September 22nd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Jenson Button and Sergio Perez delivered another strong double points finish for McLaren by finishing 7th and 8th at the Singapore Grand Prix. After the race, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh praised his drivers, saying, "Jenson and Checo both drove great, spirited, combative races here this afternoon, and the result was a brace of points-scoring finishes for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes."
The safety car was deployed on lap 25, following a race-ending crash for Daniel Ricciardo, but the timing was not ideal for McLaren's drivers, both of whom pitted as soon as the safety car came out, but then faced the prospect of having to finish the second half of fhe race on one set of tyres. The alternative was to stop again and lose enough time to potentially finish outside the points.
The strategy nearly paid off. Inside the last 10 laps, Button was running third, with Perez fifth. But ultimately neither driver had the grip needed to defend in the closing stages and they slipped back a few places each, finally finishing line astern in 7th and 8th.
Jenson Button explained his race:
"We thought we might have a chance of a podium, but in the end we didn’t have the pace to keep us ahead of the closing cars. It was good fun trying though, and we have to take risks if we want to get podium finishes this year.
“We expected to spend most of the race on the Option tyre, so we’d set the car up for that. The Prime tyre didn’t work so well for me, and having to hold Kimi off for so long destroyed my rear tyres and made things very tricky. In the end, as I say, we simply didn’t have enough pace to stop him overtaking.
“It was a good try though, and a P7 finish isn’t too bad. We couldn’t have done any better with a different strategy, I’m certain of that, and I’m glad we got some good points for the team.”
Sergio Perez was the beneficiary of what seemed like quite a harsh call by the stewards early in the race. Perez was battling with Nico Hulkenberg, whom he attempted to pass into turn 7. Hulkenberg defended around the outside and kept his position, but ran off the track on the exit of the corner after bottoming out on the kerb. At no point had Perez been in front of Hulkenberg, but the Sauber driver was ordered to yield position to Perez, which he did, although Hulkenberg was quite expressive in his dissatisfaction over the team radio.
Perez described his evening in Singapore:
“I think we should be satisfied with today’s result – as Jenson says P7 and P8 was probably the best we could have achieved today.
“In my view the Safety Car came at the wrong time for us, so we had to take a risk by choosing to drive to the finish with two pit-stops. It was pretty tough to keep the car out of the barriers – not to crash yet to lose too much lap-time – but as I say I think it was the right choice.
“Last but not least, although P7 and P8 isn’t brilliant, it’s the best we could have hoped for – and I dearly hope it’ll put a smile on the faces of my people, in my country, Mexico, who really need something to smile about at this very difficult time.”
As an illustration of how close McLaren came to a much stronger result, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen used the same strategy to finish second and third in the race. The McLaren drivers just ran out of grip trying to manage their tyres to the end of the race.