McLaren had a disappointing showing in the Spanish Grand Prix, collecting just 10 points despite starting the race third and fifth.
A puncture on the penultimate lap for Lewis Hamilton, who was running second at the time, ruined a good performance for the Brit, who had managed to get past Sebastian Vettel during the pit stops. After the race Hamilton reflected on the loss of 18 points, and also had some criticism of the back markers. “Today, I was looking good to split the Red Bulls, and it would have been perfect for us in both world championships if I could have finished second this afternoon.
“I was just nursing the car to the finish line, then I suddenly felt the steering go, and then there was immediately a failure on the left-front corner. I didn't sense anything odd before the accident – the car was feeling great – so that's why it was such a surprise. We don't know what went wrong, but we'll take everything back to the McLaren Technology Centre [Woking, Surrey, UK] and work to find out.
“I think I drove a good race. I couldn't keep up with Mark [Webber] on my second set of tyres, but I was able to get past Sebastian [Vettel] as I came out of the pits. I have to say, there were problems with some of the backmarkers today – it felt like we were lapping some of them four or five times – and some of them were very bad at getting out of the way.
“I appreciate that it's not always easy for the backmarkers, and I know from the first half of last year what it's like to be lapped, but some of them were slowing on the racing line, and in fact I nearly collided with a couple of them when they did that. It was quite difficult at times, because there was such a big speed difference. I guess it may be more difficult still at Monaco.”
“But, going back to today, I'm absolutely gutted that my accident happened so close to the finish of the race – but that's motor racing. The guys did an incredible job all weekend, though. There are many more races to go this season, and I'll keep my chin up. I know we can still fight for this championship.”
Jenson Button spent his entire second stint behind the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher, after the German passed him in the pit stops. The world champion feels the result didn’t reflect the team’s race pace, and also revealed that he had some technical problems within the car: “During the opening laps, my dashboard readout stopped working. The team was telling me over the radio to do things on the steering wheel but I couldn't see if I was doing the right things. And I couldn't see the rev lights either: most of the time I was pretty close with my gear-changes, but I was hitting the limiter quite a lot, which happens when you're getting a tow and you're shifting at different places.
“Then I was delayed at the first pitstop: there was a problem with the clutch dragging, so the guys couldn't get the wheel on, and then I had wheelspin. When I rejoined the track, I didn't know where Michael [Schumacher] was. Into Turn One, he turned in – and if I hadn't backed out of it, we would probably have crashed.
“As everyone knows, it's almost impossible to overtake around here, and Michael was moving about a bit to make sure I couldn't get past. That was frustrating because the pace of my car was really good this afternoon, but that doesn't make any difference if you can't overtake. I was trying so hard to get past that I damaged my tyres quite a bit; I flat-spotted a front and hurt the rears under traction.
“Fifth wasn't the result we'd wanted, and it wasn't the result we really deserved either because we were pretty quick. I guess you could say that was both a positive and a negative, because I couldn't get to use that pace fully today.”
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh was philosophical about Hamilton’s retirement, and is now looking ahead to Monaco, a circuit where McLaren have performed well in the past. “For Lewis, it was just one of those days. He drove brilliantly – an impressively disciplined yet excitingly combative performance – and posted the fastest lap of the race, nearly half a second quicker than the next-best lap, on his way to what would have been a richly deserved second place had he not been forced to retire within spitting distance of the chequered flag.
“We'll now gather up the parts, take them back to the McLaren Technology Centre, and then analyse them meticulously – so, until we've done that, we won't really be able to make any definitive statements about what we think it was that caused the problem at the left-front corner of his car.
“Jenson drove a very good race too, but was hampered early on by a dash display failure that prevented him from being able to follow our normal launch procedure during his pitstop. As a result he was slowed by wheelspin which allowed Michael to slip ahead of him. Thereafter he wasn't quite able to overtake, despite clearly having the potential to lap faster than Michael had he had a clear track in front of him.
“Naturally enough, all of us at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes feel a little disappointed to have lost 18 world championship points at the 11th hour today, but there are nonetheless a lot of positives we can take from the weekend. We showed strong race pace today, we're still leading both the drivers' world championship and the constructors' world championship, and the next grand prix is at Monaco, which McLaren has won no fewer than 15 times – significantly more than any other team in Formula 1 history. We'll be racing on the famous streets of the Principality in just a few days' time, and you can be well sure that we'll be doing everything in our power to add to our win tally there.”