• Jensen Button targets podium finish in German grand prix
• ‘It’s important for us as a team to win before summer break’
“I’m in the wall, the car is damaged. Heavily,” are not the words they wanted to hear on the McLaren pit wall today, but that is exactly what Lewis Hamilton had to say after crashing during a wet first practice for Sunday’s German grand prix. With 22 minutes left in the session Hamilton lost control of his car exiting Turn 3. He appeared to make a brilliant recovery but the McLaren snapped away from him and his car skated across the sodden grass and into the barrier.
Such was the damage, Hamilton had to sit out a large chunk of the afternoon session as the team set about repairing the car. “I was a little bit upset with myself because I know all the guys worked so hard during the week to get the car together,” said the 2008 world champion afterwards. “Then you only do a few laps and total the car. It was very, very slippery. I spun the wheels and had an oversteer moment and didn’t correct it well enough and put it off into the grass. When I was in the grass, I was just a passenger. It took pretty much all four corners off. It left a huge, huge amount of work for the guys. They are just phenomenal.”
When Hamilton did get out in the drier afternoon session, he was able to post the seventh fastest time behind the pace-setting Ferrari of Fernando Alonso. The accident meant McLaren lost more time in trying to get to grips with the upgrades that proved so tricky to master at Silverstone but Hamilton was relatively upbeat.
“I only had 10 laps to do in the afternoon,” he said. “It felt good to get back out there and overcome the problems we had in the morning. We missed the rain, which was good. At least we now have something to work on. I have a good feeling of where the car is and the set-up changes we need.”
Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button was a little off the pace in the afternoon having posted the third fastest time in the morning rain, but he is optimistic that McLaren can fight with the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber on race day. Button will be happy to fill the role of “bad guy” here after being the home hero at Silverstone, “if they class being bad guys as beating ze Germans”, he said in his best German accent.
“I am happy with that. I would love to stand on the top step of the podium here. I have been second and third here before but I have never won so it would be a great place to win a grand prix, definitely.
“If I win I will be very happy, but not because I have done it in front of a German crowd. The British grand prix is very special and there is not another one like it for us Brits. For me it is the most special grand prix of the year and the atmosphere was unbelievable. Here, if I cross the finish line first I will be thinking of England!”
On the evidence of today’s running, Ferrari appear to have a car that can challenge Red Bull and McLaren on Sunday, but Button is focused firmly on victory for himself and his team. “I think it is important for us as a team to win before the summer break,” Button said. “We should be positive; we should be positive that these updates are going to work. We got a bit of the benefit at Silverstone but it wasn’t what we thought it was going to be. So we should get the full benefit here and if we do it takes us into an area where we will be competitive with the Red Bulls so we can fight for a victory.
“We need that and I obviously want to be the one that stands on the top step. I am 12-points behind my team-mate and I would like to close that up before we head away for the summer break.”
The summer break falls after the Hungarian grand prix next weekend and the McLaren drivers will need all the track time they can get before then if they are to retain their lead at the top of the standings. The team needs to keep improving their car if they are to match the Red Bulls and that is simply not possible if one of them is crumpled against the barriers.