Strategic relief for McLaren
Team out-smart Ferrari and Red Bull for first victory since Australia
Last Updated: 10/06/12 10:41pm
Martin Whitmarsh has admitted that the McLaren pitwall breathed a huge sigh of relief as Lewis Hamilton successfully hunted down the lead of the Canadian GP after the team had assured Hamilton that both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso would pit again.
In the event, the information was erroneous, with Vettel only pitting after Hamilton had overtaken the Red Bull on his rapid way to re-securing the lead of the race. With Fernando Alonso subsequently tumbling down the field - the Spaniard lost thirteen seconds and four places to Hamilton in the final five laps of the race alone - McLaren's strategy was, ultimately, fully vindicated.
Yet such a sober summary must have been in sharp contrast to the emotions in the McLaren team as they waited to see whether Hamilton would make it work. Having previously assured their driver that both Vettel and Alonso were also two-stopping, and in effect making their strategy an article of faith, it was little wonder that the McLaren pitwall were on tenterhooks for the ten laps it took Hamilton to retake the lead.
"It was a very, very long race," reflected Whitmarsh. "When we came in for that stop we thought it was the right call, and that we could get them if they tried to one stop, but you never know. All the data told us we were doing the right thing but you never know. Lewis did brilliantly."
According to Sam Michael, the team's recently-appointed Sporting Director, the decision to employ a two-stop strategy was determined on Friday and the former Williams employee seemed perplexed that Ferrari stuck so rigidly to one-stopping even though, at one stage, Alonso seemed well set to beat Hamilton in a straight head-to-head contest.
"The pace that we had today we had on Friday," he told Sky Sports F1.
"What was interesting about strategy in the race is that in the lap before Lewis' last pit-stop, Fernando had Lewis covered, so they really took a gamble to go the other way. There was definitely one lap where Fernando had a pit-stop on Lewis and had he stopped then he would have just raced him to the flag. But once they didn't take that stop they were committed to making it [a one-stop strategy] work."
Michael's apparent confusion about the choice of strategy made by McLaren's rivals was shared by Group Chairman Ron Dennis.
"We were all a little nervous [when Vettel and Alonso stayed out] but we spent a huge amount of time studying tyre degradation," said the team's former Team Principal. "If you're going to do a one-stop strategy you have to pace yourself accordingly and we just didn't believe it was possible at the pace they had."