage in detail

Lewis Hamilton

More to come from McLaren - Hamilton

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Shanghai

Lewis Hamilton believes Red Bull and Ferrari remain the teams to beat ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

McLaren's aerodynamic "f-duct" system should give them a straight-line speed advantage over their rivals down the long straight at the Shanghai circuit.

However, Hamilton played down any possible advantage and predicts it will be an incredibly close race.

"I still think Red Bull and Ferrari are the teams to beat, the same as every race," said the McLaren driver.

"Sebastian [Vettel] could be quite a bit ahead [in the championship] at the moment, but it's very close and I hope it will continue to be so.

"Anything can happen as we go forward and we cannot afford too many DNFs (did not finish). Each team is trying to remain as consistent as possible right now."

We're far from feeling that this season is over and I've no reason to be disappointed

Michael Schumacher

Red Bull's Vettel has been in a position to win all three races this season but a spark plug failure saw him slide from the lead to fourth in Bahrain before a wheel problem ended his race in Australia.

The 22-year-old German did win from third on the grid in Malaysia but could be leading the championship by some margin if reliability problems had not returned to haunt Red Bull.

As it is, Ferrari's Felipe Massa holds a two point advantage over team-mate Fernando Alonso and Vettel, who both have 37 points, while Hamilton is eight points further back in sixth.

Massa, who lost the 2008 championship to Lewis Hamilton by a single point, is determined to keep pushing to build his slender advantage.

"Leading the championship after the third race is better than not leading but it is still nothing," said the Brazilian.

606: DEBATE
Lee

"We need to work as hard as possible to improve more than the others and to be in a good condition to fight race-by-race.

"Red Bull have been better in qualifying and we saw a good McLaren in Malaysia but we have been good in terms of race pace and consistency."

A new points system was introduced this season to promote a 'race-to-win' attitude with 25 points awarded for victory with 18 for second and 15 for the last place on the podium.

With Alonso, McLaren's Jenson Button and Vettel all taking the chequered flag so far this season, just nine points separate the top seven drivers but Michael Schumacher, who finds himself in 10th, insists the title race is still open.

"There's such a long season ahead," said the seven-time world champion, who came out of retirement after a three-year absence.

Michael Schumacher

Schumacher happy with gradual improvements

"We're far from feeling that this season is over and I've no reason to be disappointed."

The 41-year-old German has picked up just nine points from the opening three races, while his team-mate Nico Rosberg is level with Button in the standings with 35 points, but Schumacher is confident of improving as the season continues.

"I had my retirement in Malaysia and at some point in the season it will happen to everyone," he added.

"Red Bull and Ferrari are up front and McLaren are also a little bit in front of us."

For now, all the leading protagonists are pointing to Red Bull to set the pace once more in China as the team return to the scene of their first-ever one-two, when Vettel led home Mark Webber in last year's damp race.

Mark Webber

Red Bull pit strategy is fair - Webber

The duo are coming off the back off another one-two in Sepang and aim to keep the momentum going.

"Winning a race like that was good medicine for us," said Webber, who lost the lead from pole in Malaysia because of his team-mate's quick reflexes off the start.

"You can't do any more than a one-two and when you get the champagne it makes a big difference in attitude. There was a nice bit of relief around the team, no question about it.

"We've got the points in the bank but it's history now and we need to come here and try to get as close to it as we can.

"We don't arrive here thinking that we won the last race and so we're expecting to be quick. Winning week-in-week-out is difficult but we're not intending to slide back through the field."



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see also
Red Bull face fight to stay ahead
06 Apr 10 |  Formula 1
McLaren untroubled by ride height
13 Apr 10 |  Formula 1
Massa plays down title advantage
04 Apr 10 |  Formula 1
Vettel storms to Malaysian GP win
04 Apr 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton pleased with fightback
04 Apr 10 |  Formula 1


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