• Hamilton finishes fifth and Jenson Button spins out
• ‘I don’t know what my team was up to,’ fumes Hamilton
McLaren, whose season has been stuck in reverse gear since their opening win in Australia two months ago, had another wretched day on Sunday when Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button ended the Monaco Grand Prix in frustration.
Button spent 70 laps stuck behind Heikki Kovalainen and when he did attempt to overtake, injudiciously, he collided with the Caterham car and span out of the race. Hamilton finished fifth and lost out to both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel when Ferrari and Red Bull produced faster pit stops.
A dejected-looking Hamilton said: “I really dislike going backwards. My start was one of the worst in a long time. I don’t know what my team was up to there. I just don’t understand why it happens when the two guys next to me and two behind get perfect ones. I was very fortunate not to get caught up in a crash. It’s quite an easy thing we do, we do thousands and thousands of practices, it should not be a problem. In the pit stop I lost quite a lot of time, not able to keep up with Alonso and then Seb got me through his pit stop. We haven’t had a grand prix weekend where something hasn’t gone wrong.”
To make matters worse, Hamilton was distracted by debris falling on to his helmet from the pit-lane area. “When they put the sign board out in the pit area, the slips that go in there that show what lap you are, they kept falling out,” Hamilton said. “A couple of them hit me in the front of the helmet. I thought ‘this is getting ridiculous’.”
Hamilton also complained about a lack of communication with his team, and was particularly annoyed to lose out to Vettel as he came out of the pits. He said: “I wasn’t really informed. I didn’t have the information to say Sebastian was going to get me. I could easily have pushed. Those are communication things which you work on. I just have to ask them next time to give me more info.
“I’m driving as well as I’ve ever driven. I’m not making mistakes at all and it feels great. I can feel comfortable now leaving the track and knowing that I couldn’t have done any more. It’s just unfortunate the car wasn’t quick enough. But we are a great team and we will meet next week and see where we can improve the car.”
Button, whose season has gone into serious decline since that win in Melbourne, said: “It’s my leanest period since the old Honda days but shit happens. It has got to clear up and then we can move on. We still think every time we do a race that we are still learning. We tried to go longer [on the tyres] because we thought the rain would come. We had to take a gamble. My pit stop wasn’t surprisingly slow.
“I am just happy the consistency is back. The pit stop might not be as good as Ferrari but we are not making mistakes. We have some way to go in terms of time but we are getting there.”
The one consolation for McLaren is that with different winners in every race no one is getting away at the top of the drivers’ championship table.
But there are worrying signs that Ferrari and Red Bull are beginning to muster the sort of consistency that has been so elusive for the Woking-based team.
The team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, said: “Cars are never quick enough and stops are never short enough, in my experience. Jenson is struggling a little bit with tyre energy. We were trying to get the tyres to run as long as we could as we were waiting for rain.
“When we could not get the tyres to go any longer we had to stop and Fernando [Alonso] went very quickly and got in front which was frustrating but it was nothing to do with the stop but to do with Fernando’s pace.
“You’re never satisfied but I think Lewis is scoring points at every race. He’s keeping his head and doing a very good job. It’s anyone’s to play for. We and Lewis and Jenson can win this year’s championship.”