Whitmarsh explains Hamilton pit stop error
Whitmarsh explains Hamilton pit stop error
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Aug 2009   |  5:54 pm GMT  |  59 comments

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said after the race that the slow second pit stop of Lewis Hamilton did not cause him to lose the race, he believes that he was going to lose it anyway.

Hamilton approached the pits on lap 37, while leading the race. At that stage Rubens Barrichello had closed up to be just 3.6 seconds behind him. He had four to five more laps of fuel in the car at the time and the general rule is that you need about one second lead for each extra lap your opponent is doing. It’s probably true that Barrichello would have jumped him but it would have been close.

So McLaren was keen to get Hamilton to eek out an extra lap on the fuel to give him more of a chance. But by the time it because clear that he could do it, he was already on his way into the pits so it was too late to change course. Hamilton explained that he took the decision to come in anyway as he reasoned that he would lose too much time driving back out onto the track.

So he pitted and McLaren were not ready for him with the tyres.

Hamilton lost at least six seconds to Barrichello at that point. Barrichello then brought forward his second stop because he was going to pass Hamilton easily anyway and there was a risk of being caught by a safety car the longer he stayed out. This is why he came in just three laps later.

Without the problem it would have been very tight, as Hamilton was 6 seconds behind Barrichello when he rejoined.

Whitmarsh said, The fact is that we didn’t have the race pace to win. So we pushed it to the absolute limit, we’re not there to get second. We monitor the fuel flow and we were trying to get the extra lap.

“In doing so it cost us a couple of seconds, had we come in without the delay it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome. The fact is we weren’t quick enough in race pace.”

He added: “Lewis was meant to come in on lap 37, we were trying to extend him to 38 which meant swapping the drivers over in the pit order. At the time we had Heikki racing Kimi and Lewis racing Barrichello.

“We decided at the last minute that the best hope of winning this grand prix was to allow an extension, which meant an early stop for Heikki. And that changeover… the guys were waiting for the stop but they didn’t know whether it was going to be Lewis or Heikki.”

At times like this the teams take some serous risks with running out of fuel. Had Hamilton been able to carry on and do the extra lap he would have had about a kilo of fuel left in the tank when he came into the pits. That would be cutting it fine in your road car, but in a racing car which devours 2.6 kilos of fuel per lap, it would have been very risky.

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joseph farrugia

hi james,

do you think that the harder tyre was the better of the two.

it was a difficult call for mclaren but in my opinion had they chosen the harder tyre in the middle stint hamilton would have increased the gap to barichello and would have won it


I was watching the race at a friends house on a non wide screen TV…… I wish I was at home watching it on my Plasma ‘cos as Whitmarsh was talking I lost the end of his nose off the left hand side of the picture 🙂



phew, that is exhaustive! Many thanks for the labour.


Thanks Charles, hope you all liked it – I know it looks a bit heavy but I think you need to look at the race from all the different angles to make sure that you can make a good case 😉


You are wrong about Kimi. He gave an almost embarrassing display of emotion, almost had to be restrained, he tapped Rubens on the shoulder – twice!

He is far too excitable in the Press conferences, too.


Lets look at the raw facts. Lewis had his pit leading Rubens. McLaren cocked up big time (again) when it came to the pit procedures. Granted the yellow flag and heavy fuel load would have slowed Lewis somewhat, but you would think that if the tyres had been ready it would have been tight when Rubens re-entered the race after his pit. Also IF the tyres had been ready and Rubens had been catching Lewis, race pace or not, a driver of Hamilton’s calibre on a circuit offering little overtaking opportunity would have given us an exciting conclusion to the race. Instead it was another damp squib of an affair. (Happy for Rubens though).

It’s very disappointing that a new track like Valencia was designed this way and added to the F1 calendar. It offers little excitement for the driver or viewer.


Can you tell more about, as you wrote – “general rule is that you need about one second lead for each extra lap your opponent is doing. Can you give some example ?”


I but Martin’s explanation. It looked like the tyres cost the team a lot of time, but it’s only because we’re used to seeing them on 5 seconds before the feul has finished flowing.

We saw how Rubens so easily ate into Heiki’s lead in the first round of pits. I’m fairly confident he’d have done the same to Lewis.

