McLaren have admitted a poor strategy and mismanagement of tyres contributed heavily towards the team's downfall at the European Grand Prix.
Neither McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton nor Jenson Button were able to match the frontrunners for pace at the Valencia street circuit on Sunday.
Hamilton wound up in the barriers on the penultimate lap after a controversial battle for third with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams, while team-mate Button rescued four points for the team coming home eighth thanks to additional retirements from Red Bull driver German Sebastian Vettel and Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
Although Maldonado was later blamed for crashing into the 2008 champion by way of a 20-second penalty, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh admitted that Hamilton, 27, had struggled for speed throughout the race and would not have had the pace to sustain his position.
“It was a bad day in the office and I think we really struggled with the tyres,” he explained.
“The inherent pace was where you were on your tyres. Lewis struggled on the first set and was better on the prime in truth, but ultimately it went away - and that could have happened to Sebastian as well, I don't know.”
Whitmarsh agreed with the stewards' decision to penalize Maldonado, but hinted that he thought Hamilton could have avoided the incident if he had drive differently.
“In my mind, you saw him defend with Grosjean and with (Kimi) Raikkonen, and he didn't do anything different with Maldonado. It was a different outcome, but he didn't do anything different with those drivers.
“My own view is that it was Maldonado's fault, and it is deeply frustrating - but he is a racing driver and that is it. I am sure in hindsight you have to say that dealing with someone like that you have to take a different approach, but you cannot anticipate it.”
However, in spite of his crash, Hamilton, who qualified second, struggled for speed throughout the race and could do nothing to stop early pace-setter Vettel or eventual race-winner Spaniard Fernando Alonso from extending their leads.
Whitmarsh played down any significance of this and put faith in his team to be back in the running at the British Grand Prix in two weeks time.
IT’S A TOUGH SEASON
“When your competitors are showing that sort of pace it is always a concern, but I think we know well this year that what determines the underlying pace of the cars is quite challenging and quite difficult.
“We have to keep pushing. It is a tough old motor racing season this one and this race wasn't helpful, but we will keep pushing and see what we need to do.”
“You have to score the points and keep at it. So we have to develop the car, master the tyres, understand them, and keep them in good condition. That is very difficult as we saw here.
“It was a difficult day, and frustrating in many ways, but there is a long old championship ahead and there is no reason why we cannot turn that fortune at Silverstone. That is what we have to do.” -AFP