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McLaren bullish on chances for Monaco

McLaren left Turkey with their confidence up on Monday despite being beaten for the fourth race in a row by champions Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton finished second at Istanbul Park but the 23-year-old Briton described Sunday's race as the best of his career after having to make an extra pitstop to ensure his tyres lasted safely.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa had won from pole in Turkey for the past two years so there was no surprise in the Brazilian completing his hat-trick.

If anything, Massa, despite being ahead of Hamilton on race wins and seven points behind Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, is doing worse than last year when he won in Bahrain, Spain and Turkey.

The re-jigged calendar flatters him, with the circuits where he won last year lined up in a row in 2008, but this year Massa has won only in Bahrain and Turkey, losing to Raikkonen in Spain.

The next two races are Monaco, the glamour highlight of the season, and Canada. McLaren dominated both of them last year.

"The really positive thing that comes from here is that we could clearly have beaten Ferrari," McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh told reporters at Istanbul Park on Sunday.

"Lewis has come away from here having done a good, solid race in Spain, a strong race and an extraordinary sprinting race here in Turkey.

"He's going to Monaco now, where I think we'll have a competitive car... we've worked pretty hard as I'm sure the others have done but it's a circuit that both of our drivers like," he added.

"Lewis has won in F3 and GP2 there and clearly feels he could have had a crack at winning last year in an F1 car and will be very keen to do that this year."

Hamilton was second to now-departed teammate Fernando Alonso in Monaco last year in a race that brought their simmering rivalry out into the open when he complained that he had not been allowed to race the Spaniard.

The Briton was third in Spain, second in Turkey and must be a favourite to win in Monaco.

Kovalainen, who showed he had fully recovered from a big crash in Spain two weeks ago, was at Renault last year but has already settled in at McLaren.

Sunday was his first front row start, having qualified alongside Massa, but any hopes of winning went out of the window when he banged wheels with compatriot Raikkonen at the start and picked up a puncture.

Whitmarsh said the Finn's day would come before long.

"I think Heikki did a fantastic job in qualifying," he said. "I've never known him as disappointed as this. He really felt he could win this race and as the race panned out, I think he knows he could have won it. And it eluded him.

"He's absolutely right to be disappointed but on the other hand, he wouldn't be so disappointed if he hadn't done such a great job to put himself in that position.

"He put himself in a position to win a race and he will win races this year and in the future and he really deserves to," Whitmarsh said.

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