2008 F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has confirmed that a 'failure on the left-front corner' of his McLaren MP4-25 was too blame for his retirement on the penultimate lap of the Spanish Grand Prix today.
Hamilton, who had managed to jump Sebastian Vettel at the first pit-stops, and who was running comfortably second, saw his race come to an abrupt end when a suspected rim failure sent him into the turn three tyre barrier with less than two laps to go.
Although he escaped unharmed, and remains positive, it is still a blow to his championship aspirations. Indeed it leaves him 21 points off his team-mate, Jenson Button, who remains top heading to Monte Carlo and who finished fifth in Barcelona.
"Today, I was looking good to split the Red Bulls, and it would have been perfect for us in both world championships if I could have finished second this afternoon," Hamilton said. "I was just nursing the car to the finish line, then I suddenly felt the steering go, and then there was immediately a failure on the left-front corner.
"I didn't sense anything odd before the accident – the car was feeling great – so that's why it was such a surprise. We don't know what went wrong, but we'll take everything back to the McLaren Technology Centre [Woking, Surrey, UK] and work to find out.
"I think I drove a good race. I couldn't keep up with Mark [Webber] on my second set of tyres, but I was able to get past Sebastian [Vettel] as I came out of the pits. I have to say, there were problems with some of the backmarkers today – it felt like we were lapping some of them four or five times – and some of them were very bad at getting out of the way. I appreciate that it's not always easy for the backmarkers, and I know from the first half of last year what it's like to be lapped, but some of them were slowing on the racing line, and in fact I nearly collided with a couple of them when they did that. It was quite difficult at times, because there was such a big speed difference. I guess it may be more difficult still at Monaco.
"But, going back to today, I'm absolutely gutted that my accident happened so close to the finish of the race – but that's motor racing. The guys did an incredible job all weekend, though. There are many more races to go this season, and I'll keep my chin up. I know we can still fight for this championship."
McLaren boss, Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile added that the precise cause of the failure has still to be determined, although post-race he told the BBC
that a rim failure was the likely issue, not a puncture.
"For Lewis, it was just one of those days," Whitmarsh stated. "He drove brilliantly – an impressively disciplined yet excitingly combative performance – and posted the fastest lap of the race, nearly half a second quicker than the next-best lap, on his way to what would have been a richly deserved second place had he not been forced to retire within spitting distance of the chequered flag.
"We'll now gather up the parts, take them back to the McLaren Technology Centre, and then analyse them meticulously – so, until we've done that, we won't really be able to make any definitive statements about what we think it was that caused the problem at the left-front corner of his car.
"Naturally enough, all of us at McLaren Mercedes feel a little disappointed to have lost 18 world championship points at the 11th hour today, but there are nonetheless a lot of positives we can take from the weekend. We showed strong race pace today, we're still leading both the drivers' world championship and the constructors' world championship, and the next grand prix is at Monaco, which McLaren has won no fewer than 15 times – significantly more than any other team in F1 history. We'll be racing on the famous streets of the Principality in just a few days' time, and you can be well sure that we'll be doing everything in our power to add to our win tally there."