McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh delighted with Lewis Hamilton timing

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The Independent Online

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh hailed Lewis Hamilton's Chinese Grand Prix victory as the perfect tonic heading into the European season.

Hamilton's win in Shanghai yesterday brought the curtain down on the first flyaway leg of the season following grands prix in Australia and Malaysia, and crucially spelled the end of Sebastian Vettel's perfect start to the campaign for Red Bull.

The return to Europe, from where Formula One's teams operate, traditionally brings a spike in development work as engineers grapple with problems emerging from the opening rounds.

Yet in the case of McLaren, much of their development took place in the run-up to the first race in Australia following a dismal pre-season testing programme.

A late revision to the car saw the team defy all expectations to take second place with Hamilton at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, a result repeated by team-mate Jenson Button in Sepang.

The team's hard work was then rewarded to the full in Shanghai as Hamilton saw off the stern challenge of both championship leader Vettel and Button to record his first win since last August.

And for Whitmarsh the result comes at the ideal time, with the team now afforded three weeks to reflect and build on the result before the action begins again in Turkey on May 8.

"This victory was the perfect way for us to head into the European season," said Whitmarsh. "It's a fantastic boost for every man and woman in the team.

"It will only motivate us to achieve even greater things in Turkey next month."

Hamilton took the victory despite a fuel leak which meant he made it out of the pit lane just 30 seconds before it closed prior to the race. It was hardly the ideal preparation, but Whitmarsh praised Hamilton's cool head.

"Lewis responded magnificently to the pressure to record one of his most finely judged and aggressive race wins. He really is a magnificent fighter," he said.

"That must have been one of the most exciting races I've ever seen. It's incredibly rewarding to know that our sport is in good shape."

Whitmarsh also praised his drivers for their conduct on track after tussling during the race, in particular when Hamilton passed Button into the first turn shortly after half distance.

"Both drivers did some great overtaking, including of each other, which was a little bit of a tense moment for me, but nonetheless they raced well," he said.

Meanwhile, Whitmarsh has stated that F1 needs to rethink how it promotes its events in some regions after the Shanghai International Circuit failed to attract a bumper crowd over the weekend.

Despite the event being a fixture on the calendar since 2004, many grandstands were sparsely populated on both Friday and Saturday, and while there was an inevitable pick-up on race day, empty seats were still in evidence.

With F1 now heading to Istanbul - another event that has struggled to overcome the ambivalence of locals - Whitmarsh feels it is incumbent on the powers-that-be to rethink their strategy.

"Formula One is used to going to venues that know and understand Formula One and want us," Whitmarsh said. "I'm not blaming anyone because we're all part of it, but we're not good at promoting our sport in new territories and I think you've got evidence of that not just in China.

"We've got to work harder at it.

"If you go to downtown Shanghai and look for all the promotions going on for this event, I suspect you would struggle to find very much.

"Fortunately we still have a fantastic worldwide television audience but we need to work harder at circuits that are in new territories.

"It strikes me that we've got to do much more to promote our sport, develop it, and invest in its promotion than we do."