Safety car plays into McLaren’s hands in Valencia (McLaren race review)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Valencia, 2010

McLaren may not have won the European Grand Prix but they scored more points than anyone else and extended their lead in the constructors’ championship.

The safety car appearance worked out particularly well for Jenson Button, putting him on the podium.

But Lewis Hamilton was fortunate to keep second place after his drive-through penalty.

Jenson Button Lewis Hamilton
Qualifying position 7 3
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’38.210 (+0.241) 1’37.969
Race position 3 2
Average race lap 1’46.004 (+0.134) 1’45.870
Laps 57/57 57/57
Pit stops 1 2

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Jenson Button

Hamilton’s qualifying lap mistake was caught by the television cameras but Button’s wasn’t. It was even more costly, as it left him seventh on the grid.

Button passed Robert Kubica at the first corner and gained another place when he launched an attack on Mark Webber. But Kubica pounced on the pair of them, taking his place back from Button.

The safety car timing worked out very nicely for Button. He was the second person into the pits and, crucially, the first one out.

But his hopes of getting any higher were scuppered by Kamui Kobayashi, who proved more resitant to Button’s attacks as he had been at Interlagos last year. Button was stuck behind the Sauber driver until he finally pitted five laps from the end.

After that Button got a move on, making up as much time as possible knowing he was under investigation for going to quickly while behind the safety car. He set the race’s fastest lap, missing out on the lap record by a tenth of a second.

His five-second penalty was ultimately not enough to cost him third place. But he denied he could have done any more to get above the minimum time he was told to stick to behind the safety car:

I was very close to the pit entry when the Safety Car was triggered. I was warned by the team beforehand, who said, ??There might be a Safety Car, in this lap,? so I dived into the pits. There was no room to lift off or hit the brakes, so to be honest I can?t really see why I was called to the stewards.
Jenson Button

Compare Jenson Button’s form against his team mate in 2010

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton said he was happy to qualify third after making a mistake on his qualifying lap.

He made a great start, easily passing Mark Webber and very nearly taking the lead off Sebastian Vettel. The pair made contact and Hamilton lost some parts from his front wing, which may explain why he rarely troubled Vettel during the opening laps.

When the safety car was deployed it came out slightly ahead of Hamilton, albeit still in the pit lane. Had Hamilton crossed the second safety car line he would have been able to continue around ahead of the safety car and into the pits. He crossed the line slightly behind the safety car, after appearing to back off, but then overtook the safety car.

He was later served a drive-through penalty for that. By then he was in second place, having used his pit stop under the safety car to change his front wing, apparently saving fuel for a later bid to pass Vettel.

On receiving the drive-through the team kept him out as long as possible during which time he was able to increase his lead over third-placed Kobayashi enough to hold his position.

It was to Hamilton’s benefit that the stewards took so long to decide, that Kobayashi held Button up so much, and that Valencia’s pit lane configuration means drivers lose little time going through it. On another day this penalty could just as easily have dropped him out of the points.

After that he set several quick laps to try to put Vettel under pressure, but the Red Bull driver had ample performance in hand to keep his lead.

Read more: Did Hamilton try to stop Alonso getting in front of the safety car? (Video)

Compare Lewis Hamilton’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 European Grand Prix

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