Martin Whitmarsh lauds Lewis Hamilton's 'heroic' Korean GP performance
McLaren chief also promises McLaren won't give up on season
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 14/10/12 1:18pm
Martin Whitmarsh has hailed Lewis Hamilton's dogged Korean GP drive as "heroic" and insisted McLaren will continue to show undiminished fighting spirit to the end of the season despite seeing their title challenge all-but extinguished.
While Red Bull consolidated their bid for a third straight title double with their first one-two of the season at Yeongam on Sunday, McLaren's fortunes couldn't have been more contrasting as the Woking team suffered their most depressing afternoon of the whole season.
With Jenson Button's hopes of fighting back through the field killed off on the opening lap by an over eager Kamui Kobayashi, Hamilton's race also swiftly descended in the stuff of nightmares as a broken anti-rear roll bar played havoc with his MP4-27's tyre wear.
McLaren were left with no choice but to move him onto a three-stop strategy and in the closing laps the Briton only just managed to hold off Sergio Perez for 10th after a piece of Astroturf attached itself to the bottom of his car.
Afterwards McLaren Team Principal Whitmarsh cut a downbeat figure but insisted, that will it may have ultimately counted for little, Hamilton's performance in bringing his labouring car home to the final point shouldn't be underestimated.
"I've got to say that today was the hardest point that we've ever won," Whitmarsh told Sky Sports F1.
"I think Lewis gave an absolutely heroic drive. On lap 18 he was really fighting for a place on the podium but at that point the rear roll bar failure [occurred] at which point his balance was destroyed completely.
"That was affecting his balance and destroying his tyres and that meant he had to three-stop and really fight for everything. So it was an incredible job really because I think at that point it was likely he was going to go backwards or retire, but he kept fighting. A heroic, difficult, one point for him."
Having run into a series of mechanical issues since the summer break, Whitmarsh explained that the latest fault was rare but that the consequence for Hamilton out on track was horrendous tyre wear.
"To have a failure like this is pretty unusual but we could see immediately on the data what had happened and then you can imagine it was absolutely destroying the front tyres," he said.
"We did what we could with rear tyre pressures, we put as much wing into it as we could but it was absolutely shocking balance and almost impossible for Lewis to look after the tyres.
"As I said, a completely heroic, fantastic job but for one point it was an awful lot of work."
Having appeared to have the momentum in the championship on the resumption of the season after the summer break, McLaren's latest setback means that not only have their slipped a long way adrift of Red Bull in the Constructors' Championship, but Ferrari have also moved ahead of them.
But although their challenge might all-but mathematically be over, Whitmarsh insists McLaren won't be throwing in the towel on their season and remains convinced that, without problems, they still do have a competitive car.
"All in all not the afternoon that we dreamt of," the McLaren chief acknowledged.
"I think we've got to say Lewis drove superbly. We know we can be up there fighting and we've got four races to go.
"We're going to forget Korea as quickly as we can and we've just got to focus. There's four races to go, we know we've got a competitive car, we know we've got two great drivers, we're a resilient team and we'll come out of this and be fighting in the last four races."