Martin Whitmarsh has conceded that sometimes, Lewis Hamilton's aggressive and attacking nature out on-track 'does not pay off' – but the 2008 F1 World Champion insists that the fourth place he achieved in last weekend's Turkish Grand Prix was 'a realistic result'.
Having been warned that his hard-driving style and consequent over-use of his tyres was costing him better results this season with the new Pirelli rubber, Hamilton reaped the benefits of adopting a more conservative approach in qualifying and more careful management during the race in Shanghai last month, by coming on strong in the latter stages of the Chinese Grand Prix to overhaul runaway F1 2011 World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel for victory.
However, there were no signs of any such moderation in Istanbul as the British star admitted to having been 'impatient' in his failed attempt to pass Mark Webber on the opening lap – ceding two places in the process – and went on to indulge in an entertaining but tyre-consuming early wheel-to-wheel duel with team-mate Jenson Button. McLaren team principal Whitmarsh reckons that might just have cost Hamilton a podium finish.
“We want Lewis to attack, but sometimes it does not pay off,” the Englishman told British media. “If you look at Lewis' race pace, it was okay later in the race, but the tyres are so delicate and if you scrap with others including your own team-mate, you will damage them. In a race that critical, you can't do that.”
As it was, the upshot was that the man who had triumphed in Turkey in 2010 could take the chequered flag no higher than fourth twelve months on, more than 40 seconds adrift of race-winner Vettel, with a pit-stop delay not aiding his cause. He admitted that it was not the most satisfying of weekends – although speaking to his personal website, he is convinced that in all other aspects, he extracted the best out of a bad situation.
“If I hadn't damaged the tyres at the beginning, we would have been a lot closer,” the 26-year-old mused. “I had a bit of a scrappy start and then lost ground to the leaders. The race is not won in the first two corners. I was impatient and that was my fault, but it was a good recovery and a realistic result. If everything had come together, we might have been able to get onto the podium – I think we had the pace – but things didn't really come together in the race, so fourth was pretty satisfactory. It could've been worse.
“[He and Button] respect each other both as drivers and people, and I know that, when I'm racing Jenson, it will always be clean and fair – he's a driver you can really depend on in a close situation. Last year, [we battled] for first position; this year, we were only fighting for the minor placings so it wasn't as much fun, but it was good to have a little battle with him.
“I enjoy racing with KERS Hybrid and DRS – it makes it more entertaining for the drivers and the fans. I think anything that makes the racing more exciting should be applauded – and we've definitely had four interesting races so far this year. Sure, you don't always win – and sometimes the system actually works against you, because it can make you vulnerable when you're the car in front – but, in general, I like the new rule changes.”
Having arrived in Istanbul riding high off the back of Hamilton's superb Chinese triumph, McLaren clearly hoped to apply more pressure upon early-season pace-setters Red Bull Racing across the other side of the Bosphorus – but it was evident right from the word 'go', admits the 15-time grand prix-winner, that the anticipated step forward would take a little more time due to reliability issues with the raft of upgrades for the MP4-26 taken to Turkey. Still, with four teams now ostensibly all in front-running contention in F1 2011, better to focus on long-term gain than short-term glory, he reasons.