Promise, but no McLaren podiums
"I can’t remember the last time I’ve pushed so far, so hard"
Both McLarens finished one place worse off than they started but took heart from showing good pace towards the end of the Indian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton starting third and Jenson Button fourth were embroiled in an early fight with fifth-on-the-grid Fernando Alonso. Alonso eventually came out on top and would later exchange third for second when Mark Webber’s Red Bull had technical difficulties. Button had initially passed Hamilton on lap one but would cede the place back on lap six. He ran unhindered to fifth at the flag but Hamilton had a more eventful race to eventual fourth, including a change of steering wheel at his pitstop.
“During that first stint I started having a downshift problem – I was having to change down with my right hand instead of my left, so the team elected to change the steering wheel,” said Hamilton. “I’ve never had to change a steering wheel during a race before. We’ve done it in Barcelona testing before, but never in a race. Even so, the guys did it fantastically quickly, under immense pressure, so I want to say ‘well done!’ to them all. I took the wheel off before I’d even stopped the car, and threw it out. The team then fitted a new one, I clicked it into first gear, and I was away – all in just a bit over three seconds flat.”
While the McLarens were not able to keep up with the leaders on that initial soft tyre stint, they became more competitive on the hard tyre and when Webber began to experience KERS issues, Hamilton was able to close in and look like having the potential to steal third. “I tried to chase down Mark in the closing laps, but by then it was too late and he was going too quickly for me to be able to mount a serious challenge. But I never give up, and, right until the very last corner, I thought I might just be able to catch him, but in the end it wasn’t to be.”
“Still, I loved it out there today – I can’t remember the last time I’ve pushed so far, so hard, for so long, right on the limit – it felt great. It felt fantastic, in fact, to be in the middle of such a battle.”
For Button all of the excitement came at the very beginning in his tussle with Hamilton and Alonso, and at the every end of the race when he set fastest lap – McLaren’s 150th in F1. “The start of the race was my highlight,” said the 2009 World Champion. “There were just millimetres between Lewis, Fernando and me. I’ve never had a start quite like that before – unbelievably hard-fought – and none of us hit each other. It was so close, so tight, yet so clean. It’s just a pity that the rest of the race wasn’t as enjoyable!
“My first stint was pretty disappointing; I think maybe we struggled more on the Options than the other runners did, so I couldn’t keep the guys behind me. But getting fastest lap on the final lap was great, and I think there’s plenty of potential that we can build on and take with us to Abu Dhabi next weekend.”