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Mat Coch writes:
Lewis Hamilton crashed out in the final stages of the European Grand Prix on Sunday after a coming together with Pastor Maldonado. Hamilton, his tyres wearing thin, was slipping further and further back as the race drew to its climax, defending vigorously from the advancing Williams.
When the Hamilton's unmovable McLaren met Maldonado's unstoppable Williams the inevitable happened, with the stewards laying the blame squarely at the feet of the Venezuelan. Having thrown his steering wheel in frustration Hamilton climbed clear of his wrecked McLaren while Maldonado limped his battle scarred Williams home to tenth. The stewards subsequently saw that become twelfth.
Hamilton had been struggling for grip throughout the race, a point he made clear courtesy of his radio chatter. The race was not lost by a bungled pit stop, which, though it didn't help, ultimately didn't hinder.
Truth be told had Hamilton remained ahead of Fernando Alonso as the pair dived in to the chaotic pit lane under the safety car the battle that would likely have ensued would have only delayed them both and encouraged a heavier than usual right boot. The penalty later in the race would have been far steeper than the one Hamilton was paying in the build-up to his retirement.
At McLaren fingers are beginning to be pointed, if we are to believe the broadsheets. Based on nothing but the power of a fan's tweet the Telegraph has suggested that McLaren is already busy hammering nails into Sam Michael's coffin. The Australian, who joined the team as the 2011 season came to its conclusion is ultimately responsible and accountable for the performance of the pit crew and therefore pit stops.
Pit stops have been a bug bear for McLaren throughout 2012. The team has changed staff and equipment in pursuit of the perfect stop, Michael has even promised beers if the team gets the average stationary time under three seconds - that's faster than the time it takes Johnny Herbert to begin answering a question.
Weeellll, the thing is it's not as simple as the Telegraph makes out, and as one cheeky editor put it: "If we all based articles on comments by fans on Twitter I dread to think where it would end. For a start, I guess the England football team would be lined up against the wall and shot."
With pit stop times heading forever south the pressure is heading north; it makes sense that we're seeing more mistakes at pit stops. It's all probably got to do with quantum and has everything to do with Sam Michael's role as Sporting Director.
"You have to bear in mind Sam's settling in to a slightly different role to his previous one," warned Jonathan Neale when quizzed about his latest recruit in the build-up to Canada. "Most of his time is spent looking at operational excellence and also on decision support and sporting decisions during the race weekend in support of Martin on the front line."
Neale went on to explain how, while the pit stops weren't ideal there were other areas that were more crucial to outright race performance, like the drivers not getting torpedoed by an excitable Williams or allowing Alonso to pull in nearly three seconds on an in-lap.
But things aren't as bad as all that, when one bothers to look beyond what the global feed serves on a silver platter. In Valencia McLaren recorded the fastest ever pit stop in the sport’s history, at a staggering 2.6 seconds; it took you longer to read that sentence.
On Sunday the jack failed, though that is no slight on Michael or his team of hard working mechanics. As a group which has easily had the measure of Ferrari on the pit stop front when all things are equal, a point proven in Canada as the team won Sky's award for the fastest stationary time.
There are concerns at McLaren, and the pit stop issues are a problem, but they are not creating cause for rash decisions. When laid the facts speak for themselves, and are a ringing endorsement of Michael and his crack team of mechanics.
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