MAY 14, 2012
McLaren hails Hamilton
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has paid tribute to Lewis Hamilton after the 2008 world champion drove a difficult two-stop race from the back of the grid to eighth place in Spain. Hamilton suffered the disappointment of losing his pole position to a rules transgression. McLaren instructed Hamilton to stop on his slowdown lap so that he had sufficient fuel to provide the mandatory 1.0-litre sample, but the rules also require him to get the car back to the pits under its own power.
Q: Was there not enough time in the chain of command to tell Lewis to abort his qualifying lap?
No, there was, and I hold my hand up. The data told us that we had less fuel in there than we'd like, we didn't know whether the data was right or wrong, and I took the view that frankly we should go for it. I wanted to give Lewis the opportunity to be on pole, I believed that he could be. We then continued to assess it and took the decision that we knew we had to provide 1.0-litre of fuel, that's a definitive regulation, and we knew we would be sampled so we decided we'd make sure we complied and got 1.3 litres out of the car. Rightly or wrongly I don't think we envisaged the severity of the penalty.
Q: What personnel and procedural changes did you make?
Nobody asked to be changed after our problems in China and Bahrain but we decided we should make some changes. We had a queue of people volunteering to put themselves in the firing line. We were trying to protect an individual because, let's be honest, everybody would have been focused on a particular gun man and I didn't think it was fair to put someone in that position. Procedurally there were some subtle changes and there will be you'll see more of them at subsequent races
Q: Does that include switching to wheel nuts retained in the wheel?
The gun man is under a huge amount of pressure. You don't want to cross-thread, you want to hit the axle really quickly. If you watch a wheel being torqued up manually you see very heavy men leaning on 2m long torque wrenches and it gives you some idea of the strength required. With a pneumatic gun you are reacting with very small lever arms and the gun is very heavy and the nuts and components are very hot, so it's a difficult task. The guns are going on and off very quickly and there's a fear that you pull back and the nut flies over your shoulder. One of the advantages of a retained wheel nut that stays on the wheel is that when you pull the gun off you are not in fear of a wheel nut whistling past your ear.
Q: What was the thinking behind a two-stop strategy for Lewis?
Given where Lewis was, we knew we had to try and do something different. It takes a tremendous amount of control, maturity and discipline to make that work - it's so easy to damage the tyres. He had to hustle quite a bit at the beginning to get past people and still make the tyres last, which he did in the first stint. That allowed us to do the two-stop. At the end it was very challenging to do 31 laps on a set of tyres at a circuit like Barcelona.
Q: How do you look back on the weekend?
Lewis should be proud of it. He did a fantastic job in qualifying and we let him down on that. He did a great job in the race as well. He's got a quick car and we go away from this weekend eight points away from leading the drivers' championship five races in. One or two good results and he can turn that around and be leading. I think he believes in himself and the car so a great, great effort from him. Lots of people have, wrongly I think, questioned whether Lewis can look after his tyres. He knew what he had to do and was extremely disciplined at times. That's extremely difficult for a racing driver to be.
Q: Do you expect the season to continue it's up and down nature?
I think this one will run and run. You can ask, 'What about Monaco -- different circuit, etc, will you be quick? Who knows! I wish we understood it all. I think we've got a quick car and two good drivers who like Monaco, so can we win there and come away leading the world championship? Yes. It's an exciting thing to look forward to after some disappointments we've had.
Q: Why was Jenson's race pace not that convincing?
That's the eternal challenge at the moment. Jenson was very quick, very strong on Friday and then by Saturday he was confused and struggling. He again did a super professional job because he wasn't happy with the balance but he's done the damage limitation to bring some points in for himself and the team. That's how he is.