Cool Lewis back on track in Spain

PUBLISHED: 12:19 30 April 2008 | UPDATED: 22:23 26 October 2009

Lewis Hamilton climbs into his McLaren on the grid Pictures courtesy of www.mclaren.com

Lewis Hamilton climbs into his McLaren on the grid Pictures courtesy of www.mclaren.com

5-live F1 commentator David Croft gives us his exclusive take on events in Spain at the weekend ON Saturday afternoon in Barcelona at the start of qualifying, Lewis Hamilton was stood by the pit wall talking to Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh, his McLare

Lewis gives it the thumbs up on the podium

5-live F1 commentator David Croft gives us his exclusive take on events in Spain at the weekend

ON Saturday afternoon in Barcelona at the start of qualifying, Lewis Hamilton was stood by the pit wall talking to Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh, his McLaren bosses.

The atmosphere was relaxed and all three men were laughing and joking with each other, so much for a driver and a team under pressure.

Lewis Hamilton preparing for the race

The contrast on Lewis Hamilton's face 10 minutes after the end of the session though couldn't have been greater.

As he explained to radio 5-live listeners, he was "shocked and stunned" to find himself fifth on the grid and his team-mate sixth when they expected to be challenging for pole.

In fact, he was almost as shocked and stunned as the partisan home crowd, who were about to go absolutely bonkers for Fernando Alonso until Kimi Räikkönen snatched pole off him by the nine one-hundredths of second.

On the face of it here was confirmation that McLaren were struggling once again and that there optimism was unfounded.

But delving deeper into the times it was clear that McLaren had in fact closed the gap to Ferrari in the break between the Bahrain and Spanish GP's.

The trouble for them was that the ultra competitive midfield pack had improved as well and was now capable, by running a slightly lighter fuel load, of springing a surprise in qualifying.

So we might get some more qualifying upsets like this in future, which all adds to the excitement in my book.

As for the race, Lewis showed that the team's confidence was understandable, by matching both Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen for lap times on his way to third and a welcome return to the podium.

I was impressed with his patience after his over exuberance after making his mistakes in Bahrain.

He could have chased down Fernando Alonso a lot harder in the early stages but chose not, preserving his tyres and thinking long-term rather a quick catch up.

His decision was probably helped by the realisation that overtaking in a modern Formula 1 car is almost impossible at the Barcelona track, an issue that really needs addressing.

Also impressive was the way Lewis stuck to his task after his team-mate went nose first into the tyre barriers, a nasty accident that left Heikki Kovalainen concussed but thankfully no worse.

He's out of hospital now and the team hope he'll race in Turkey next month.

It can't be easy as a driver to concentrate on the race following an accident like that; especially when the cause wasn't clear at first and the team were unable to talk to a driver who was embedded in the tyres.

Eventually Heikki's condition was relayed back to Lewis, but those laps behind the safety car must have been very worrying for the British driver.

Monday in Spain brought a few hours of rest and relaxation on the golf course.

A few of us were lucky enough to have been invited along by the Honda team to help Rubens Barichello celebrate his personal milestone of 256 Grands Prix, equalling Ricardo Patrase's record for the most F1 Grands Prix by a driver of all time. Rubens will break the record in Turkey.

Lewis played his round with the Spanish golfer Jose Manuel Lara and picked up a few useful tips - tips he needs as his driving on the course is far from the standard of his driving on the track.

I played a thoroughly enjoyable 18 holes with David Coulthard and his physio Simon and picked up no useful tips on how to play the game whatsoever.

I did learn, however, that David is a stickler for obeying the rules of golf, especially the part where male golfers, should they duff their tee shot so badly that it doesn't reach the ladies' tees, have to play again but with their trousers down.

It was a pity for David that he topped his tee shot in front of several TV cameras, so his backside revealing antics were caught on film and witnessed by a large gallery that also included Rubens Barichello himself and former world champion Jackie Stewart.

We left the gallery behind by the 12th, when my worst shot of the day trickled to a halt yards short of the ladies' tee, but David and Simon were keen to make sure they got a picture of the moment that my trousers came down and stood their with their cameras as I swung away again.

A top bloke, David Coulthard, and despite his problems on the track this season, still a top driver.

I hope he gets a break soon and his team don't lose faith.


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