The Briton was hit with a slow tour down the pit lane after he took a shortcut at the Turn 11-12 complex when he overtook Felipe Massa. The team apparently issued a request to race control as to whether it should instruct Button to relinquish his position he had gained.
But almost immediately, as we noted in our race review article, the Ferraris swapped places – as a result, it would have forced Button to cede both places – and while McLaren dithered over taking the initiative of instructing Button to drop back, the Ferraris pitted and forced the penalty on the McLaren driver.
While perhaps not the most sporting way to go about it, we thought it was an inventive, even brilliant, call by Ferrari to force McLaren’s hand in this manner, but Whitmarsh still laid the blame with race control.
“As the incident happened we asked race control for their advice, what we should do. They explained they would come back to us and they didn’t,” he told the British newspapers.
“The next thing we knew it had gone to the stewards, Massa had stopped and we were unable to do anything about it. When they say ‘We’ll get back to you’, you expect, to be honest, that they’ll get back to you.
“It’s frustrating and its annoying … I feel a bit harshly treated,” he added.
And we obviously weren’t alone in spotting Ferrari’s sudden decision to pit both drivers – starting with Massa, which meant Button could not simply hand the position back.
“I don’t know if Ferrari pitted Massa on purpose so I would get a drive-through, fair enough if they did. That’s the way it is,” Button was quoted after the race.
Button would go on to finish sixth – Massa was ninth on the road, but promoted to seventh when the Saubers were excluded – while his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished a fine second. Without his penalty, Button potentially could have finished as high as third.
And Whitmarsh wasn’t about to appear too ungrateful for his team’s dramatic turnaround in form after such a troubled pre-season testing programme.
“Two weeks ago I would have snatched your hand off for that result,” he admitted after the race.