For the result – a thrilling Jenson Button victory – it was a Sunday to savour for McLaren. But for the aftermath it proved less so as Lewis Hamilton turned on his own team after being called in for a second tyre stop which, he claimed, cost him his chance of winning the Australian Grand Prix here yesterday. Two races in and already there are rumblings of discontent in the McLaren camp.
Hamilton, who finished sixth, said that he had produced "one of the drives of his life" around Albert Park but was let down by his team, and his team later admitted that the former world champion had grounds for complaint. Hamilton's forgettable trip Down Under – he was spoken to by the police about improper use of a vehicle on Friday – was completed when Mark Webber of Red Bull shunted him off the track two laps from the end.
"I had one of the drives of my life and unfortunately, due to the strategy, I was put further back and then I got taken out by Webber," said Hamilton. "I'm happy with the job that I did. I honestly drove my heart out today and I think I deserved better than what I ended up with, but I'll keep fighting to the next race."
Hamilton was critical of McLaren's strategy over the radio, and he was adamant that pitting for a second time, on lap 34, had been a significant mistake. "All I know is the guys do, always, a fantastic job, but the strategy was not right," he said. "Everyone else in front of me did one stop and for some reason I did two."
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said Hamilton had made his displeasure clear, but was called in because his tyres were wearing and he was losing pace. "With the information we had at the time, given where Lewis was, we thought that was the right call," said Whitmarsh. "In hindsight, if we look at how the race played out, if Lewis could have made those tyres last then he could have finished at least second.
"It was disappointing, I think it was a fantastic drive by Lewis. We as the team made the decision, I've got to be accountable for that. I'm disappointed with the outcome, but I'm not disappointed by the process. Lewis passionately expressed himself on the radio, and that's how Lewis is. He's passionate, he likes to win, he's hard on himself, he's hard on the team."
Button won a thrilling race partly because he chose the optimum moment to switch from the intermediate Bridgestone tyres on which everyone had started following a shower just before the start, to slicks. "Last year was exceptional but to move teams and be here winning means a lot," said the defending world champion. "It's a very special day for me."
Renault's Robert Kubica held off an attack by Ferrari's Felipe Massa to finish second with Massa completing the podium places. Michael Schumacher came 10th, while Sebastian Vettel, who began on pole position, was forced out with a front wheel problem while leading midway through the race.