Safety car plays into McLaren’s hands in Valencia (McLaren race review)

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McLaren may not have won the European Grand Prix but they scored more points than anyone else and extended their lead in the constructors’ championship.

The safety car appearance worked out particularly well for Jenson Button, putting him on the podium.

But Lewis Hamilton was fortunate to keep second place after his drive-through penalty.

Jenson Button Lewis Hamilton
Qualifying position 7 3
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’38.210 (+0.241) 1’37.969
Race position 3 2
Average race lap 1’46.004 (+0.134) 1’45.870
Laps 57/57 57/57
Pit stops 1 2

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Jenson Button

Hamilton’s qualifying lap mistake was caught by the television cameras but Button’s wasn’t. It was even more costly, as it left him seventh on the grid.

Button passed Robert Kubica at the first corner and gained another place when he launched an attack on Mark Webber. But Kubica pounced on the pair of them, taking his place back from Button.

The safety car timing worked out very nicely for Button. He was the second person into the pits and, crucially, the first one out.

But his hopes of getting any higher were scuppered by Kamui Kobayashi, who proved more resitant to Button’s attacks as he had been at Interlagos last year. Button was stuck behind the Sauber driver until he finally pitted five laps from the end.

After that Button got a move on, making up as much time as possible knowing he was under investigation for going to quickly while behind the safety car. He set the race’s fastest lap, missing out on the lap record by a tenth of a second.

His five-second penalty was ultimately not enough to cost him third place. But he denied he could have done any more to get above the minimum time he was told to stick to behind the safety car:

I was very close to the pit entry when the Safety Car was triggered. I was warned by the team beforehand, who said, ‘There might be a Safety Car, in this lap,’ so I dived into the pits. There was no room to lift off or hit the brakes, so to be honest I can’t really see why I was called to the stewards.
Jenson Button

Compare Jenson Button’s form against his team mate in 2010

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton said he was happy to qualify third after making a mistake on his qualifying lap.

He made a great start, easily passing Mark Webber and very nearly taking the lead off Sebastian Vettel. The pair made contact and Hamilton lost some parts from his front wing, which may explain why he rarely troubled Vettel during the opening laps.

When the safety car was deployed it came out slightly ahead of Hamilton, albeit still in the pit lane. Had Hamilton crossed the second safety car line he would have been able to continue around ahead of the safety car and into the pits. He crossed the line slightly behind the safety car, after appearing to back off, but then overtook the safety car.

He was later served a drive-through penalty for that. By then he was in second place, having used his pit stop under the safety car to change his front wing, apparently saving fuel for a later bid to pass Vettel.

On receiving the drive-through the team kept him out as long as possible during which time he was able to increase his lead over third-placed Kobayashi enough to hold his position.

It was to Hamilton’s benefit that the stewards took so long to decide, that Kobayashi held Button up so much, and that Valencia’s pit lane configuration means drivers lose little time going through it. On another day this penalty could just as easily have dropped him out of the points.

After that he set several quick laps to try to put Vettel under pressure, but the Red Bull driver had ample performance in hand to keep his lead.

Read more: Did Hamilton try to stop Alonso getting in front of the safety car? (Video)

Compare Lewis Hamilton’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 European Grand Prix

    Browse all 2010 European Grand Prix articles

    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    39 comments on “Safety car plays into McLaren’s hands in Valencia (McLaren race review)”

    1. So did McLaren finally improve their pitstops then? Button gained two places, and Hamilton was able to get a new nose and not lose much to Vettel.

      1. Hamilton and Vettel pitted under the safety car – if he’d lost any time to him the pit crew should have all been fired on the spot!

        1. It’s worth noteing of course, that had Alonso not been stuck behind the safety car he would almost certainly have passed Hamilton at this stage of the race.

          However that would just be stiring the pot some more.

          1. And maybe they would not have changed the nose, we have been over that already, I think.

            Ah, yes, Keith, but it looked like Hamilton stood still for not much longer than Vettel, that is what I mean. I might have missed it though, as it is only a few seconds anyway.

