From sixth on the grid, Heikki made a great start, out-accelerating Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel into the first corner and then leapfrogging the delayed Lewis to hold third position for the opening stint.
Some great defensive driving kept him ahead of Button, Felipe Massa and Vettel and he kept himself in the fight for the whole race, pitting on laps 15 and 40 to emerge eighth for his final stint. For the last 10 laps, he again drove with one eye on his rear-view mirrors to keep a busy train of cars at bay. Eighth position was a well-deserved result for a race driven on the car’s limit for the entire duration – particularly as he was not armed with the same aero upgrade package raced by Lewis this afternoon.
Lewis made a good KERS-assisted start from fifth on the grid, quickly vaulted Sebastian Vettel and ran around the outside of duelling leaders, Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber. Turning into the first corner, he was snagged by Webber’s front wing, the contact puncturing his right-rear tyre and necessitating a first-lap pitstop. Heavily fuelled and switched to a two-stint strategy, he was relegated to the back and drove a lonely race to 18th, unable to perform competitively owing to suspected damage to the rear – likely caused by the flailing rubber – which negatively affected handling and tyre-wear.
“If you’d told me on Friday that I would score points today, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Heikki said afterwards. “This weekend has been difficult – it’s been hard to get the tyres working and to find grip, but we kept pushing throughout every session and things started to turn around. Qualifying went well and our KERS hybrid helped me to move from sixth to third at the start. “From that point on, it was all about defending: I pushed the whole time and it was a hard way to earn points but we can be satisfied about it. KERS made my race today, no doubt about it, and I’m now really looking forward to the Hungarian Grand Prix, when I’ll get my hands on the full aero upgrade package for the first time. It’s good for the whole team that we now seem to be moving forwards again.”
“My race was effectively over at Turn One,” Lewis said. “I had quite a good launch down to Turn One, and I was braking when I felt a tap from the rear and went straight on. I think the flat tyre had damaged the rear floor and it felt like I was out there driving on ice. I suggested to the team that we save the engine and gearbox for the future because there’s a lot more potential ahead of us than we’d anticipated before this weekend. “But that’s racing and we’ll move on. The best thing about this weekend was that our updates were successful. The team has done a fantastic job over the last few weeks and I’m already looking forward to the next race.”
MARTIN WHITMARSH, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Lewis and Heikki both made great starts, assisted by KERS hybrid. In fact, Lewis could have taken the lead at the first corner if he hadn’t been hit by Mark, which collision resulted in a puncture. That was a great shame, because his car was competitive here and I’m therefore sure he would have been able to score well with it. More frustratingly still, after having to make an unscheduled pit stop as a result of that puncture, he emerged in the worst possible track position: at the front of the field. He therefore had to observe the blue flags and allow all the front-runners past, causing him to lose further time. “Heikki showed great spirit throughout the weekend, performing consistently well despite not having access to all the aero upgrades enjoyed by Lewis, and ending up with a solid eighth-place finish and a useful world championship point. Now, though, we’re already looking forward to going to Budapest, where both our drivers will have the aero upgrades and we ought therefore to be able to put in a competitive showing with both cars.”
NORBERT HAUG, Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“The first few hundred metres looked promising when Lewis put his nose in front for the fraction of a second after starting from fifth place. He ran wide after being hit before the corner and got a puncture. Heikki showed a solid performance with the old-spec underfloor and brought home a point at least. We have to further improve – but this was a good first step.”
Source: Daimler AG