MARCH 27, 2012
Whitmarsh: Damage limitation
Although McLaren monopolised the front row of the grid again in Malaysia, team principal Martin Whitmarsh was left to reflect on just a third place for Lewis Hamilton at Sepang.
Q: How do you look back on the race?
It wasn't the greatest day in the office but you've got to say it was great for the sport and you've got to congratulate Ferrari and it was a huge day for Sauber. For us. it was just one of those days - a bit of damage limitation. I don't think we did anything dramatically wrong. With Lewis we stopped him at the right points, the same time as Alonso, but because Ferrari double-shuffled we were boxed in at the pit stop. If we'd released Lewis there was a danger and we had to hold him, and that got Fernando in front of Lewis. In those sorts of conditions anything can happen and I think for Lewis it was a good world championship scoring day.
For Jenson obviously, it wasn't, losing his front wing. Thereafter we tried a few things and I don't think we regretted anything we tried, just losing the front wing. But that's motor racing. We leave leading the constructors' championship and second and third in the drivers'. Surprisingly Fernando is leading the championship, which you wouldn't have predicted going into or out of Australia. I guess the people that most consider the real contenders didn't score the big points. Overall -- yes, we like to win but it could have worse.
Q: Were you surprised to see Jenson make a mistake, get caught up and lose his wing?
In these conditions anything can happen. It was a bit of a mistake but it's very difficult and he just couldn't arrest the speed.
Q: Were you surprised that on a clear track the Ferrari and Sauber were still getting away from Lewis?
Perez was on the prime tyre and it looked very durable. It was obviously in the window and he was the quickest car on the track. Get the tyres switched on in those conditions and all sorts of things can happen. I think Lewis had a fairly consistent pace and on the intermediates and the primes we were there or thereabouts, but we weren't quicker than them. Perez was the quickest guy and it was so nearly a very big day for him, and a pretty big day as it was. Great for Sauber and great for the sport.
Q: How hard do you think Sauber tried to win the race?
I'd like to think he was trying hard and ran wide... That's what I'd like to think! I have to say -- and I shouldn't say this -- but I did ponder what radio communications might happen if Sergio got close and I hope for the benefit of the sport that he was given every opportunity. That's what I hope and I've got no reason to believe otherwise.
Q: What do you say to fans who think the race shouldn't have been interrupted?
Well as it turns out I'd have loved it, but in fairness I think Charlie Whiting called it about right. Stopping the race when we were first and second and in reasonable condition turned out not to be good for us, but I think it was the right thing to do. You could easily have had just 10 cars running around and lots more of them buried in Armco. It was treacherous out there and even with full wets you can aquaplane off very easily. And there were cars still on intermediates so I think there was likely to be an accident or two.
Q: Jenson is so often electric in mixed conditions and at first went much quicker than anyone on new rubber. Then what happened?
I think he caught the field and got stuck behind Maldonado at that stage and just lost tyre temperature. His front tyres were just giving him no grip at all.