McLaren switch from two stops to three
Martin Whitmarsh had a few heart-stopping moments on Sunday in Shanghai. But by the end, his pulse will have been racing with delight.
The Chinese Grand Prix was an emotional rollercoaster for Lewis Hamilton, Whitmarsh and the entire McLaren team. First the engine problem just before the start, then taking the lead on the first corner only to lose it on the first pit stop, and ultimately winning the race in a thrilling finish.
The victory was due to a change of strategy.
"We decided to switch to three stops because we knew we had to do something," revealed Whitmarsh. This rethink was not the only hair-raising moment for the team boss.
"If there is still anyone out there who needs convincing that our two drivers race each other, they got their proof today," he said, with reference to Hamilton's overtaking manoeuvre on his team-mate.
But the biggest fright of the day will have been the failure of Hamilton's engine to start just before he was due out on the grid, because it had been flooded with fuel.
"It's very easy to start panicking when you're in a situation like that," said the team boss. "These cars are complicated, so the fact that we got it repaired in time is a fantastic credit to the team. Four or five minutes earlier, the car had been starting without any problem at all."
But in the pre-start phase, the McLaren engine somehow got flooded and the mechanics were unable to fire it up.
"We only had a few minutes to sort it out, otherwise we would have been told to start from the pit lane. Only a few seconds before he had to go out, the car was still lying around in bits."
As it was, Hamilton had to set off for the grid with part of the engine cowl still missing.
"That was not the only moment this afternoon when we were worried; it was just one of many."