F1 2012: Five wheels come off for Hamilton in Indian Grand Prix
PUBLISHED: 17:34 28 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:56 17 November 2012
A SUPER-SLICK pitstop saw McLaren Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton change FIVE wheels during the 2012 Grand Prix of India today (Sunday).
The 27-year-old former F1 world champion from Hertfordshire made his one and only stop for tyres at the Buddh International Circuit on lap 32.
And, in an unfamiliar move, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes teams not only switched Hamilton from Option to Prime tyres, they also fitted a new steering wheel at the same time.
Incredibly, Hamilton was only stationary for 3.12 seconds and finished the race in fourth place as Red Bull’s reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag from pole position for his fourth successive grand prix victory.
Explaining why he changed steering wheel as well as tyres, Hamilton said: “During that first stint I started having a downshift problem – I was having to change down with my right hand instead of my left, so the team elected to change the steering wheel at the pitstop.
"I’ve never had to change a steering wheel during a race before."
“I’ve never had to change a steering wheel during a race before. We’ve done it in Barcelona testing before, but never in a race.
“Even so, the guys did it fantastically quickly, under immense pressure, so I want to say ‘well done!’ to them all.
“I took the wheel off before I’d even stopped the car, and threw it out of the car.
“The team then fitted a new one, I clicked it into first gear, and I was away – all in just a bit over three seconds flat.”
Hamilton chased down Mark Webber in the closing laps but wasn’t able to pass the Aussie Red Bull driver on the final lap.
“Still, I loved it out there today – I can’t remember the last time I’ve pushed so far, so hard, for so long, right on the limit – it felt great,” said Hamilton.
“It felt fantastic, in fact, to be in the middle of such a battle.
“I’m so proud of all the guys in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, too – it was a really great race.”
Jenson Button, Hamilton’s teammate in the McLaren garage, finished fifth – after setting the fastest lap of the entire race at the very end.
Martin Whitmarsh, the boss of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, felt the team should have finished higher than fourth and fifth respectively.
“We scored 22 world championship points here today, but we’d hoped to score quite a few more than that,” said Whitmarsh.
“We found it difficult to coax sufficient pace out of the Options, but our car was the fastest in the field on the Primes. The trouble was, by the time we were running on Primes, the gap to the cars ahead was a bit too large.
“Even so, Lewis pushed as hard as he possibly could in the closing stages, carving chunks out of the gap between him and Mark [Webber] ahead, and, if the race had been just a few laps longer, I’m certain he’d have fancied his chances of getting past.
“Jenson, too, drove superbly, in difficult conditions, losing quite a bit of time while stuck behind Romain [Grosjean], but he made as rapid progress as Lewis did once he’d got onto Primes. Indeed, he drove the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap.”