Lewis Hamilton drove straight into a row with his McLaren-Mercedes team after a disappointing finish in yesterday's Australian Grand Prix, blaming their pit-stop strategy for wrecking his chances of a place on the podium. The 2008 world champion, who finished sixth, was "having one of the drives of my life" and felt he should have done better in a chaotic race in Melbourne that started in wet conditions before drying out. Adding to his frustration, the winner was his teammate Jenson Button, the reigning world champion.
Hamilton specifically criticised the decision by his team to bring him in for a second pit stop on lap 35 of the 58-lap race, when he was running third. He dropped to fifth during the stop, but was challenging Fernando Alonso's Ferrari for fourth three laps from the end when he was hit from behind by Mark Webber's Red Bull-Renault at turn 13. Hamilton was forced into the gravel trap and while he recovered he had to settle for sixth .
"To sum up the race I think I probably had one of the drives of my life and unfortunately, due to the strategy, I was put further back and then I got taken out by Mark Webber," said the 25-year-old Briton. "I'm happy with the job that I did. I think I honestly drove my heart out today and I think I deserved better than what I ended up with, but I'll keep fighting to the next race." During the race, Hamilton asked his team by radio why he had stopped twice and why Button, Robert Kubica's Renault and the two Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, had all been able to go through until the end without a second stop following early tyre changes from intermediate to dry compounds.
"All I know is the guys do, always, a fantastic job, but the strategy was not right," said Hamilton. "I was in P3 and everyone else didn't stop - but I stopped. I had already stopped once, and my tyres were fine and they would have lasted. Maybe I would have struggled a bit towards the end, but that is what all the other guys did. "I was brought in for another stop, even though I would have preferred to stay out, but I didn't question the decision because I trusted that was the right one. After pitting again I had a 20-second gap to catch up and then I was taken out by Mark. All that wasn't cool."
Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team boss, acknowledged they had blundered with their tactics on Hamilton's car, and paid tribute to his driver's battling spirit that saw him overtake rivals throughout the race. "While we concede that, with hindsight, it's possible that we may have been better served by calling Lewis's tyre strategy differently, we're enormously encouraged by his never-give-up attitude," said Whitmarsh.
Yesterday's race woes capped a frustrating few days for Hamilton, who is facing charges of "impro-per" use of a motor vehicle after being spotted by police officers on Thursday skidding the back wheels of his Mercedes hire car as he left the Albert Park circuit. It was the first win of the season for Button, with Kubica finishing second and Massa third. "It is very special," said Button. "It has taken me a little while to get to grips inside the car. The team have been fantastic though. They have really welcomed me in, but it has taken me a little bit of time to adapt to inside the cockpit." @Email:email@example.com