McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh claims that Lewis Hamilton has reacted stoically to the news that he was to lose a hard-earned pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix, despite the obvious frustration of swapping one end of the grid for the other at a circuit where overtaking has been notoriously difficult in the past.
Hamilton's exclusion from the qualifying results came as a result of his car being under-fuelled for the final assault on pole, and the driver being asked to stop out on the circuit in order to preserve enough in his tank for the mandatory post-session legality checks. The error apparently came about after the mechanic charged with fuelling the Briton's car set the fuel rig to remove the contents of the #4 car's tank and, by the time he realised his mistake, there was too little time to refill it to the level required. While Hamilton's eventual pole time probably overcame the difference in weight caused by the lack of fuel, the stewards were left with no option but to erase his times.
While McLaren's delayed post-qualifying release portrayed a phlegmatic Hamilton ready to 'race his heart out' in pursuit of redemption, Whitmarsh insisted that the 2008 world champion had indeed put on a brave - and, more importantly - supportive face.
"Lewis found out probably a few hours afterwards," Whitmarsh told Sky Sports News
, "It was some time in deliberation as you know, and his reaction initially was one of shock and disappointment, which is very human. But I've got to say I had a number of conversations with him during the course of the evening and, at the end, he was incredibly brave about it and forthright and very supportive of the team and myself and just determined to say 'okay that's how it is, I've got to go and race tomorrow - and I'll make it an exciting race'."
The British media naturally reacted with some vehemence to the revelation that another mistake had cost its darling top spot on the grid, while the rumour mill - both in the paddock and on various online social media outlets - went into overdrive with suggestions that members of the McLaren backroom staff had either been removed or left of their own accord. Whitmarsh was quick to deny the latter, and revealed that he was still confident that Hamilton, whose contract with the Woking team is up for renewal, could still salvage something from the Barcelona race.
"He someone who doesn't give up," Whitmarsh explained, "He's going to give everything he can, certainly we've made it difficult for him, but he's going to be very fired up, will produce everything he can and, hopefully, get up and score some points."