F1: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton pits in the McLaren garage by accident

Lewis Hamilton holds off Nico Rosberg to claim first podium finish for Mercedes... thanks to team orders

Sepang

Lewis Hamilton was candid after narrowly fending off his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as he scored his first podium finish for his new team, admitting that the German had driven the better race – and apologising for pulling in to the pit stop of his old team McLaren. 

His team boss Ross Brawn was determined not to jeopardise their three-four finish and insisted the pair held station despite Rosberg looking like he had the ability to overtake the Brit. It happened once, before Hamilton responded, and thereafter Rosberg did the honourable thing. But he reminded his team as he pulled into the pits: “Remember this one.”

“The team have done a fantastic job so I’m very happy be up here representing them. But I don’t feel spectacular,” Hamilton admitted after the race. “Nico deserves to be where I am, but the team thought it was logical to stay in the positions we were in. I have to congratulate him, because he drove a much smarter and more controlled race than I did.

“I was racing very hard to keep up with the Red Bulls, which were obviously on another level today, and it was on a knife edge. I think Nico did a better job of looking after his fuel and tyres because I was trying to keep up and he was being easier on his car.”

Rosberg twice complained he was quicker than Hamilton. Brawn, however, replied: “Negative Nico, negative. Lewis’ pace is what we are asking him to do. He can go a lot faster as well, so please be in control as well.

“There is a massive gap behind and nothing to gain in front. I want to bring both cars home.”

Asked if he would also remember the race, and the implied debt he owes Rosberg, Hamilton replied: “Of course, how can I forget? I’ll tell Nico he did a fantastic job, and will probably let him past in the future.”

Hamilton will also remember which garage to stop at, after mistakenly veering towards McLaren’s during his first pit stop. “I just did a Jenson, he did it with Red Bull a couple of years ago,” he said sheepishly. “I don’t know how I got it wrong, but a big apology to my team!”

The biggest hard luck story of the race concerned Button, who ran a strong fifth for a long time in a more competitive McLaren, and led briefly during the third pit stops. But his own pit call went disastrously wrong when the right front wheel was improperly fastened, and he was later withdrawn.

“Strategy-wise, we did everything right,” he said. “We pitted on the correct laps and looked after the tyres. We’d have finished fifth but for the problem, maybe we’d even have been in the battle for third and fourth. It’s very disappointing that we weren’t able to demonstrate that.

“Even at the end we had a chance of scoring a point, but unfortunately I was struggling with my front left tyre, which was producing such a bad vibration that the guys were worried it might damage the front left suspension if I carried on.”

Dame Fortune also slapped Paul di Resta’s face. He lost a huge amount of time during the switch from intermediate tyres to slicks early in the race, as he was stuck in the pits as Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil’s car suffered a faulty wheelnut. Di Resta then drove mightily to get back into a position to challenge for points, only to suffer similar misfortune.

Hapless Hamilton: 'pop in anytime!'

McLaren (@theFifthDriver) tweets:

“Smiles in the garage after a well-worked double pit stop with an unexpected twist. Feel free to  pop in and say ‘Hi’ any time,  @LewisHamilton!”

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