Shame really, as it puts a question mark over Rubens’ win. Many are thinking it was by luck rather than merit. It was a deserved result for him IMO.


Entirely agree. I’ve watched it again, and I think that Lewis’s last stop was 13.2, about 7 seconds slower than it should have been. When Rubens came out after his stop, he was about 7 seconds up on Lewis (there was no timing on the television for ages – shameful), BUT he came in early – he would normally have found another couple by his last possible stop, the car being ultra-light etc. Conclusion : he won on merit, and all the British headlines (“Barichello snatches Valencia win” – BBC, “Hamilton denied Valencia win by pit-lane fiasco” (Guardian) are just so much nationalistic hogwash.

And given the track and McL’s brake problems, there’s no way Lewis would have got past Rubens if he’d come out behind. Sorry.

But whoever said that Lewis was fuelled too light in qualy was bang on.

btw I kinda like it when Kimi doesn’t bother to talk when he has nothing to say. There’s a blog on the Beeb which suggest he might go back to McLaren ! Now that really would be fun. Any thoughts on that James ?


Never mind the English press, they are, how shall we say, ‘Highly Imaginative’ and exist primarily for entertainment purposes. Think of them as being a kind of printed soap opera, whose plot is loosely based on current world events 🙂


Ooh, you are awful. But not wrong.


Highly unlikely. I’m pretty sure that the next thing he would do after Ferrari would be rallying.


WRC is dead after next year.

There’s no point in making the move now to a dead series, with 2 competitive teams.

Come 2011 when the rules change and there might be a point, but as it stands now….WRC is the series FIA’s past decisions have hurt the most.


The pit stop cost him the race I believe if close enough Hamilton would have overtaken Rubens.

All in all a very boring race. Jenson needs to seriously get a grip if he is to win the Championship


Yeah you would think that driving a Ferrari F1 car for a living would cheer him up a bit. Definitely the most annoying driver to listen to.


No one has mentioned the influence of the overheating breaks on the McLaren. It would seem to me that had McLaren to had this to contend with, Hamilton would have easily won, pit-stop error or not!

I stand to be corrected by anyone who really knows better, but it looks like McLaren have overtaken the entire field, coming right from the very back and are now getting faster and further ahead!

Comment James?


Martin might be right, but the fact is that mclaren made a big mistake. They have to avoid this in the future, because it will cost a victory for sure sooner or later. No more excuses please.


Was Kimi pleased? Could any one tell? His monotone answers nearly sent me to sleep. Still at least he has stopped mangling the microphone.


Guess I will have to watch a replay with a stopwatch. But Lewis was in front by a good margin, Rubens also had to stop again, It was close as James said but I still say that Lewis would have been in front after Rubens stop. He could easily have kept Rubens behind (using KERS) There can be no assumption that Rubens would have passed Lewis. Half the grid was held up for the whole race behind slower cars.

But for Rubens a terrific win. He was well pleased and even mentioned he should not tell the press his complaints in future.


Whitmarsh forgets that, having lived with New Labour for over a decade, we’re all experts in spotting spin.

This was a simply a race management error by the team, telling Hamilton to stay out when he was already committed to the pit lane. In trying to deflect attention away from the error by saying, “we would have lost the lead anyway” Whitmarsh will gain no friends – either amongst the Hamiltons or with racing fans. Maybe they would have lost the lead, but it would have been mighty close. Either way, we’d have had some more excitement as the trailing driver would have had an excellent opportunity to actually race the guy in front.


What for me is the biggest question is why McLaren opted to put Hamilton and Kovalainen on such a light fuel load.

That’s probably an even bigger error than the botched pit stop.

Hamilton was fastest after fuel correction in qualifying (accounting for the actual fuel load that he had at the time he set his lap). So even if he had had the same fuel as Barrichello he might still have gotten pole.

In fact he did have the same fuel load as Barrichello when he set that time.

At the very worst he would have ended up on P3. P3 is a perfect position to be in with KERS. The KERS cars can easily jump the row in front of them. Sometimes even 2 rows. For instance, Raikkonen had no trouble passing Button and Vettel and got even close to Barrichello.

Did McLaren forget about the advantage that KERS offers them? Did they have that little faith in the speed of their car?

