McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh has defended his team’s latest race performance on the track and in pit stops in Monaco on Sunday despite again losing ground from their starting positions.
Lewis Hamilton had appeared well placed to challenge for his first win of the season after qualifying third but a poor getaway at the lights set the tone for a disappointing race in which he was eventually passed through pit stops by first Fernando Alonso and then Sebastian Vettel.
McLaren have been dogged by problematic pit stops so far this season and again, despite stopping a lap earlier than his Spanish rival for fresh tyres, Hamilton was jumped convincingly by Alonso as Ferrari performed a stop that was measured at being 0.6 seconds faster.
Whitmarsh, however, insisted that what really made the difference was the pace Alonso was able to show once in clear air on his in lap, rather than anything McLaren did or didn’t do in the pit lane.
“It wasn’t the stop time. If you look at both times, Fernando did a very quick lap and that’s how they got in front after Lewis stopped,”
Whitmarsh: Monaco made it a difficult race to try and make progress.
Hamilton was heard querying over the radio why he had not been informed that the Red Bull driver was likely to return to the track near to him – later suggesting in interviews that he could have gone faster in the proceeding laps if he had needed to – but Whitmarsh says it was difficult for McLaren to make much headway during the race considering they ran in a train of cars at the front for most of the 79 laps.
“Subsequently Sebastian did a good job on his first set of tyres, opened a gap, and we were trapped behind a lot of cars,” he said.
“We went through one lap to go with four, five cars within three seconds so it was incredibly tight. If you got yourself in the wrong part of traffic you couldn’t make any progress.”
With the field proving so closely-matched Whitmarsh acknowledged that even the smallest details in pit stops and team communication carried more importance than ever, but again insisted that in the Alonso incident the Spaniard had simply proved faster on the track.
“Again, I think the stops were okay. It was, if you stopped and the car behind you can suddenly go quickly, which is what Fernando did, and he’s been quicker than you on that lap than you are on your out-lap if he then stops he will be in front of you regardless of really how we’re [done] on stop times,” Whitmarsh added.
Replying to the suggestion that McLaren’s pit stops remained too slow, Whitmarsh replied that “cars are never quick enough, stops are never short enough, in my experience”, before adding that the unique nature of Monaco made it a difficult race to try and make progress.