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By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
LEWIS Hamilton was immensely “proud” after finishing eighth in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix having started from the back of the field.
1) Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 61pts
2) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 61
3) Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 53
4) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 49
5) Mark Webber (Red Bull) 48
6) Jenson Button (McLaren) 45
7) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 41
8) Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 35
9) Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 29
10) Sergio Perez (Sauber) 22
After being excluded from the qualifying results on Saturday, the 27-year-old Formula One driver from Hertfordshire found himself 24th on the grid at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
However, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star showed his class in Spain by finishing in the points with an impressive and controlled drive as Pastor Maldonado claimed a pole-to-flag victory for the Williams team.
“I’m proud of my performance today, and proud of the team too,” said Hamilton after Sunday’s race.
“They did a great job: a real improvement with the pitstops, following our difficulties in that area recently. All in all, then, I think today’s result was the best we could do.”
1) Pastor Maldonado (Williams)
2) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
3) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
4) Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
5) Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber)
6) Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
7) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
8) Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
9) Jenson Button (McLaren)
10) Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
Hamilton completed 31 laps on his final set of tyres and his two-stop strategy enabled him to claim four FIA F1 world championship points after starting last place.
He felt he answered some of his critics with his performance behind the wheel. Lewis said: “I was the only driver to attempt a two-stop strategy, and I’m glad I was able to make it work.
“People often say that I have an aggressive driving style, but my final stint on the Prime tyre was 31 laps, so I reckon I proved today that I can make tyres last.”
Hamilton finished ahead of McLaren teammate Jenson Button, who had started 10th on the grid, and would probably have taken Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes GP had the race been one lap longer.
"Before the race I said I’d race my heart out, and that’s exactly what I did. For me, that’s what racing is all about."
The 2008 F1 world champion, who was watched trackside by his family from Tewin, added: “It was a huge challenge to come through the field from the back, but I never gave up for a single second, right up to the finish line.
“Before the race I said I’d race my heart out, and that’s exactly what I did. For me, that’s what racing is all about.”
Having been stripped of his pole position for a breach of the fuel regulations in qualifying, Hamilton was delighted at claiming four points to keep him third in the championship, eight points behind Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
“Today was all about damage limitation,” said Hamilton in the paddock afterwards.
"Make no mistake about it, the 2012 Santander Spanish Grand Prix was one of the most impressive races that Lewis has ever driven."
“But, now, looking at the bigger picture, I can’t really complain because, despite the setbacks I’ve had this season, I’m still only eight points behind the leader of the drivers’ world championship.”
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh praised Hamilton’s drive.
Speaking in Spain on Sunday, he said: “Lewis, having started in 24th and last place following his qualifying penalty yesterday, drove an absolutely storming race to eighth place at the chequered flag, all but catching and passing Nico [Rosberg] for seventh place on the final lap.
“Like Jenson Button, he won’t be content with the four world championship points he earned this afternoon, but in truth he should be immensely proud of his performance here.
“Lewis was the only driver to make a two-stop strategy work – and that, given that his race strategy called for him to drive exceptionally hard and extremely fast in heavy traffic all afternoon, pulling off some sensational passing manoeuvres on a circuit on which overtaking is notoriously difficult, was a truly magnificent feat.
“Make no mistake about it, the 2012 Santander Spanish Grand Prix was one of the most impressive races that Lewis has ever driven.
“His performance combined fabulous verve with commendable caution – and I’d go so far as to say that, rising above the frustration he inevitably felt yesterday [Saturday] evening, he’s inspired each and every one of us at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes with his stirring drive today.”
Hamilton will be looking for his first victory of the season in two weeks’ time when the F1 circus heads to Monte Carlo for the glamorous 2012 Monaco Grand Prix.