McLaren boss stand by mechanic that cost Hamilton

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh refused to condemn the mechanic whose pit-stop cock-up ruined Lewis Hamilton’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The unnamed team member was so upset with himself he had to be asked to step aside for Hamilton’s final pit stop.

At Hamilton’s first stop, the drive pegs failed to align, a fault Whitmarsh claims was not of the gunman’s making.

Another cross-thread with the same wheel delayed Hamilton 14 laps later, forcing Whitmarsh to make the change.

So from second on the grid, Hamilton was forced to settle for eighth, losing his championship lead to Red Bull race winner Sebastian Vettel who took the chequered flag for the 22nd time in his career.

Whitmarsh said: “Any guy whovolunteers to be a gunman in a team is a brave guy. These guys are mechanics who don’t get paid extra for doing it, who put themselves in the firing line and under an enormous amount of pressure.

“I’ve been speaking to him because I know how hard he is being on himself. I’m very protective of my staff because they deserve my protection. He’s taken it very badly but I’ve given him the reassurance and support of this team.

“It has to be remembered all of us, from team principal down, make mistakes from time to time.

“It’s pretty bloody annoying when we do it and we’re often more understanding of other people than we are when we make our own mistakes.

“But there’s a lot of pressure these days with three-second stops and everyone knows the last gun off is the one that dictates the speed of that change. So if it hasn’t been going well for you it is an enormously stressful position to be in.

“We did have to change him for the last stop of the race because he took it fairly badly.”

Hamilton said: “I don’t know who he is but I will go and see the guy and try to lift him up. That’s all I can do really, otherwise it’s about doing my best and trying to remain positive.”

Sebastian Vettel Image 1
Sebastian Vettel celebrating the win

To make it worse for McLaren, Button’s hopes of sixth place – maybe even fifth as he was closing in on Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes – were wrecked by a late puncture and cracked exhaust, forcing him to retire a lap from home.

Whitmarsh added: “That was the classic bad day at the office. We had two bad pit stops, a puncture and we were slow.”

Champion Vettel’s victory, which lifted him four points clear of Hamilton, was relatively straightforward after starting from pole.

After becoming the fourth different winner this year, not seen in F1 since 2003, Vettel said: “It was an incredible race – extremely tough.”

Lotus were second and third with Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.

Mark Webber finished fourth for the fourth consecutive race but trails Vettel by five points, with Rosberg fifth and Scotland’s Paul Di Resta ending up sixth in his Force India.

Rosberg avoided any action from the FIA after being involved in incidents with Hamilton and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who finished seventh.

But a furious Alonso said: “If instead of such a wide run-off area there had been a wall, I’m not sure I’d be here now to talk about it.”