F1: McLaren real winners despite Vettel’s European Grand Prix victory

LEWIS Hamilton will pitch up at Silverstone next month for the British Grand Prix having extended his lead in the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

The 25-year-old from Herts was second around the Valencia street circuit today (Sunday) in the European Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag but Hamilton and McLaren Mercedes both increased their respective leads in the drivers’ standings and constuctors’ championship.

Hamilton, again watched by Pussycat Dolls singer girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, is now six points clear of McLaren team-mate Jenson Button in the race for the title, while Red Bull lag 30 points behind in the team event.

McLaren officials – and world F1 champions Hamilton and Button – all said beforehand they were looking for as many points from this weekend’s European spectacle in Valencia before introducing major upgrades for July 11’s home race at Silverstone.

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As damage limitation exercises go, 33 world championship points and two places on the podium – Button was confirmed third despite a stewards’ post-race investigation – is a pretty good day at the office.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh admitted as much straight afterwards.

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He said: “Speaking before the stewards have finished their deliberations, I suppose I have to say I’m reasonably pleased with this afternoon’s events.

“Short of a win, second and third is pretty good – especially so when you bear in mind that we’d brought only a modest set of modifications here whereas some of the other top teams had introduced substantial upgrades.”

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – who vociferously complained about Tewin hero Hamilton overtaking the safety car – was promoted one place in the revised results.

Hamilton ignored bitter rival Alonso’s complaints and felt his drive-through was enough of a penalty.

He said: “I took my penalty – it’s quite a long time to spend at 60km/h in the pitlane – and I came out second.

“I don’t see how that’s unfair – it’s racing, and those are the rules, and we all have to accept them.”

Whitmarsh added: “We’ve accepted Lewis’s penalty, but in truth we reckon it was a pretty marginal call.

“Okay, it didn’t deprive him of his second place on the road, but it did prevent him from being able to take the race to Seb [Vettel], which had been our intention.

“And I think Lewis’s strong pace in the last few laps showed that, having saved his fuel and tyres early on in preparation for mounting an attack on Seb, he would probably have been in a position to have a fair old crack at it had he not been given a drive-through.

“So, yes, his penalty was frustrating for Lewis, frustrating for us, and ultimately I suppose you’d have to say it was frustrating for the spectators, at the track and in front of their TV screens, too. But, as I say, you have to accept these things and move on.”

Button had five seconds added to his race time afterwards for speeding under safety-car conditions, but Rubens Barrichello, Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil immediately behind him were similarly penalised, so it didn’t affect the podium positions.

The reigning world champion from England said: “I was very close to the pit entry when the safety car was triggered.

“I was warned by the team beforehand, who said ‘There might be a safety car, in this lap,’ so I dived into the pits.

“There was no room to lift off or hit the brakes, so to be honest I can’t really see why I was called to the stewards.”

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was also elevated into the points in 10th place due to Pedro de la Rosa being hit with a five-second penalty for the same offence as Button.

Hamilton and Button will next battle it out at Silverstone in their home race, the 2010 British Grand Prix, on Sunday, July 11.

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