McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh has admitted that the team cannot blame the deployment of the safety car early in Sunday's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix for restricting Lewis Hamilton to the bottom step of the podium, but joked that perhaps the Briton should have taken on fuel illegally instead of playing by the rules.

The Briton had been running second on the road to polewinner Felipe Massa when the full course caution came out to cover the recovery of Nelson Piquet Jr's crashed Renault and, with the various strategies in play throughout the field, emerged in seventh place after having to wait for the pit-lane to open before taking on fuel and tyres at his first pit-stop.

Among those ahead of him on the road were the slower cars Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella, who were among the few attempting the race on just one stop, the soon-to-be-penalised Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica, and Fernando Alonso, whose aggressive gameplan had seen him pit first of anyone, two laps before the pace car appeared.

When the race played out, only Alonso and Rosberg - who had taken advantage of Trulli holding up the pack to gain enough time to take his stop-go penalty and rejoin in fourth place - remained ahead of Hamilton, who had also found himself being delayed by the slower - if well-driven - Red Bull entry of David Coulthard.

"The current safety car deployment rule can cause some drivers to be disadvantaged relative to some of their rivals," accepted Whitmarsh, "and, to that extent, it's a bit of a lottery, but it's one of those variables that tends to even-out over the course of a season. Sometimes you benefit from the safety car's deployment, other times you don't.

"What made the situation a bit more unfortunate for Lewis in Singapore was the time taken for the stop-go penalties to be applied to those drivers [Rosberg and Kubica] who had refuelled under the safety car. Nico was able to get the hammer down out in front while the stewards were coming to their decision, which effectively neutered his eventual stop-go penalty.

"With hindsight, I guess we could have brought Lewis in for fuel and tyres at the same time as Williams brought Nico in. Had we done so, Lewis would very possibly have won the race."

With title rival Felipe Massa falling foul of Ferrari's automated pit release system and trailing half of his refuelling rig down pit-lane, as well as the obvious chaos of a mass pit-stop, Whitmarsh accepts that there was a lot for the officials to consider.

"In truth, you can't second-guess things like that, and we brought Lewis in as soon as the rules allowed, in good faith," he reflected, "Also, to be fair to the stewards, they had a lot to think about at the time."

McLaren believes that it dealt with the unpredictability of the safety car in the best way possible, managing to avoid drawing a penalty for stopping while pit-road was closed and turning around both of its drivers in the quickest time available, even if it meant that Heikki Kovalainen was more heavily penalised for dropping down the field at the start.

"The deployment of the safety car just ahead of the first pit-stops inevitably hurts the regular two-stopping teams more than the others, but we feel that we dealt with the situation well," Whitmarsh claimed, "We asked both Lewis and Heikki to adopt a fuel-saving strategy in order to minimise the risk of needing to refuel under the safety car, and then we stacked both cars and dealt with them efficiently once the pit-lane was opened.

"It was unfortunate that Heikki was forced to queue, because it meant he would be fighting among the traffic for the remainder of the race, but he was also affected by brake problems towards the end of the race and was therefore forced to slow his pace."

With Massa running around at the back of the pack after his refuelling drama, and an ensuing penalty for 'unsafe release', Hamilton knew that a strong points finish would outweigh going for victory and possibly making a mistake on the bumpy Marina Bay circuit. When Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen subsequently crashed out of fifth place, it proved to be a wise decision for the teams' championship too.

"The fact is that, when you're fighting for a world championship, you're necessarily more risk-averse than those teams who feel more comfortable pushing for a strong result," Whitmarsh noted, "And, while we take nothing away from the efforts of Renault and Williams, our evening's work was tinted by the knowledge that neither Ferrari driver looked like scoring strongly.

"We'd have looked pretty silly if we'd thrown Lewis' points finish away by telling him to push like mad. The reality is that we played the numbers game perfectly on Sunday evening and were beaten by two cars which, for one reason or another, were able to exploit different variables than ourselves."


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