Ferrari does get it since they always put Raikkonen on a reasonably heavy load. He always gains places at the start and then finishes better than his equipment would normally allow him.

McLaren seemed to be to much thinking in old term strategies to win the race.

I guess it’s easy to talk in hindsight, but they must have known they were light. With KERS they always should err on the heavier side.



Do you think that McLaren should have started Kov. in the prime tires to back off Rubens in the first stint and gives him the options in his final stint to sprint away from Kimi and make up the time lost in the first stint?

Just wondering if that would have worked for him and for the team to win the race.


It’s a tough one to call but for sure it would have been a much more exciting race if the pit stop went as intended. I thought the race was rather a dull procession. Button needs to get a little more aggressive.

Please print the picture “Lee” is referring to !

I certainly wish you were still commentating – I find Jake really irritating. Sometimes silence is golden. I get the feeling that he annoys Martin Brundle !



Jake is not commentating, Jonathan Legard is commentating.


Press yer red button mate (not the “Off button”) and then right or left to get either ant Ant and Croftie with the 5Live commentary or some unknown kids on CBBies who talk about how fast the cars go and the nice colours of them. OR then the blue button and down to the in-car view with engine noise only. (Very annoying that they never complete a whole lap in one car, producer person please note we want whole laps in each car.)

The only annoying thing about the 5Live commentary is the football they insist on talking about every 15 minutes. (and cricket as well last weekend, but hopefully that’s finished this year for now) But Croft and Ant are a far better team than any with poor leg-end in it. (he may be brilliant at football but he just has completely the wrong and very annoying style for F1.)

Jake is 0K just unbelievably tall.


It’s never that simple – F1 never is. Hamilton had the newer short wheel base car Heike didn’t . If Hamilton is really that good schumachereske.. Then it would not matter who was his team mate, they are on a looser, look at barichello, Irvine, or any of alonso’s team mates (except hamilton – but that proves the point)
rosberg would fair no better – when a team is fully behind one driver pity the other….



I hope you told M.W. that his story was rubbish. I mean you did tell Lewis that the team cost him the victory in the press conference.

Way to try and diminish Ruben’s win there pal…


Take a stop watch from when hamiltons fuel nozzle leaves the car to when he drives away – 4 seconds delay max. Now time barichello crossing the pit exit to Hamilton at the same point – 6 seconds. It’s not hard to see martin whitmarsh is right. Why can’t journalists do the same instead of creating hype?


I’m not a journalist, but can still create!


I should add that the guys in the crew are all top class. It was the race management that fell over.


Nice to see that Mr Neal agrees with me in this respect.

Sharper pit wall decision making is needed.


Surely that’s the nail in the coffin for H.K?

He doesn’t have what it takes to be at the front end of an F1 grid.


I think you are wrong. In relative terms Nakajima and Piquet have performed poorly in comparison to their teammates.

Paige Michael-Shetley

Today wasn’t his finest hour, but I disagree with your take on him. It’s not exactly easy to beat Michael Schumacher head-to-head in the ROC twice. His finish to the season in the uncompetitive Renault in 2007 was also very impressive.

Kovalainen is a very talented guy. For some reason (and no, it’s not sabotage in favor of Hamilton), it just isn’t working out for him at Macca. Sometimes, driver-team pairings just don’t work out for a variety of reasons.


Well, HK didn’t drive the same car as Hamilton, but a previous version .2 seconds slower per lap than Hammys wheel.

The second point to be made is that: Could anyone have driven better, considering you’re effectively the number 2 driver in the team?

My point? Remember Barrichello & Schumacher back then vs Barrichello today: No matter how good you are, there’s no way you can win or even compete with the defacto number one driver of the team.


James. “Hamilton lost at least 6 seconds”. No way. The timing of the loss actually starts from the point when the fuel rig was pulled away up to when Hamilton was released. I estimate make this to be about 3.5 seconds. Maybe someone can give us an accurate figure for this time gap.


Oh and don’t forget that Hamilton needed 5 laps less of fuel. That saves at least another second in refuelling.


Also, the pit stop put Hamilton right on Rosberg. He lost some time on track even after the stop too.


If you look at how much time he lost on the in lap and the out lap, relative to Rubens, which includes the stop, it was six seconds.


