Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton somehow walked away from Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix with championship points to his name, despite treacherous conditions and several spins.
The British driver knows it could be several races before he can challenge at the front of the grid with McLaren playing catch-up to their rival teams.
But that didn’t stop him attacking the rain-hit Shanghai International Circuit with impunity has he bounced back from several off-track excursions to take sixth place.
The McLaren driver was aggressive from the start pulling off some impressive passes on Kimi Raikkonen and Jarno Trulli to get up to fifth.
“It was almost too difficult to drive at the beginning of the race,â€ he said. “But I found a good pace and had some fun in the opening laps, but unfortunately I destroyed my tyres quite early on.â€
Then came a spin at the exit of Turn 10 which dropped him to tenth place. A resilient fight back saw him re-pass teammate Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli to run eighth.
After the second safety car period Hamilton was forced to re-pass Kimi Raikkonen again, this timing using the outside of Turn 7 to take fourth place. A second spin after his first pit stop dropped him to fifth place behind teamamte Heikki Kovalainen and a further mistake at Turn 16 dropped him to seventh.
“I made a few too many mistakes today,â€ said Hamilton, eventually taking sixth place at the chequered flag when Adrian Sutil crashed his Force India. “It was very slippery and my front-left tyre was finished long before the end but I still gave it my best. This afternoon was a real struggle but I m glad I got some points for the team.â€
Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren enjoyed an altogether more consistent day battling his way through the field and benefiting from others mistakes to take fifth place.
“The visibility was unbelievably poor especially during the first few laps after the Safety Car came in,â€ the Finn said. “But our pace was good and, during the last laps of the race, I could get close to Rubens just not enough to start an attack. Our strategy was spot on: finishing higher than fifth was not possible today and I m very pleased to have scored four solid points without making a single mistake despite some massive moments!â€
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh concedes that the team still have a lot of work to do catch the Brawn GP and Red Bull drivers.
“We were never going to be able to live with the Red Bulls or the Brawns today, which is why we chose a one-stop strategy,” he said. “The track was wet throughout the race, and the longer stints that our strategy dictated inevitably caused more wet-tyre wear than that experienced by the two-stoppers; but, despite the challenges posed by that extra wet-tyre wear, our drivers both coped very well.”
So, overall, an encouraging result: getting two cars into the points shows that we re making good progress, but there s more to come and we re working flat-out to develop the improvements that will deliver it.â€