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McLaren: Brawn, not pit stop error, cost us victory 23 Aug 2009

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Race, Valencia Spain, Sunday, 23 August 2009 McLaren mechanics prepare for a pitstop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Race, Valencia Spain, Sunday, 23 August 2009 Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia Spain, Sunday, 23 August 2009

When the tyres for Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren weren’t ready as he arrived for his second pit stop during Sunday’s European Grand Prix, it looked as if the error had cost the reigning world champion a win in Valencia. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh, however, believes that eventual victor Ruben Barrichello was too dominant and that, mistake or not, Hamilton’s best hope was second.

“Following our all-front-row qualifying result, naturally enough we had very high expectations for today’s race,” explained Whitmarsh. “In the event, though, our race pace wasn’t good enough to beat Rubens’s car. We’d adopted a different tyre 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.

Although he was due to pit on Lap 37 of the race, the team went on the radio to tell Hamilton to stay out an extra lap to try to gain a slight advantage over the chasing Barrichello. But the call was transmitted just a fraction too late and the British driver had already turned down the pit lane. Arriving at his pit box, he thus caught his mechanics on the hop.

“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 pit-lane 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.”

Although he couldn’t match his win at the Hungaroring last month, Hamilton was still pleased with his second-place finish and delighted to be back on the podium again.

“This is my second podium in a row, and I’m very happy to be here,” he 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.”

Following his two successive podium finishes, Hamilton is now up to sixth in the drivers’ championship and will be looking to increase his tally at next weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.