Lewis Hamilton says his prime Valencia aim is to finish

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton has set his sights on a European Grand Prix podium finish, all but writing off his chances of overhauling the Red Bulls.

Hamilton has slipped to fourth in the championship after two bad races. He starts third behind the Red Bulls but is keen simply to consolidate.

"We're going to push for the win but after two tough races I'd be delighted to finish third here," said the Briton.

"To get back into the fight is key. Anything more would be a huge bonus."

Hamilton collided with Felipe Massa's Ferrari and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado on his way to a sixth-place finish at the Monaco Grand Prix two races ago, later becoming embroiled in a row with officials over race penalties.

The 26-year-old followed that by failing to finish at the Canadian Grand Prix last time out, colliding with his Red Bull's Mark Webber and then his team-mate Jenson Button, who went on to win a dramatic race.

The results have left him 76 points - more than three clear wins - behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who starts from pole in Valencia on Sunday with team-mate Mark Webber alongside him.

Hamilton's incident-packed two races have led to widespread criticism of his mindset and attacking driving style, but having vowed not to change his approach to Formula 1 races the 26-year-old is simply targeting a podium place in Valencia this weekend.

That is despite McLaren having the fastest race car at the last three grands prix.

Hamilton finished the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona right behind winner Vettel and before Canada Button was unlucky not to win in Monaco - where he finished a close third behind Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who starts fourth on Sunday.

Asked if he felt he could challenge Red Bull pair Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in first and second on the grid, Hamilton said: "If I could finish where I am now that would be fantastic.

"We're not as fast as we were in Barcelona, that's for sure.

"It's been a tough few weeks for me and so to come here and be quite solid would be great.

"To get ahead of the Ferraris [in qualifying] was big for us.

"The most important thing is to try to finish where I start. That would be fantastic - I really would be so grateful for that."

It had been thought that the introduction of a number of technological restrictions would close the gap between Red Bull and the chasing pack from this weekend.

But Hamilton conceded: "Coming into the weekend, we were unsure what would happen, we thought perhaps the changes would affect them [Red Bull] more.

"As soon as we started racing, though, it was clear that they were very, very fast.

"Now we'll have to look at strategy and ways I can try to capitalise on different situations out on the track.

"But we need a bit of luck at the same time. I think you make your own luck but it'd be great if something went my way on race day."

But Button, who qualified sixth, was more optimistic about McLaren's chances of taking on Red Bull.

"Considering my position, it's more difficult for me, but I don't think they'll fly away," he said.

"We can race them. We're not afraid of them walking away with it."

Alonso, meanwhile, believes Hamilton will not be able to help himself from reverting to his natural instincts once the race starts.

"A podium is the realistic target for us," the Spaniard said.

"We've been saying this from Thursday. It's true that in free practice we were quick, but now in qualifying we see the real potential of all cars, and we see the Red Bull clearly favourite for pole position and for the race win.

"We just need to overtake one car. I'm sure Lewis will be aggressive on the first corner. We need to overtake the Red Bulls quickly, if I can take any benefit from some accidents, I will be ready."