Lewis Hamilton’s Spa qualifying session was badly compromised by a decision to go back to a standard rear wing rather than use the one that McLaren had introduced for Spa and Monza.
Both McLaren drivers were missing performance in the dry morning session. Having made the switch for qualifying Hamilton struggled with the higher downforce wing and could qualify only eighth, while Jenson Button stuck with the new version and having hit the sweet spot with his tyres took a surprise pole.
“This morning in P3 I had some instabilities with the new wing that we were trying,” said Lewis. “And at the time we had a relatively big gap between ourselves and the Red Bulls and the Ferraris. And so we felt on our side of the garage that we should try something to fix it, and for us that was to potentially go to the wing that we used in the last race.
“I was told or we believed that the gap between those two wings wasn’t so big. But we proved ourselves wrong. It was obviously the wrong way to go. We made the decision as a team.”
Asked if there were any benefits, Lewis said: “There weren’t any good points with that wing. We thought there would be benefits of having more downforce, but it didn’t feel that way.”
The fact that it was a team decision was underlined by Martin Whitmarsh, who said he was also party to the choice.
“We made a decision, and again I was very involved in the decision,” said the team principal. “Sat here this afternoon we feel we made a wrong decision. We didn’t have very much data, as you know, very limited running. We didn’t look sparkling competitive with either car this morning, and thought we’d make some changes.
“It’s easy to under react and then be kicking yourself, but perhaps we overreacted. We’ll see. A lot of things can happen. Tomorrow’s another day, it’s a long race, and it may let us do some different things in the race.”
Button explained why he didn’t change: “I spoke to my engineers and we decided to stay where we are because with the sun out hopefully the circuit would grip up. And we thought it was the best option, we just didn’t think running that much drag for today – and also more importantly for tomorrow – would be the right thing.
“It should be good for us, and we should be good in a straight line. We shouldn’t need to push as much in the corners. But you never know, and we don’t know who’s going to be quick either, and consistent also.”
Meanwhile some comments Hamilton made on Twitter about the wing situation were quickly deleted, presumably because he used the phrase ‘WTF’ and was advised by the team that it was not a wise choice.