Dennis calls on McLaren to dig deep

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The Independent Online

Ron Dennis has called on everyone at McLaren to "dig deep" in order to give Lewis Hamilton the best possible chance of securing the Formula One drivers' championship.

The young Briton failed to capitalise on a golden chance to extend his lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa at the Japanese Grand Prix yesterday when he finished 12th having started in pole position.

Fortunately for the 23-year-old, Massa could only manage to collect two points from the race having finished eighth before being promoted to seventh following Sebastien Bourdais' penalty.

The duo clashed on the second lap at the Fuji Speedway circuit when Massa ran wide at the chicane before colliding with Hamilton when trying to regain his place.

And McLaren boss Dennis believes that the outcome of the result could have been worse under the circumstances.

"All in all, as far as the Championship is concerned, I guess things could have been worse," he said. "But there is no getting away from the fact it was a disappointing weekend.

"However, Lewis is still five points clear in the drivers' championship with two races to go.

"I know that our whole team will dig deep from here on in.

"The fact is he (Hamilton) is a great driver, we will fight for the world championship but sometimes it is a bit of an uphill struggle."

Stewards handed Hamilton a drive-through penalty when he was deemed to have impeded Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen at the first corner at the start of the race.

And Dennis admitted he was dumbfounded by the decision.

"It was a very challenging day," he added. "We were a bit surprised that Lewis was given a penalty in respect of the first-corner incident, simply because we have all seen similar incidents that have triggered no such penalty.

"Drivers miss breaking points and run wide. These things happen.

"Everyone had the same problem. As far as we are concerned it was just a racing incident.

"We were in very good shape for the race so it is very frustrating."

Ferrari moved seven points clear of McLaren in the constructors' standings with Massa's seventh and Raikkonen's third-place finish earning them eight points.

There was added disappointment for McLaren as Heikki Kovalainen retired from third place due to engine failure on lap 17.

"I made a good start and, although I ran wide at the first corner, I still managed to slot in behind Robert (Kubica) and Fernando (Alonso)," said Kovalainen.

"I was feeling pretty confident about catching them both because the car was feeling fantastic and then, all of a sudden, the engine stopped.

"That was a real pity because our reliability has been fantastic all season."