Martin Whitmarsh declared Jenson Button the ‘man of the match’ at the Belgian Grand Prix after the 2009 world champion drove a damaged car from thirteenth on the grid to a third place finish at Spa-Francorchamps.
The McLaren driver said that he enjoyed the race, despite a difficult start when he was caught in the aftermath of Bruno Senna‘s crash into Jaime Alguersuari.
“It wasn't as simple as just going from 13th to third today,” said Button. “At the start, somebody hit me at the rear and damaged a rear-wing endplate. At the exit of Turn One, there was debris everywhere, and somebody else's front wing went through my front wing and sliced my right-side mirror off. I also had to make an early pitstop, so it was hardly perfect!
“The team had a look at the data and saw that the damage was manageable, so I held on for a few more laps in order to make the strategy work. Then, after that, I drove flat-out to the end of the race.
“I think everybody had an issue with the front-left tyre, so it was tricky to know when to push. But my pace was pretty good considering the damage we had, and I really enjoyed attacking and passing people.
“Our car is the best it's been all year, and I feel better than I ever have in Formula 1. We just need to stop the little mistakes from happening so that we can win even more races.
“Hopefully, we can go out and fight for the win in Monza.”
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton started from second and looked in contention for victory until some race-ending contact with Kamui Kobayashi. Speaking after the race, Hamilton was unsure what had happened during the overtaking manoeuvre on the Sauber driver.
“I was in a good position and I'd already got past one of the Ferraris, but then I was hit by Kamui [Kobayashi],” he explained. “I don't really know what happened, but I hit the wall pretty hard and my race was immediately over. I was ahead, so I don't know why I got hit.
“There have been quite a few races this year where we've not finished, and this is another – but that's motor racing.
“At least our pace was reasonably good this weekend, so let's hope we can win more races in the remainder of the season.”
After seeing replays of the accident, Hamilton then took full blame for the incident, acknowledging that he had not given Kobayashi enough room. Writing on Twitter, Hamilton said: “After watching the replay, I realize it was my fault today 100%. I didn’t give Kobayashi enough room though I thought in [sic] was past.”
“Apologies to Kamui and to my team,” Hamilton added in a later tweet. “The team deserves better from me.”
Whitmarsh praised Button for an excellent drive and said that, despite Sebastian Vettel‘s ever-growing lead in the drivers championship, McLaren have not yet written off the title chances of either driver, and hope to win as many of the remaining races as possible this season.
“Jenson drove a dazzlingly impressive race today – in fact I'd say without any doubt whatsoever that he was the man of the match,” said the McLaren team principal.
“To start from P13, then to lose a front wing and drop back to P19, and then fight all the way back to P3 at the chequered flag, on the most challenging circuit in modern-day Formula 1… well, all I can say is that it was the kind of performance that marks out a true champion.
“In particular, to hunt down and pass Fernando [Alonso] like thatâ€¦ again, I thought that was very, very, very impressive.
“But for our unfortunate misunderstanding in qualifying yesterday [which resulted in a P13 grid slot], I feel sure that he would have been able to mount a truly formidable challenge for outright victory here this afternoon.
“As for Lewis, I thought he was extremely unlucky to be tapped from behind by Kamui – and, as we all saw all too clearly, the result was a pretty nasty shunt. Thankfully he climbed out unhurt, which is the main thing.
“It was hugely frustrating for us – of course it was – but that's motor racing and all we can do now is draw a line under it and move on.
“Looking forward to [Italy] in two weeks' time, then, we're focusing on the positives. Our car and our drivers showed strong pace throughout this weekend, and we'll be aiming to convert that speed into victory at Monza.
“As for the world championship(s), all we can do is focus all our efforts on trying to win as many of the remaining seven grands prix as we possibly can.
“As I often say, it's still mathematically possible, which means it's still possible.”