            Can people actually overtake in pits under SC? If not, how did Button exit before Kubica and Barichello?

            1. The Renault article Keith has written answers that:

              “Kubica was the first driver to make it into the pits when the safety car came out. But the team were waiting with Petrov’s tyres, having been expecting to bring him in on that lap instead, and the delay switching them around cost Kubica places to Button and Rubens Barrichello.”

            2. That is a very valid question! I would like some investigation in that matter..

            3. under 40.14 below ;
              – any car entering the pits may pass another car or the safety car remaining on the track after it has crossed the first safety car line ;

          2. i agree Ady, if they had both come in together Hamilton would have lost out as they changed Ham’s front wing…
            lot of variables which never eventuated.

        2. Keith, I know it’s difficult to have any discussion (on any forum) without character asassination and personal attacks on drivers and posters alike but I would really welcome a sensible, non-biased, non-facetious, personal jibe free discussion on the following:

          Should we:
          1) Accept that the vagaries of the current safety car procedures are all part of racing and that resultant gains or losses are just down to luck and what strategy a particular driver has chosen for the race
          2) Consider whether the effect of the SC is too arbitrary to be a genuine racing factor and try to work out how it could be managed so that cars are returned as near as possible to at least their relative positions if not to their previous spacing.

          It seems to me that the current procedure is a fairly blunt instrument that does not sufficiently employ the benefits of the current high level of technology such as GPS etc.

          In any suggested procedure it would be important to remember that the primary purpose of the Safety Car is safety (Duh!), but this point seems to have been forgotten in some of the previous posts on the subject.

          At the very least a reasoned discussion might clarify our minds on what is possible and what must be accepted as inevitable ups and downs.

          1. Good idea for a piece, I’ll keep it mind for the future.

    2. maestrointhesky
      28th June 2010, 22:57

      Is it just me or does anyone else notice that the safety car appears to cross the white line just in front of Hamilton and this is the cause of his hesitation! My view is that Hamilton thought for a moment that that the safety car was going to pull out directly in front of him, fully crossing over the white line. When he realises that it’s not, he puts his foot down again and makes it around the corner in front. If anyone was at fault then it’s the driver of the safety car who should know the rules like the back of his hand. It appear to me now that it’s a good job Hamilton’s position wasn’t diminished as this could have been seen as an own goal by the organisers!

      1. I agree that might be the cause of hesistation, and I think it is a bit silly to assign blame for Hamilton not fully recalling it.

        I don’t agree it was an obvious mistake by the SC driver: until now, exiting the pitlane properly has not been an issue for the SC at all.

        I think a big part of the difference with NASCAR, Indy is that they have a lot more SC periods, so drivers, teams, SC and race control are all better trained by experience on what to do, and what not.

      2. I noticed that! Maybe Bernd Maylander should have got a drive through penalty!

        1. lol, that was funny Havergal …. :-)

    3. They both got lucky. Jenson with the timing of the SC coupled with Kubica’s slow stop effectively gaining him 3 spots, and Lewis could well have have ended up pointless if he hadn’t overtaken the SC.

    4. If the SC had been out a bit faster and picked up Vettel, as should be the case, Button would probably have won this one!

      1. LOL, if the safety car had been any faster out the pits, it would have been called out before Webber’s crash.

      2. Take a look once again, and keep your eye on the lap counter at the top of the screen:

        Webber comes to a stop, SC symbol appears next to lap counter, then in less than a second the lap counter goes to 10 (Vettel crossed the start line).

        There is no way the safety car could pick up Vettel first.

    5. we all watched a farce… I got my ticket for Monza, hope does’nt happen the same thing because I don’t like to waste money!

      1. Renzo, you know very well Monza is a McLaren track, don’t you?

        I would advise you better sell the ticket back to a McLaren fan as you will definitely be disappointed :-( … sorry, just my 2p.

