McLaren end up biggest losers on soggy Sunday in Sepang

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 battle. Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday 25 March 2012.

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button led early on but could only manage one car in the points at Sepang

Mar.25 (Reuters) McLaren suffered a soggy Sunday at the Malaysian Grand Prix and will look back at the race with a tinge of regret after Lewis Hamilton’s third place was all they could muster from a perfect qualification result.

(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrate on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday 25 March 2012.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso frolic on the podium

In glorious sunshine on Saturday, Hamilton and team mate Jenson Button locked down the front row but 24 hours later, a torrential downpour and sloppy pit stops compromised Hamilton’s race, while Button ruined his chances with a messy collision.

Hamilton salvaged third place behind inspired drives from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Sauber’s Sergio Perez but Button never recovered from losing parts of his front wing early on and crossed the line in 14th place.

“A disappointing day for us obviously but in terms of damage limitation it could have been a lot worse,” team boss Martin Whitmarsh told reporters following a race that was halted for 51 minutes when conditions became too dangerous.

“A lot of the people we consider to be the real championship contenders probably didn’t get as many points as they’d like, and obviously Jenson [didn’t].

“But it was a bad day in the office for him. I think in those conditions, he’ll be hard on himself.

Jenson Button

Too many pitstops for Jenson Button in Malaysia

“He shouldn’t have lost the wing and thereafter we tried a variety of different things but you get pace in free air and if you get behind someone you lose temperature in your tyres and it became very difficult to do anything with it.”

Hamilton was still leading when the race was red flagged after eight laps but he lost track position to Alonso after the resumption when the pair pitted together and the Briton was held up by traffic.

“We stopped Lewis at the right point but I think Ferrari double shuffled (had Alonso and Felipe Massa pitting together) and that meant we had to hold it and Alonso was in front,” Whitmarsh added.

“Perez was the man with speed today. It was a big, big day for him and Sauber but it wasn’t too bad. We come away with second and third in the drivers’ championship, we’re leading the constructors’.

“It’s a long season ahead of us and it could be a lot worse.”

Hamilton was equally as positive over the points gained rather than the ones lost, a stark contrast to a week ago when he also finished third in Australia from pole and his disappointment was all too evident.

Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car

Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car

“I can’t really complain. I’m on the podium for second week in a row so I’m pretty happy,” he said. “I feel pretty fortunate that I was able to stay out of trouble with the conditions changing constantly. I think we did a great job.”

Button, normally excellent in wet weather, blamed himself for running into the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT as he tried to pass the Indian following a change of tyres.

“I was struggling to keep the tyres up to temperature and it was totally my fault. I hit the brakes, locked the rears and I couldn’t slow the car down. I tried to get round the corner but I couldn’t do anything but hit him really,” Button admitted.

“It was already a tough afternoon and then it just spiralled out of control. Everything that could have gone wrong really did. All I can do is laugh really, it was so bad today.”

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