SHANGHAI, April 17, 2011 (AFP) - Victorious Lewis Hamilton heaped praise on his McLaren team and race strategists after claiming his first win of the season in the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton at pits for a tyre change.
The 26-year-old Briton, who ended world champion German Sebastian Vettel's run of two season-opening wins for Red Bull, said the performance of his car and tyres was critical to his triumph.
But his teammate and compatriot Jenson Button had to apologise to his crew after pulling into the Red Bull pits instead of McLaren's early in the race, a basic error that cost him time on his way to fourth place.
Hamilton, world champion in 2008, said: "A big thumbs up to the guys back at factory, who put their heart into making the car what it is on the GP weekend. It feels amazing.
"I think today the strategy that we came up with going into qualifying definitely helped. Our new option tyres seemed to last a bit longer than the guys in front."
While Hamilton celebrated, 2009 world champion Button was left to rue his embarrassing pit lane mistake. "I made it difficult for them. I was actually looking down when I came into the pits and went into the wrong pit spot!" he said.
Button said he felt fourth was as much as he could manage on an afternoon when he struggled to maintain his rear tyres. "It was a tough afternoon for me, for some reason I just didn't have the. Getting strategy right is very important, as you can see by (Mark) Webber finishing up behind his team-mate. Sebastian started on pole, Webber was 18th. It really is amazing," he said.
McLaren team chief Martin Whitmarsh said Button's mistake in the pits cost the team a position to Vettel, but he praised the drivers and mechanics for keeping their cool. "It could have been very easy for the team to go from one-two to fifth or
whatever, but both the guys and the team did a good job to stay calm and it came good in the end," Whitmarsh said.
He also hailed Hamilton for his calm handling of a pre-race drama that almost saw him fail to make it onto the grid because his engine was flooded with fuel.