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GP Week : Issue 112
Hamilton overcomes pre-race scare Lewis Hamilton came to within seconds of having to start yesterday’s Chinese Grand Prix from the pitlane, but some swift work by his mechanics allowed him to take his place on the grid in third, before going on to take a well-deserved victory, his first of 2011. All the panic was caused by a mysteriously flooded engine, discovered just before he was due to head out to the grid. All cars must have left the pitlane 15 minutes before the race start, but the delay meant Hamilton’s didn’t get out on-track until 30 seconds before the pitlane was about to close. Thankfully the problem didn’t reoccur on the grid, and he was able to bring the MP4-26 safely home after 56 laps of racing. “It feels amazing to bring it home,” said Hamilton after the race. “ We had a problem where the car wouldn’t start, and there were six minutes to go. I thought I could relax, because I have enormous faith in my guys, but I was worried that the light would go red as I drove down the pitlane.” Having saved a set of soft tyres by completing just a single run in Q3 on Saturday, Hamilton made brilliant use of his three-stop strategy and on lap 49 got the radio message he had been hoping for: ‘Keep looking after your tyres. Vettel will come back to you.’ Sure enough Vettel came within touching distance and just two laps later he power his way past the Red Bull at turn 7, before taking the chequered flag five seconds clear. MCLaren’s Jenson Button was left embarrassed after a monumental cock-up while pitting for the first time during yesterday’s Chinese Grand Prix. The former world champion pitted on lap 14 from the lead and mistakenly all-but stopped in Red Bull’s pit box as they were awaiting the arrival of Vettel moments later. Button was quickly ushered through to the McLaren pit box, the next one along, while Vettel calmly took his place for servicing with the Red Bull mechanics. “He should be as red as his overalls after that pitstop,” quipped former McLaren and Red Bull driver David Coulthard. Button admitteed after the race that he was looking down at his steering wheel when he came into the pits, but says the mistake didn’t change the result: “I was looking down when I came into the pits and went into the wrong pit spot,” said the Briton. “It wouldn’t have changed my race at all but I just made it a bit tougher for the guys.” It’s not the first time that a car from a rival team has stopped in the Red Bull pit box, as Sebastian Vettel recalled during the post- race press conference. “It was quite a surprise. We had something similar a couple of years ago with a Toro Rosso. I don’t know what attracts people to our garage,” smiled the German. “Fortunately the guys kept their heads cool, because in that situation it’s easy to get out of rhythm. Imagine if they’d changed his tyres! I’d have had to go into the McLaren pit and ask nicely.” Button red-faced after pitstop gaffe 26