McLaren says blotched pitstop not entirely to blame
McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh has said that Lewis Hamilton’s failure to win the European Grand Prix can not be solely blamed on the Briton’s pitstop problems
Hamilton was leading as the field headed into the final round of pitstops, but ultimately lost his lead to Brawn’s Rubens Barrichello after confusion reigned between McLaren’s race strategists and pit crew.
Despite this Whitmarsh is adamant that Hamilton, who eventually finished second, did not have the pace to match Barrichello and would have lost the race anyway.
Meanwhile, Heikki Kovalainen experienced a tough day’s racing, losing out on the final podium position to Kimi Raikkonen during the final pitstops.
Lewis Hamilton – 2nd: “This is my second podium in a row, and I’m very happy to be here,” Lewis said. “We did the best job we could today. Am I disappointed? Yes, I think we all are – but that’s simply an indication of just how hard everyone in this team is pushing to win. We’re never satisfied unless we’re winning, in fact.
“But, ultimately, we didn’t really lose anything today – it was always going to be tough to beat Rubens and what we tried wasn’t quite enough. Before my second pitstop, I’d been saving fuel and was a bit unsure if I had enough for that extra lap or not. The pitwall had initially asked me to pit – but, just when I was coming in, they told me to stay out and do an extra lap – however, I was already inside the white line [entry to the pits] and committed, so it was too late.
“In those circumstances, it’s always better to be safe and to pit, because the last thing you want to do is run dry out on the circuit. But the call was a marginal one – the team was pushing the envelope, as I say – and it came just a little too late for me and the mechanics, who weren’t perfectly prepared. Make no mistake, I think those guys are the best in the business; what happened was simply a result of the team trying everything in their power to turn a safe second place into a possible win.
“In any case, our overall performance this weekend confirmed the huge improvement we’ve made recently, but we still lack a bit of race pace compared with the very fastest cars. You can be well sure we’re working on fixing that, though. Congratulations to Rubens – he drove a fantastic race today and really deserved this victory.”
Heikki Kovalainen – 4th: “To start second and finish fourth isn’t ideal,” he said. “But I’m more pleased with my overall performance in this race than in Hungary. We showed good performance throughout the whole weekend, and I really want to thank the whole team for helping us to achieve that – it’s good to see things improving like this.
“We don’t yet have the pace of the frontrunners, but everyone has done an incredible job to get us to where we are. We’ve scored more points in the last three races than any other team – but I still want to score more. I’m already focusing on Spa; it’s a circuit I love and I really want to be on the podium there.”
Martin Whitmarsh: “Following our all-front-row qualifying result, naturally enough we had very high expectations for today’s race. In the event, though, our race pace wasn’t good enough to beat Rubens’s car. We’d adopted a different tire strategy from many of the front-runners – maybe that was right, maybe that was wrong – but the reality is that we weren’t quick enough to win today.
“So, coming in to the final pitstops, in our efforts to convert a safe second for Lewis into a possible first for him, we took a calculated risk in attempting to reverse the sequence of Lewis’s and Heikki’s pit stops at the last second. That last-second decision caused a bit of pitlane confusion, which probably cost Lewis a couple of seconds overall – but Rubens’s race pace was such that that couple of seconds didn’t make a difference to the outcome of the race.
“In a nutshell, we decided to take the risk because we knew Rubens had the strategy to win and it was our only chance of attempting to prevent that. We don’t like not winning, but second and fourth isn’t such a terrible result. Now, though, we’ll focus on the challenge of Spa – a very different type of racetrack from Valencia.”
Norbert Haug – Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “A shame for Lewis who drove a faultless race, but it would have been very tight with a perfect pitstop against Rubens anyway and he certainly deserves this victory.
“Our team scored more points than any other today, the same it did before the summer break in Hungary. This makes a total of 27 out of 36 possible points and Lewis scored 18 out of possible 20. That of course is very positive and will certainly please all our team members in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart who have worked so hard to recover from our not quite typical Vodafone McLaren Mercedes form in the first half of the season.