GREATER NOIDA, India, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Already boasting some of the fastest pitstops in Formula One, McLaren went a step further at the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday by changing five wheels on Lewis Hamilton’s car in just over three seconds.
The 2008 world champion had been suffering from a downshift problem during his first stint of the race and was having to change gear with his right hand rather than his left.
So the team decided to change his steering wheel as well as the tyres when he pitted.
“I’ve never had to change a steering wheel during a race before,” said the Briton. “We’ve done it in Barcelona testing before.
“I took the wheel off before I’d even stopped the car and threw it out. The team then fitted a new one, I clicked into first gear and I was away. All in just a bit over three seconds flat.”
Hamilton finished the race in fourth place, leaving him fifth overall and 75 points adrift of Red Bull’s race winner and championship leader Sebastian Vettel with 75 points remaining to be won.
The only way he could win the title now would be the fantasy scenario of Vettel failing to score another point, after winning four races in a row, and Hamilton winning the last three grands prix with other results going his way.
But Hamilton knows that is not going to happen, having already declared his hopes over at the previous race in Korea.
“Still, I loved it out there today,” said the 27-year-old, who will be racing for Mercedes next year.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve pushed so far, so hard, for so long, right on the limit.”
Other highlights of the day for McLaren were Jenson Button taking their 150th race fastest lap and the team equalling Ferrari’s record of 55 successive races with at least one car in the points.
There was less to celebrate in the standings, with Button’s title chances now mathematically over and Red Bull in a position to win the constructors’ championship in Abu Dhabi next weekend.
Red Bull have 407 points to Ferrari’s 316 and McLaren’s 306. There are 129 points still on offer to be won. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mark Pangallo)