The McLaren drivers never looked like having the pace to challenge the Red Bulls and Ferraris in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Fourth and fifth for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button meant the team lost their constructors’ championship battle with Red Bull and Hamilton’s hopes of winning the drivers’ title are as good as over.
|Qualifying time comparison (Q2)
Missed out on Q3 by eight-hundredths of a second, leaving him 11th on the grid:
It’s been a pretty tough weekend – I’ve been struggling to find a balance. The front wheels have been locking quite a lot [under braking], and it’s therefore been quite hard to slow the car down. That’s been my biggest issue, and it was no exception in qualifying.
Having said that, the car was better in qualifying than it had been all through practice beforehand. We’d fitted new Intermediates at the end of Q2, and my first lap was okay but not quite good enough. Then I damaged my tyres a bit too much on my second lap, and I couldn’t get a decent time out of them after that. So I got squeezed out of Q3 at the last second.
Button gained two places at the start but was passed by Michael Schumacher at the start of lap three.
The team gambled on a very early pit stop – bringing him in on lap 12 – which worked very well. On the medium compound tyres he was able to lap quickly enough to move ahead of several drivers who pitted as well as overtake Vitaly Petrov and Adrian Sutil.
He passed Kamui Kobayashi for fifth place on lap 30, which is where he finished.
The team used the safety car to give him another set of tyres without losing a place. He briefly got on the tail of Hamilton in traffic when his team mate was held up behind Heidfeld but wasn’t able to get close enough to try a pass.
Having fallen 47 points behind Alonso Button’s hopes of retaining his 2009 title are over.
Having been slower than the Red Bulls and Ferraris in practice, Hamilton got in between them in qualifying.
He got off the line well and appeared to have a chance to pass Mark Webber on the inside of turn one but Webber braked later and held the position.
Hamilton then ran wide on the second lap which, for the second race in a row, allowed Fernando Alonso past.
Hamilton looked very tentative at the wheel and while Alonso found a way past Hulkenberg, Hamilton remained behind the Williams until Hulkenberg pitted, having made several fruitless attempts to pass.
He was able to lap quicker in clear air but was still between half and a whole second per lap slower than the leaders. He came on the radio several times to complain about his lack of grip.
The team pitted him a second time behind the safety car and, unlike Button, Hamilton took a new set of mediums rather than super-softs. But with several cars to lap after the restart he was unable to use them to attack the leaders.
Nor was his pace significantly better on new tyres anyway – although he set the race’s fastest lap on the 66th tour, one lap later Alonso went just four-thousandths of a second slower despite having much older tyres.
At one point Hamilton even asked the team if his F-duct was working properly:
I pushed as hard as I could on every lap today, but this was a tough race for me. I actually feel quite lucky to have finished where I did.
The car just didn’t feel like it did in practice. I was even struggling to overtake the backmarkers in a straight line – Fernando shot past me at the start, too – and it almost felt like my F-duct wasn’t working perfectly.
Hamilton retains a tiny mathematical chance of winning the title in Abu Dhabi but realistically his hopes of a title this year are over.
After the race Martin Whitmarsh paid tribute to constructors’ champions Red Bull:
The battle for the constructors’ world championship came to a finish today – and the victors were Red Bull Racing. Although in some ways it goes against the grain for me to say so, because our ethos at McLaren is that winning is all, it’s always refreshing when a new constructor’s name is etched onto that famous trophy.
So, on behalf of all at Woking, I’d like to offer congratulations to all at Milton Keynes.
2010 Brazilian Grand Prix
Image © www.mclaren.com