Failure to solve pit-stop problems adds to McLaren's embarrassment

 

After the dreadful mess up in qualifying, which cost Lewis Hamilton his brilliant pole position after they failed to put in sufficient fuel, the last thing McLaren wanted were further embarrassments during their pit stops. But Lewis Hamilton lost time in his first one, on the 14th lap, after running over the left rear tyre that had just been removed from his car.

McLaren had already conducted an intensive investigation after the Bahrain GP into the problems that beset Hamilton twice there, and Jenson Button once in China.

"We looked at every single pit stop in slow motion," Button said. "We could see that the rear jack man can blind the guy who is waiting to change the left rear wheel."

He revealed that the mechanic who used to wield the tyre gun on the left-hand side, the source of the problems, had been changed for the last stop in Bahrain: "It's a massively tense moment. There's all the guys waiting to change your wheels and it's especially tricky for the guy on the front jack. You think, 'I really don't want to overshoot this, but I want to make it as quick as possible'. It's tricky, approaching him at 100 kmh, when there is just noise everywhere."

Martin Whitmarsh, the team boss, added: "Lewis didn't actually lose too much time; it was just a bit of tyre-to-tyre contact that briefly made the car jump in the air. It looked worse than it was."

Hamilton's elapsed pitlane time in that stop was 22.1sec, against Button's three stops of 20.3s, 21.5s, and 20.2s, but his second was much slicker at 19.1s. He finished eighth, right on Nico Rosberg's tail, after a brilliantly controlled run, and explained that it was damage limitation at its best.

"It was an incredibly tough challenge," he said. "I was one of the few to do a two-stop strategy, and people are always commenting how aggressive my driving style is, so I think today I proved them wrong. I was really surprised to see my soft option tyres last so long. It was just unfortunate that we didn't quite pip the drivers ahead through the stops."

All of Button's stops went perfectly, but the Englishman was forced to admit that he'd had a race to forget: "I'm normally good at looking after the tyres and being consistent. But I couldn't keep heat in the tyres and just had massive understeer whenever I was in traffic."

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