        1. Valencia was supposed to be a McLaren track, and the race is three months away, so I’d hold onto the tickets – especially because Monza is a cracking place to watch a Grand Prix.

          1. True Keith, but McLaren has never won in Valencia as opposed to Monza.

            I just wanted to spare him another disappointment after Valencia ;-)

            1. Fair enough. I’m a big a Monza fan though, everyone should go at least once. The old banking is immense.

          2. Hell yeah it is, I was there in 2009. Superb!

        2. I’m not a Ferrari fan by the way and Monza as the other races can be unpredictable.. remember Vettel with Toro Rosso?

          and yes, I know Monza can be considered a McLaren track especially this year with theirs super f-duct!

    6. I really dislike Ferrari and especially Alonso. Why can’t they just accept the fact they just lost big time! Vettel had gone past the safety car and Lewis as well. Fair he got a penalty and the fact he stayed in second position has nothing to do with it. He served a penalty. It would be stupid to adjust the penaly so he would actualy loose a place wouldn’t it? Stop f-ing moaning and get on with it. Actually, finally something that doesn’t go Ferrari’s way. Good thing cause they are back-stabbers. Alonso is an *rse and even overtakes his teammate on his way into the pits! Who does that?!! Really wish it was alonso that crashed instead of Webber. Alonso does not deserve anything in my point of view. So, got that one of my chest!

      1. Maybe you should take a better look at the video replay of Hamilton slowing and speeding up again, and also try and understand why that penalty was handed to Hamilton at such a late part of the race.

        I do not blame Ferrari and Alonso being extremely furious at the stewards, although they did go a little too far by saying that the race was fixed to help Hamilton. It was just poor decision making from the stewards, and a lot of luck on Hamilton’s part.

        Alonso just needs to keep his cool and bounce back with a win in the British GP, that would definitely silence some of his haters like our man Bram.

    7. Hamilton got very lucky, which happens quite often. But there is a saying, you make your own luck, and in this case I believe Hamilton did just that! Did he exploit the situation? Who knows, maybe or maybe not, it is irrelevant.

      What is frustrating, however, is the safety car rule. It needs to be changed and fixed so that drivers do not benefit nor lose when the safety car is deployed. This has been a problem for a very long time, and they almost got it right a few years back when they introduced a rule to prevent cars from entering the pits under the safety car. I think this rule needs to be reintroduced and modified to prevent cars from running out of fuel – i have a few ideas how that is possible.

      On the end of the day, the safety car will never be fair. The drivers who build up a lead will always lose out. But what is extremely annoying is to see cars from pos 10-15 all of a sudden go 2nd, 3rd or 4th… etc, and some driver go to pits change their wing, have a cup of tea and read the daily telegraph and come out without losing a position. Totally ridiculous.

      1. maestrointhesky
        29th June 2010, 12:59

        It would have been the Sunday Telegraph, a much more in depth read.

        It’s quite ironic, Hamilton probably had his best pit stop of the year.

    8. Can anyone remember that interview Teflonso gave after Barcelona where Hamilton had tyre issues? I think he said (literally) that it was not his problems that LH lost his position in the last stages of the race and that McLaren was incompetent to produce good components for their cars.

      Now, he is claiming how clever(?) LH was by prevented him from accelerating past a SC. Why did he not pass both cars?… Oh! It would be seen as overtaking under SC? So, why the noise?

    9. maestrointhesky
      29th June 2010, 12:54

      I think the SC rule is good as it stands personally. On a more ‘pass friendly’ track it would have mixed up the order as it did in Valencia, but you would have had your Alonso’s, Massa’s, and Button’s making some great passes on their way back up the order. It’s just a shame Valencia doesn’t lend itself to overtaking.

