Lewis Hamilton likened his performance in the Monaco Grand Prix to that of Rocky Balboa after climbing to twelfth place from last on the grid.
The defending world champion was widely tipped to shine in Monte Carlo but an uncharacteristic mistake in qualifying saw the Briton start from the back of the grid.
With overtaking virtually impossible in Monte Carlo, Hamilton admitted that he was just glad to see the chequered flag after climbing to twelfth place, but not before exchanging carbon-fibre with BMW Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld.
“It was an extremely tough race,” said Hamilton. “I raced my heart out and feel satisfied with my performance today. I damaged a footplate on my front wing quite early on when I clipped one of the BMWs going into Ste Devote.”
“It meant I had a lot of understeer throughout the race – putting a new wing on made it a bit better but it wasn’t enough. In the closing laps, my tyres were going off just as much as Nick’s and it was a bit too dangerous to attempt a pass.
“I was thinking about one of the Rocky films in the first film, Rocky says, ‘I just want to see the end of the fight’ and I got to the flag, pushing as hard as I could throughout the race.”
Heikki Kovalainen compounded McLaren’s miserable weekend by crashing out of the race on Lap 52. The Finn, who was running in seventh place, got out of shape on the kerbing at the entry of the swimming pool complex, dropping his McLaren into the inside barrier which pitched him into the armco at the exit of the complex.
“I hit the kerb at the fast chicane and the car’s rear stepped out,” explained Kovalainen. “I couldn’t catch it and hit the guardrails. It was my fault and I want to say sorry to my team who have worked so hard to provide me with a competitive car. We’ll keep pushing, developing the car and continuing with the catching-up process.”
Overall, it was an opportunity missed for McLaren with Monaco providing the team with an ideal opportunity to put aside their aerodynamic problems.
“To leave Monaco without having scored world championship points is clearly disappointing, especially since our car was very competitive here,” said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
“After Lewis’s troubled qualifying, there was little he could do from the back of the grid today Monaco is a notoriously difficult circuit on which to overtake, even with a decent performance advantage over the cars ahead.”
“Nonetheless, Lewis drove very hard all afternoon, which is typical of his never-give-up attitude.
“As for Heikki, he was driving a strong race that would have netted him a very welcome points finish, when he entered the Swimming Pool just a little too fast, unloaded his car’s rear-end and couldn’t quite catch it. But that’s Monaco: when you’re pushing hard, it’s very unforgiving, as Lewis also showed yesterday.
“Overall, then, the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix was a race that could and should have gone a lot better for us but the reality is that both our cars showed genuine pace so there are also plenty of positives for us to take forward from here.”