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Safety car lottery not to blame, insists McLaren.

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."

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Safety Car, Singapore F1 Grand Prix, 26th-28th, September 2008
Williams Martini Racing FW40
McLaren - Honda MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32 F1 launch, [Credit: McLaren]
McLaren MCL32, McLaren-Honda, [Credit: McLaren]
Fernando Alonso - McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren MCL32
McLaren Honda MCL32
Ferrari SF70H
Ferrari SF70H
The Ferrari SF70H - Scuderia Ferrari
Ferrari SF70H
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes Petronas AMG F1 W08. 
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes Petronas AMG F1 W08. 

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Justin - Unregistered

September 30, 2008 12:42 PM

Good assessment of what went on. McLaren made absolutely the correct decisions with Lewis. For LH to push harder and risk 6 points would have been stupid considering Massas was going to score no points. It may not be so interesting for us but McLaren are in it for the championship, and as has been said by many, the person making the least unforced errors is likely to be holding the cup - even if that means more 2nd or 3rd positions than 1st.

silent runner - Unregistered

September 30, 2008 1:05 PM

its a shame we haven't a device that allows us to re-run an event a look for alternate outcomes. i would lay a very large wager that had lewis came in whilst pit-laned was 'closed' his penalty would have been given far sooner than those meted out to nico/kubica. all these details add up and continue to fuel the conspiracy theorists. my only hope is that this is done to hold back mclaren in an attempt to keep the season competitive and so eagerly and heavily viewed...(more-bums-on-seats-=big-bucks)

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