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Relieved Whitmarsh hails classy Button

13 May 2013

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh has been in the eye of the storm this weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona in the run-up to the Spanish Grand Prix.

When the much-heralded aero upgrades had failed to live up to expectations and Whitmarsh had been forced to drop the introduction of a new front wing over legality fears, the simmering rumours about the team principal's job security broke out into the open and Whitmarsh spent much of the time in Spain fielding questions about whether he was about to quit.

What he needed most of all was a relative dose of success at the end of Sunday's race and no more controversies such as his drivers publicly falling out and scrapping on the track; and for once this week, Whitmarsh's prayers were answered.

"We scored six world championship points today," he said. "Of course we aren't satisfied with that. Nonetheless, to score points with both cars in what was a decidedly technical race is a very creditable achievement, and constitutes a solid platform from which to move forwards from here on in."

It also extends McLaren's current record run of 63 consecutive points-scoring Grand Prix finishes for the team - not something to be sneezed at.

Whitmarsh particularly praised his senior driver Jenson Button, who had to juggle a tricky three-stop strategy with a poor starting grid position after only managing to qualify in 14th place. It hadn't looked promising at the start for Button when the lights went out, either.

"Jenson drove a typically classy race to work his way back from a very unlucky start, which saw him drop almost to the back of the field," pointed out Whitmarsh, hailing Button's subsequent fight back "all the way through to eighth place at the finish."

He continued: "To do that, on this circuit, where overtaking is notoriously difficult, and in this car, which we know is not yet as competitive as we need it to be, was a seriously impressive feat.

"And to do it on a three-stop strategy, managing the tyres with impeccable care yet still keeping the pace consistently strong while so doing, was more remarkable still," he added.

Whitmarsh was also quick to include Sergio Perez in his praise, after the young Mexican maintained the ninth place from which he's started the race.

"Checo opted for a four-stop strategy - but, like Jenson, he also drove a very good race, finishing in ninth place not far behind his far more experienced team-mate," said Whitmarsh. "At the end of the race Checo's tyres required diligent nursing, but like Jenson he managed the situation very capably."

Many observers wondered whether the message to Perez to be careful with his tyres hadn't been a coded team order forbidding him from making any overtaking moves on Button who was circulating just a few feet ahead on the track and with older tyres, leaving him vulnerable to attack if Perez had pressed the issue.

Whitmarsh said that this was not the case, however.

"If you're asking did we ask him to back off and not fight? No we didn't," Whitmarsh insisted. "His tyres were finished at the end. We could see the tyre wear energy, and we were worried that he was going to end up without any rubber at the end of the race, and he virtually did – if you look at his tyres there's nothing there.

"He's doing a great job, he's had another piece of learning today, he's had a bit of a master class from Jenson about how to drive through with these delicate tyres," Whitmarsh continued on the subject of Perez. "He's learning. He's still very young and he's had a lot of pressure, and we haven't given him a good enough car.

"Next we go to Monaco, a Grand Prix that McLaren has won a record 15 times in the past," he said, moving on and looking forward. "Although we aren't predicting a 16th McLaren victory on those famously tortuous streets this year, we'll be doing our utmost there to score as many world championship points there as we possibly can."


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