Lewis made a good start from pole position, and drove a strong first stint to lead the opening laps, stretching his advantage over Heikki and Rubens Barrichello in so doing. Pitting for the first time on lap 16, Lewis resumed in fourth position but was able to retake the lead once the order had shaken itself out after the first series of pitstops.
He struggled a little with his car’s balance in the middle stint, and was therefore unable to pull out a sufficient gap on second-placed Rubens – he needed to have established a lead of at least six or seven seconds before the final pitstop in order to give himself a fighting chance of retaining his lead, but was able to manage only around four seconds.
The team’s strategy for him was twofold: to push hard to extend his gap over Rubens, and to take great care to conserve enough fuel for an additional lap before the second pitstop. It was marginal, though, and it was only at the last second that a decision was made to keep Lewis out for that extra lap, but by that time he was heading for the pit entry so it was too late. As a result, the pit crew hadn’t fully readied his final set of tyres, and he was delayed slightly in the pits while they were being unwrapped. It was a calculated risk to push for that extra lap – but, given the race pace of Rubens’s car, it almost certainly wouldn’t have paid off even if Lewis’s tyres had been ready for him. Second place was anyway safe, though, and Lewis scored a second successive podium finish – a result that moved him up to sixth in the Drivers’ World Championship.
Heikki started from the front row, slotted in behind Lewis into the first corner and maintained second position until the first stops, when he was jumped by Rubens. Despite pushing hard to create a sufficient advantage over fourth-placed Kimi Raikkonen, the Ferrari driver was fuelled longer in the middle stint and jumped Heikki at the second pitstops. Nonetheless, Heikki drove a solid race to finish fourth – his best result of the season and his third successive points finish.
Statements to the race
“This is my second podium in a row, and I’m very happy to be here,” Lewis said. “We did the best job we could today. Am I disappointed? Yes, I think we all are – but that’s simply an indication of just how hard everyone in this team is pushing to win. We’re never satisfied unless we’re winning, in fact. “But, ultimately, we didn’t really lose anything today – it was always going to be tough to beat Rubens and what we tried wasn’t quite enough. “Before my second pitstop, I’d been saving fuel and was a bit unsure if I had enough for that extra lap or not. The pitwall had initially asked me to pit – but, just when I was coming in, they told me to stay out and do an extra lap – however, I was already inside the white line [entry to the pits] and committed, so it was too late. “In those circumstances, it’s always better to be safe and to pit, because the last thing you want to do is run dry out on the circuit. But the call was a marginal one – the team was pushing the envelope, as I say – and it came just a little too late for me and the mechanics, who weren’t perfectly prepared. Make no mistake, I think those guys are the best in the business; what happened was simply a result of the team trying everything in their power to turn a safe second place into a possible win. “In any case, our overall performance this weekend confirmed the huge improvement we’ve made recently, but we still lack a bit of race pace compared with the very fastest cars. You can be well sure we’re working on fixing that, though. “Congratulations to Rubens – he drove a fantastic race today and really deserved this victory.”
“To start second and finish fourth isn’t ideal,” he said. “But I’m more pleased with my overall performance in this race than in Hungary. We showed good performance throughout the whole weekend, and I really want to thank the whole team for helping us to achieve that – it’s good to see things improving like this. “We don’t yet have the pace of the frontrunners, but everyone has done an incredible job to get us to where we are. We’ve scored more points in the last three races than any other team – but I still want to score more. I’m already focusing on Spa; it’s a circuit I love and I really want to be on the podium there.”
“Following our all-front-row qualifying result, naturally enough we had very high expectations for today’s race. In the event, though, our race pace wasn’t good enough to beat Rubens’s car. We’d adopted a different tyre strategy from many of the front-runners – maybe that was right, maybe that was wrong – but the reality is that we weren’t quick enough to win today. “So, coming in to the final pitstops, in our efforts to convert a safe second for Lewis into a possible first for him, we took a calculated risk in attempting to reverse the sequence of Lewis’s and Heikki’s pit stops at the last second. That last-second decision caused a bit of pitlane confusion, which probably cost Lewis a couple of seconds overall – but Rubens’s race pace was such that that couple of seconds didn’t make a difference to the outcome of the race. “In a nutshell, we decided to take the risk because we knew Rubens had the strategy to win and it was our only chance of attempting to prevent that. We don’t like not winning, but second and fourth isn’t such a terrible result. Now, though, we’ll focus on the challenge of Spa – a very different type of racetrack from Valencia.”
“A shame for Lewis who drove a faultless race, but it would have been very tight with a perfect pitstop against Rubens anyway and he certainly deserves this victory. “Our team scored more points than any other today, the same it did before the summer break in Hungary. This makes a total of 27 out of 36 possible points and Lewis scored 18 out of possible 20. That of course is very positive and will certainly please all our team members in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart who have worked so hard to recover from our not quite typical Vodafone McLaren Mercedes form in the first half of the season. “Heikki drove a solid race today and brought home his best result so far this season. So, all in all, quite a lot of positives and we all will push hard in order to build on these results. “Spa will not be a circuit exactly tailormade for our car and I do not expect us to be quite as competitive as we were in Hungary and here where we have been the class of the field or on a level with the best. “Congratulations to Rubens – he deserves this victory after five tough years since his last one and my feeling is the whole paddock thinks like that.”
Source: Daimler AG