Formula One driver Hamilton admits title challenge on the line

Lewis Hamilton has admitted he cannot afford another non-points finish at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix if he wants to stay in contention for this year's world championship.

The 27-year-old McLaren driver retired from last weekend's German Grand Prix after a puncture stole any chance he had at fighting for victory, while race-winner Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari extended his lead in the title race.

The 2008 champion, who wound up 19th at the European Grand Prix in Valencia in June, admitted last weekend's result had been another major blow to his title hopes and felt he could not afford to finish outside the points again.

"It was as big a dent as you could probably take, just as Valencia was," he said, "through a season I don't think there could be a bigger dent.

"There are only a certain amount of dents that you can take through the year, especially when the guy who is leading has finished every race in the points."

The Englishman did, however, take some respite from the improved performance of his car, demonstrated more successfully perhaps by his McLaren team-mate and compatriot Jenson Button who wound up second after challenging pace-setter Alonso.

Hamilton said: "In terms of Jenson's result it was fantastic, but for me - looking at the pace I had even with the issues I had, my diff was quite badly damaged and my left rear corner destroyed plus my floor - knowing I had lost so much downforce and was still competitive was comforting."

Hamilton is currently fifth in the driver's standing with 92 points, 62 behind Alonso, while Button is further behind in seventh with 68points.