Jenson Button saluted a ‘superb team effort’ at McLaren after he and Lewis Hamilton finished on the podium at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Indeed, Hamilton finished just 0.6 seconds behind race winner Sebastian Vettel after pressuring the German throughout the closing stages. He also set the fastest lap of the race.
“I was pleasantly surprised by how fast we were today,” said Hamilton. “In race trim, I actually think we were quicker than the Red Bulls, except through the really high-speed stuff.
“I pushed as hard as I could all afternoon, and I'm really happy with the result – a few more laps and it might have been a different order at the front, but I just ran out of time at the end.
“Despite DRS, it's still very difficult to overtake at this track – you can't follow through Turn Three or Turn Nine, so that makes it really hard. Also, I was in Sebastian's dirty air and the car was sliding a lot – it was incredibly tough behind him.
“We're probably still losing out a bit too much in qualifying, but our race pace is right there. So, as you'd expect, we'll be looking at ways of improving our qualifying pace.
“I was also really happy to see Jenson come through and finish on the podium – it's a great result for the team. Now I'm already looking forward to Monaco – it's a circuit where high-speed downforce is less critical and where the driver can make a difference, so it should be a strong track for us.”
Button recovered from a shocking start when he adopted a three-stop strategy: “I had a terrible start and was on the outside into Turn One and Turn Three, where I lost further places. I was down in 10th at the end of the first lap, which was extremely disappointing,” he explained.
“After that, I didn't think third would really be possible, but as the others all made their pitstops so early, and as my tyres still felt good, I started to think it might be on. After Turkey, it was really fantastic to make the strategy work for me today.
“We stayed on the Option for as long as possible and I did three stops to the others' four – and the result was that I had a great race. I overtook Mark [Webber] and Fernando [Alonso] within a lap of each other. I knew I wasn't going to catch the first two, but I pushed as hard as I could just in case something happened ahead of me.
“Tyre life with these Pirellis is like a switch – once you lose the rears, the lap-times just drop. We got it just right today – and, when I finally got onto the Prime, the circuit was in a good condition and the tyre worked pretty well. I really felt like I raced today.
“Finally, I want to say a big thank-you to the team today – we chose a fantastic strategy, the pitstops were perfect and we made everything work. This was the result of a superb team effort.”
McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh congratulated both of his drivers on excellent performances, but said that winning must be the target next weekend in Monaco.
“Jenson was edged down to 10th place on the first lap, and from then on he was always going to be playing catch-up,” said Whitmarsh. “But, using a three-stop strategy hatched in response to that setback, he did just that. He caught up superbly, in fact, balancing the need for speed with the equally crucial requirement that he look after his tyres, and the result was that he ended up on the podium alongside Sebastian and Lewis. It was one of those drives that marks out a true world champion.
“As for Lewis, he drove another storming race, taking the fight to Sebastian from lights to flag. It's probably fair to say that Red Bull are still a little quicker than us in qualifying, but Lewis showed this afternoon that in race spec we're now able to match them every inch of the way. Indeed, Lewis was looking for a way past Sebastian in the final few laps – their battle must have made for a thrilling finale for TV viewers and trackside spectators alike – but in the end he just couldn't pull it off. Nonetheless, as I say, he drove brilliantly.
“In summary, then, we scored 33 world championship points today, which is another decent haul. But we want to win and we intend to win, and that's exactly what we'll be doing our damnedest to do on the famously challenging streets of Monte-Carlo in just a few days' time.”