• McLaren driver started from the back of the grid
• Two-stop strategy works out despite pit-lane mistake
When Lewis Hamilton ran into the Williams motorhome to congratulate Sir Frank Williams here on Sunday, it seemed reasonable to suppose that he was applying for a job.
The gaffes are coming thick and fast at McLaren these days, and Hamilton, more than his team-mate, Jenson Button, has been on the receiving end of them. The sadness is that Hamilton, arguably, is not only driving better than anyone else this season but also as well as he has ever driven. At 27 he is at the peak of his remarkable powers.
He produced an astonishing drive to finish eighth in the Spanish Grand Prix after being flung from pole to the back of the grid as a consequence of running out of fuel during qualifying on Saturday. He cut a swathe through the field from the start, making up five places before he had gone halfway round the first lap. But, almost inevitably, there was yet another cock-up in the pit lane, when he came in for his first stop, at the end of the 14th lap.
As he set off to rejoin the race, his left rear wheel came into contact with another wheel. Uncertain of what had happened, he stopped, and lost at least two more seconds. McLaren had already decided to go for a two-stop strategy to give Hamilton the best opportunity to make up ground through the field.
He had another epic battle with Felipe Massa. But overtaking is not easy at the Circuit de Catalunya and he was mightily relieved when both Massa and Paul Di Resta were brought in to serve drive-through penalties.
That put him up to seventh, and he made it up to fifth before another stop dropped him back into the lower half of the field.
Perhaps the best part of his driving was the way he conserved his tyres as, once more, he clawed his way back through the field to finish in eighth place.
“I am proud of myself and the team,” he said. “We did a good job to come all the way from the back, we battled through, and conserving the tyres was tough.
“Someone told me that I was only the person on a two-stop, so I think that considering everyone keeps telling me that I am hard on tyres and how much smoother my team-mate is, I think that should show them.
“I just nursed them all the way through. I just cleared my mind and got on with it from the back of the grid. It was like being back in the karting days. Sometimes I would turn up with my dad and that is something that we would have to do.”
Even though the weekend was still weighing down heavily upon him, Hamilton had the good sportsmanship to join the throng of other famous names who gathered in the paddock to congratulate Williams for their first victory since 2004.
In the coming days, however, Hamilton will reflect on a weekend – and a season – when the breaks have not come. He has suffered bad luck in each one of the five races. He had better not take up gambling.
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