Lewis Hamilton lost victory in the European Grand Prix on Sunday, not because of a pit-lane mix up, but rather because the MP4-24 just wasn't quick enough, McLaren-Mercedes team boss Martin Whitmarsh has insisted.

Hamilton led in Valencia, the eleventh round in the 2009 FIA F1 World Championship, until his final visit to the pits when he was overhauled by Brawn Grand Prix's Rubens Barrichello.

However while a tardy final stop did definitely delay the Englishman slightly - as his pit crew wasn't quite ready and they had to scramble to get and unwrap his final set of Bridgestone tyres - the damage was also done out on the track.

Indeed Whitmarsh strongly denied suggestions that the incident in the final stop was to blame for Hamilton's inability to win the grand prix.

"Naturally enough we had very high expectations for today's race. In the event, though, our race pace wasn't good enough to beat Rubens's car. We'd adopted a different tyre strategy from many of the front-runners - maybe that was right, maybe that was wrong - but the reality is that we weren't quick enough to win today," Whitmarsh maintained.

"So, coming in to the final pitstops, in our efforts to convert a safe second for Lewis into a possible first for him, we took a calculated risk in attempting to reverse the sequence of Lewis's and Heikki [Kovalainen]'s pit stops at the last second.

"That last-second decision caused a bit of pit-lane confusion, which probably cost Lewis a couple of seconds overall - but Rubens's race pace was such that that couple of seconds didn't make a difference to the outcome of the race.

"In a nutshell, we decided to take the risk because we knew Rubens had the strategy to win and it was our only chance of attempting to prevent that.

"We don't like not winning, but second and fourth [with Heikki in the sister car] isn't such a terrible result."

Meanwhile Hamilton was disappointed to slip down to second and miss out on what would have been a second win in succession. He remained upbeat though, and continues to be greatly encouraged by just how much progress the squad has made in recent months, especially given how bad the MP4-24 was earlier this year.

"This is my second podium in a row, and I'm very happy to be here. We did the best job we could today. Am I disappointed? Yes, I think we all are - but that's simply an indication of just how hard everyone in this team is pushing to win," Hamilton added. "We're never satisfied unless we're winning, in fact.

"But, ultimately, we didn't really lose anything today - it was always going to be tough to beat Rubens and what we tried wasn't quite enough. Before my second pitstop, I'd been saving fuel and was a bit unsure if I had enough for that extra lap or not. The pitwall had initially asked me to pit - but, just when I was coming in, they told me to stay out and do an extra lap - however, I was already inside the white line [entry to the pits] and committed, so it was too late.

"In those circumstances, it's always better to be safe and to pit, because the last thing you want to do is run dry out on the circuit. But the call was a marginal one - the team was pushing the envelope, as I say - and it came just a little too late for me and the mechanics, who weren't perfectly prepared.

"Make no mistake, I think those guys are the best in the business; what happened was simply a result of the team trying everything in their power to turn a safe second place into a possible win.

"In any case, our overall performance this weekend confirmed the huge improvement we've made recently, but we still lack a bit of race pace compared with the very fastest cars. You can be well sure we're working on fixing that, though."

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