    10. Back to the McLaren race summary. Jenson must rue somewhat that he could not get around the Sauber, somehow. If he did, he would have finished ahead of Hamilton, wherever or whenever Hamilton served his penalty. And he would have been tied with his teammate atop the points standings. Button’s thinking that it would be better to wait for Kobayashi to pit, and preserve the car or whatever, instead of putting the second year guy under some fierce pressure, was not the best choice. Hamilton couldnt get to Sutil in a similar situation in Malaysia, desipte a real performance edge, so give him the benefit of the doubt. But his comments give the impression that he was just OK with the situation, given Kobayshi was pulling away from Kubica.

      It’s very sad that we were again robbed of a true race pace test between McLaren and Redbull, and this time Ferrari. When we learned that McLaren was saving fuel when the penalty was announced, and we saw Hamilton’s peformance leap, we knew that we were not really seeing all the cards. The bit of cat and mouse at the end between the top two was less informative, because Vettel had plenty of room to save fuel and tire wear before Hamilton tried to attack from 14s back. Button’s speed when Kobayashi pitted (on totally worn tires, note) was also an interesting fact.

      Whitmarsh seems very confident they have a race pace edge. They talked a lot of trash before Turkey and backed it up, mostly. They only had to worry about Ferrari in Canada. So I want to see them run a hard race against RBR.

    11. Can someone explain what exactly happened with the Safety Car ..

      How did Vettel and Lewis get back behind the SC as 1-2.

      Sc missed Vettel and Lewis and caught Alonso as leader and made a slow train around the lap..

      Now as soon as the SC was deployed – some drivers would have pitted and would have rejoined SC behind Alonso as would Kamui Kobayashi.

      Meanwhile – Vettel and Lewis come round – do their pit stop and will only join behind this train surely.

      After that Alonso and the drivers who missed pitting earlier would pit allolwing SV and LH to go further up.

      But Koba never made a stop – so how did he not end up as the leader of the race behind SC

      1. FOX showed precious little, but this is what I deduce:

        SV and LH had pit and came out ahead of the train, being so far ahead.

        The SC was so slow (Whiting indicated it was purposely trying not to pass the MC before it reached the accident scene)

        The result was that when the SC picked up Vettel, we had him and Hamilton; then Kobayashi who didn’t pit; Button who pit just as the SC light came on and was thus the first “normal” pitting car; then a raft of others who pit behind Button; then the Ferraris who couldn’t pit until the SC idle-rolled 3 miles back to start-finish; then the others who were too far back still such that they either couldnt pit and leapfrog the Ferraris at the end of their lap 9, or if they did, they would have to wait for the oncoming train to pass and get stuck behind it (e.g., Schumacher).

        I think in a calmer day Ferrari will realize they were screwed primarily by Whitings decision basically to have the medical car pace the race for most of lap 10.

      2. Vettel and Hamilton were able to lap much quicker than the SC and the train. They got around the track, make their pit stop and still come out AHEAD of the SC. That’s how they stayed 1-2.

        The SC then let all the cars go past until it picked up the leader, Vettel, as he came around again.

        Alsono and Massa were just unlucky that they had passed the pit entrance and didn’t get ahead of the SC. They had to sit behind it for a lap with the pack behind them before making their stop. Hence they re-joined in 10th and 17th. If Lewis had not overtaken the SC he would have ended up in the pack behind Alonso.

        1. @Burt: I admit the SC/pitstop thing is confusing, certainly to me, but explain please ‘If Lewis had not overtaken the SC he would have ended up in the pack behind Alonso’? If LH remains behind the SC but still in front of Alonso then surely they pit together, so how does Alonso automatically come out ahead?

          1. Obbo they changed Hamiltons front wing when he pitted so it would have been a longer pit stop for Lewis, hence the reason Alonso would have been in front…

    12. bbq2
      just for heck of it from where the deduction” monza is a mclaren track?”
      in 59 races in monza mclaren won only 8 times
      in last 10 yrs only 2 times
      in last 15 yrs only 3 times
      this numbers hardly make monza a mclaren track
      so renzo keep yr ticket tight and go see the best circuit on the world true speed and fascination not rubish like Valencia or garbage that they build in our days

    13. This information is quite to the point.

      I’ll be stopping back to check outmore in the future.

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