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Tyres and driver etiquette hot topics in Barcelona 11 May 2012

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 May 2012 Red Bull Racing mechanic with Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 May 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 May 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 May 2012

In the build-up to this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton says he won’t be treating the event any differently even if it does start the first European leg of the 2012 championship.

“It’s the same as any other race. To come into the European season and have high expectations is the wrong way to approach it in my opinion. I hope our car is still competitive. I hope that we have picked up compared to the others in terms of upgrades. I hope that we’ve improved a significant amount from the last race so that we can be nearer the front. We’re looking for that first win - or at least I am, Jenson has got his already - so it’s an important part of the year.”

One key for both McLaren drivers is a revised pit-stop practice after Button suffered problems in China and Hamilton in Bahrain.

“After the last race we all went back to the factory and a lot of analysis was done to find out and understand where we were going wrong with them,” Hamilton said. “And it’s not just one thing. It’s a combination of things. Small bits which you would never see from the outside, or by watching on TV, but which you can see from the camera on the gantry. Small things like foot position and hand position. They all add up. We are trying to perfect those and improve on those. So hopefully this weekend will be better. I pray that it is.”

With a big step between Pirelli’s tyre compounds here - they have brought the hard and the soft - and the usual high wear rate that the circuit imposes, tyre conservation will again be an issue, but Hamilton said he is optimistic. “I feel like I’m driving the same. I’m still aggressive. The tyres are a little more fragile this year so attacking as much as perhaps I have done in the past was not going to work. Especially in the last race. I was attacking but I could have attacked a lot more if the tyres could have lasted. I would love to have just pushed.

“I don’t think it’s costing me any more than the others, though. I’ve actually just been told by the engineers that they have analysed mine and Jenson’s races and I have been easier on the tyres in the races, which has been a pleasure to hear because everyone talks about how aggressive my driving style is and how aggressive with the tyres I am. In actual fact I have been easier on the tyres with the same times.”

The subject of his near miss with Nico Rosberg in Bahrain has been much discussed so far this weekend, but he dismissed it. “I’m not really bothered to be honest. It’s in the past for me. It’s good to have clarity. Whatever they decide will affect all the drivers.”

Mark Webber, however, said he was surprised Hamilton had not been penalised.

"I was surprised that Lewis was allowed to keep his position,” the Red Bull driver said. “It was a situation that Lewis didn't want to find himself in off the track but he stayed with it and ultimately the move was kept. I'm sure we'll talk about it in the driver's briefing."

“Mark is probably one of the most - if not the most outspoken individual here so that is the least I expect from him,” Hamilton smiled. “I'm a racer and I didn't feel I was in the wrong. Everyone has a right to their own opinions but it doesn't mean they are right. It doesn't affect me in any way at all. They weren't there at that moment. You can't see from the camera angles whether I was alongside but I know I was.”

The stewards admit that he was, but say that Fernando Alonso, who also had an incident with Rosberg, wasn’t. “I had a good slingshot out of the corner and as he kept going over I had nowhere to go,” said the Spaniard. “The wall was quite far away, but if it'd been there I would have been in it. We do have to give each other room to a certain extent, and not do as Michael's [Schumacher] experience with Rubens [Barrichello, in Hungary in 2010].”

Alonso had a good-natured exchange with Sebastian Vettel on the subject of driving etiquette yesterday. Asked whether he was clear afterwards what is allowed when it comes to defending your position, the Ferrari driver replied that he was.

“Fernando made it pretty clear,” Vettel interjected. “He said ‘You have to leave the space. All the time you have to leave the space!’”

“Yes. Yes,” Alonso replied.

“It was clear, no?” Vettel rejoined.

“As I did last year with Sebastian, in Monza,” Alonso said with a smirk.

“He just thought my car was slimmer,” Vettel laughed.

“But you passed. You passed…”

“I think the rule is clear,” Vettel summarised. “You can argue. I think there were two incidents with Nico in Bahrain, one with Fernando and I think Fernando made his point clear afterwards. And with Lewis, and I think Lewis got past, so I think you can talk for hours now, but if you saw the situation in Bahrain, it’s exceptional, because you have a kind of asphalt run-off. Yes, it’s pretty dirty but we always try to go on the limit, the one who is overtaking, the one who is defending. Surely sometimes you need to respect that the guy is there and you need to leave the space. I think if it would have been grass, it would have been a different story. You wouldn’t go there in the first place. In Fernando’s case I think he would have made the same point.”

David Tremayne

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