Good point by Chris and something that most people seem to be forgetting.

I was rather disappointed to see F1 pundits (or should that be muppets?) like Eddie Jordan were so eager to blame the team in this instance. It was plain as day to see that the fuel rig was removed after about 9 seconds, if you take into account another .5 of a second for the fuel guys to move back out of the way you’re looking at a 9.5 second stop, possibly 9.7 given Hamilton’s reaction time to move the car. Thus he actually lost about 3.5 seconds, and Rubens? Well he’d have won problem or not, he came out of the pit’s over 6 seconds up on Lewis and pitted early too. (Enough to make even rpaco change his mind?)

As much of the fault should be laid at Hamiltons door for slower in and out laps compared to Rubens if people want to lay blame. It was neither one sole element or another, it was a combination of the two.

I say good on Whitmarsh for telling the truth, even though [mod] Ted couldn’t get it into his skull when interviewing him, likewise the BBC crew. Urgh…


Me too remember the time from the fuel rig pulled away and the tires changed being some 4 seconds. I think these extra 2 seconds came from Barrichello re-fueling less than Hamilton.


JAMES, there is a picture i have to share with you. its badoer on the grid but it looks like he’s getting some extra help.

How can i send it to you????????????????


Lee can you host the image on something like imageshack and pop the link on here?


Yes I watched Martin’s explanation both times he gave it on tv after the race and in the F1 forum afterwards. It explained clearly why the delay happened, BUT he also claimed it didn’t affect the result, he even had me believing him for a while, although it was pretty obvious that no one else did.

Lewis was biting his tongue in the after race interviews and supporting Martin’s story. For a while I though that an upright fellow like Martin would be telling the truth, that is until I looked at the winning times and the gap from Rubens to Lewis. There is little doubt that the 2.3 second margin by which Rubens beat Lewis was lost in the cock-up.

I am afraid my opinion of Martin Whitmasrsh just went down today. Had the winning gap been 6 or more seconds then yes he would be right, but the world can see he was being economical with the truth.

If he is half the man we expect him to be, he will apologise and say “Sorry I was protecting the guys in the crew, but it was our cock-up, we lost it for Lewis.”


There is little doubt that the 2.3 second margin by which Rubens beat Lewis was lost in the cock-up.

That is the wrong margin to be looking at.

The margin to look at is the time difference between the end of hamilton’s pitsop and barichello going past the pit lane exit.

Margins at the end of the race are meaningless, one person can have slowed down or turned down their engine etc, once they know they are in the clear.


Apart from the 2.3 seconds being the wrong margin to look at, I completely agree that Whitmarsch should have apologised to Lewis.

I guess Whitmarsh was trying to sound like a good loser, but who wants to see a good loser anyway? People should be upset when they lose.

Paige Michael-Shetley

To be fair, Hamilton got within 2.3 seconds at the end because Barrichello backed off on the last lap. Hamilton was quicker than Barrichello the last few laps, but it was a matter of 2-3 tenths of a second.


You need to look the time Lewis lost in pitstop and the time how much Barrichello was behind him when Lewis stopped.

Winning margin has nothing to do with any of this.

Barrichello had no intention to hurry once he was infront of Lewis with quite a big margin, so he could save his engine and brakes and let Lewis get close to him but not as close that he could have been threat to him.


rpaco – The gap would have been more than 2.3 seconds. Barichello had enough fuel for another 3 or so laps but came in early to avoid a potential safety car when it was clear he was going to get ahead. On top of that, he eased off for a while in his 3rd stint.

I fully believe Barichello had enough in his pocket to leapfrog Lewis, it’s just a shame that it’s the McLaren pitcrew who are “taking the credit” for what, in my opinion, was most probably a Barrichello win anyway.


I don’t think it would have made a difference to the result if the pit stop had gone perfectly. Rubens was exceptionally quick over those laps and would have probably had a couple of seconds in the bag.

It was a great race although I am disappointed at the negative tactics for and by Jenson Button. He needs to really go and attack the field to make sure he wins the world title.


Rubens wasn’t exceptionally quick. That’s simply the lap times going down with the fuel going out.

It’s like watching a fuel correction table in real time.

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