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SEPTEMBER 26, 2011

Martin Whitmarsh on Singapore

After a Singapore Grand Prix which all but confirmed Sebastian Vettel as back-to-back world champion, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh was left to reflect on another strong performance from Jenson Button and a problematic afternoon for Lewis Hamilton. He answered media questions post-race.

Q: Jenson seemed to come alive in the last stint?

The race was about saving tyres and fuel and Jenson did a fantastic job. He was able to push harder at the end and put some pressure on but Sebastian drove very well and was very controlled. Jenson measured himself against Mark Webber, who got a bit close and then Jenson did a couple of quick laps to prove he could do more. At the end Jenson had a go to see if he could put Sebastian under some pressure. There was a bit of traffic and we got within about 3s with a coupe of laps to go, then the traffic didn't quite fall the right way.

There was a lot of overtaking and despite the doubters on DRS, it works and was a significant contributor to an exciting race.

Q: You mentioned fuel consumption. Did you hope Red Bull might be in trouble?

You always hope they're in trouble! I think we were in some traffic and we were saving fuel during the course of the race bit at the end it was slightly too big a gap to be able to close it.

Q: Lewis had a race that encapsulated his season. How do you get him not to have races like that?

In fairness he made a good start, got up to third place and then got squeezed into the wall and at that point was boxed. That happens sometimes. Sometimes in sport and in life things go your way and at other times they seem to go wrong on numerous occasions. Having said that, after five times through the pit lane and having to do some fantastic overtaking he got back into the points very easy. There's lots of drivers who fall back to 17th/18th position in a race like that and give up. I think he showed great character, skill and decisiveness to come through and score some valuable points.

Q: If penalties are given every time drivers try to pass, is that good for racing?

I don't think it is. Lewis has been unlucky. In Germany when he got the drive- through penalty it was extraordinarily tough and I think in hindsight there's been a number of decisions. There were people within the stewarding office at the last race who felt they probably should have done something with Michael, so lots of things have not gone Lewis's way. The test of true character is someone who can come through that adversity, which he will.

Q: But didn't he have an avoidable accident in a move that wasn't really on?

Which avoidable accident?

Q: On the outside of Massa, touching his rear wheel with his front wing

If you stay in the garage any accident is avoidable. Any serious questions?

Q: Could it have been a different story if Jenson had had a trouble-free Friday?

The great thing about Jenson is his ability to come back. He's had one or two Fridays where it hasn't gone right. In truth he didn't feel well in the race or on Saturday, but had the skill, fortitude and dedication to come through. N the last few laps of the race he didn't look like a guy we were talking to doctors about on race morning.

Q: You've had to defend Lewis on many occasions. Is it starting to be frustrating?

For Lewis it's inevitably frustrating. It would have been easy to give up a third or halfway into that race and he clearly didn't.

Q: What does he have to do and perhaps you as a team to eradicate these incidents?

Various things have happened, the team can take some blame and Lewis can take some blame. It's been a tough season. None of us are perfect. The team has made some mistakes; we'll make more mistakes -- that's life. As a team we have to try and get better, Lewis has to get better as a race driver but I think a strong fifth place was a great drive.

Q: Massa has said that if Lewis keeps driving that way, he won't win any more championships?

I think he's wrong. Lewis is still a young guy, he's learning. He'll win races and I'm sure he's going to win more championships.

Q: Jenson seems to be getting better and better?

I think he's doing a fantastic job. He's been on the podium at the last four races and his position in the team has been strong all along.

Q: What caused Lewis's refueling problem in Q3?

It was human error. There was a limited amount of time and fuel was coming out of the tank rather than going in.

Q: Lewis has had numerous incidents. Is it time to sit down and talk about his approach?

I sit down with him frequently and we talk about lots of things. He's incredibly self critical. He did a fantastic job to recover the situation but it was a tough race for him.

Q: But doesn't self-criticism only work if there's improvement?

I think we'll see. He's a great driver, there's five races remaining and I'm sure we'll see some absolutely classic Lewis races.

Q: Is there much chance of beating Sebastian and Red Bull?

They're doing a fantastic job but Jenson is second in the world championship and deservedly so.

Q: There's been a few Safety Car cases this year with back markers in between the top runners at the restart. Should we review that?

I personally would prefer to get the back markers out of the way because it would be a better show. It's deeply frustrating and Sebastian was able to get a long way ahead because of Kobayashi holding up Jenson for a lap and a half. The opportunity to challenge was completely destroyed.