Two champions but no titles for McLaren in 2010

2010 F1 season review

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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2010

McLaren’s decision to pair the two most recent world champions provoked pre-season speculation about whether they might fall out.

But while the Lewis Hamilton-Jenson Button pairing worked well, McLaren faced other difficulties during 2010.

Not least in terms of car development, as they ran into trouble trying to keep pace with Red Bull and Ferrari.

McLaren team stats 2010

Best race result (number)1st (5)
Best grid position (number)1st (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other)5 (2/3)
Laps completed (% of total)2024 (89.64%)
Laps led (% of total)245 (21.7%)
Championship position (2009)2nd (3rd)
Championship points (2009*)454 (181)
*using 2010 system

McLaren stole a march on their rivals at the start of the season with their innovation dubbed the ‘F-duct’ – known internally as the RW80.

Simple in concept but difficult to execute, it allowed their drivers to stall the rear wing on straights, reducing downforce and drag while it was not needed in order to reach a higher top speed.

It took a while for their rivals to successfully implement their own versions of the F-duct. In the meantime McLaren enjoyed a strong first half of the season, with four wins shared between their two drivers.

Those who expected Button to show Hamilton the way were in the minority. But he grabbed two opportunistic wins in the first four races, partly thanks to spot-on tyre calls in wet conditions.

Hamilton suffered setbacks which left him to rely on the MP4-25’s straight-line speed (thanks in part to that F-duct) and his overtaking prowess to make up places at Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai.

At Melbourne Hamilton was infuriated by being summoned for an extra pit stop which ultimately cost him places before he was hit by Mark Webber. He was at odds with his strategists again at Istanbul when he was told Button was holding station behind him – only for Button to pass him for the lead.

Hamilton reversed the move and went on to win, then made it back-to-back victories with a top-drawer performance at Canada. Second places at Valencia (despite a penalty for overtaking the safety car) and Silverstone propelled him into the lead of the drivers’ championship.

A combination of setbacks kept him and McLaren from the titles. Not least of which was uncharacteristic unreliability.

While Hamilton had enjoyed excellent reliability in his first three seasons, he retired from the top four positions with car problems twice in 2010 and had a double-whammy of gearbox glitches in Suzuka.

Button fared better: his sole race-ending mechanical failure of the year at Monte-Carlo was the result of a mechanic leaving a cover on an air intake. He was frustrated by a faulty dashboard in Spain as well.

On top of that the team’s development path led them into trouble. The plan to add an exhaust-blown diffuser at Silverstone was aborted and in the later races they simply couldn’t match the race pace of Red Bull and Ferrari. A new rear wing seemed to solve their problems in the final round but it was too little too late.

Hamilton also rued a costly clash with Felipe Massa at Monza, blowing a chance to take points off the Red Bulls.

Two weeks later in Singapore he was rather luckless when contact with Webber caused another retirement. Still, if he had a Get Out Of Jail Free Card he played it at Spa when he disappeared into a gravel trap while leading and dragged his car out again, still in first place.

Button rallied at Monza by gambling on an unusual high-downforce set-up which, allied to the F-duct, nearly won him the race.

But, as in 2009, qualifying was again a weakness and he started outside the top ten in Britain, Hungary and Brazil. His hopes of retaining his title were finally extinguished after a disastrous race in Korea.

Hamilton stayed in the running until the final round and although he ended the year fourth he was just 16 points behind winner Sebastian Vettel at the end of a remarkably close season.

In their first season having regained independent status McLaren comfortably beat Mercedes. But this battle between the Mercedes factory outfit and the top Mercedes-powered team will be one to watch in 2011.

McLaren’s 2010 season in pictures

2010 F1 season review

Browse all 2010 F1 season review articles

Image ©, Bridgestone/Ercole Colombo

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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71 comments on “Two champions but no titles for McLaren in 2010”

  1. “Hamilton suffered setbacks which left him to rely on the MP4-26′s straight-line speed (thanks in part to that F-duct) and his overtaking prowess to make up places at Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai.”

    Don’t you mean MP4-25 Keith?

    1. Yep am in 2011 mode already. Changed it, thanks!

  2. Hope Mclaren can’t stop the equality BS they want to sell to people and concentrate on the faster driver to win the wdc. Hamilton lost a lot of points because of bad strategies. That’s why ferrari is the number 1 team, they know how to win championship. Why waste time with the slower driver?
    I think Alonso will be the wdc next season.

    1. Yeah that’s why Ferrari won the constructors and drivers championship this ye-oh wait.

      Hamilton lost the championship because of car failures and crashes, there were very few races where he finished directly behind Button.

      1. McLaren have won 1 drivers championship and no constructors championship in the last decade. Ferrari have won multiples of both. Even Brawn won more silverware then McLaren in the past ten years. McLaren are a fading force but a good second place team.

    2. Take a look at the lead RBR when it’s launched and the big #1 will tell you otherwise. RBR were better than Ferrari.

    3. Hamilton lost a lot of points because of bad strategies. That’s why ferrari is the number 1 team, they know how to win championship

      Ferrari had the perfect strategy at Abu Dhabi did they?
      I think there were quite a few mistakes by all 3 top teams. Probably why the season was so close and exciting.

      1. One thing at which Ferrari were undoubtedly better, was in executing the pit stops. I don’t know if McLaren beat them in pitstop speed once all year for sure, but I don’t think so.

        After losing crucial points in ’08 due to that bad pitstop, Ferrari did have to make up for it of course :)

    4. This “equality BS” looks awfully like they have managed to get two top drivers who also have the ability to get on well…

      No offence, But Ferrari and Red Bull should be using this as their example.

    5. David, that’s why many people support McLaren. Some were saying that Button was mad to walk into Lewis’ team, but he proved them wrong by winning the first two races for the team when the car wasn’t really good enough – luck or judgement, it was pretty impressive. When the car looked good enough to race on merit against Red Bull and/or Ferrari I think Hamilton had the edge, still Button was never far behind – McLaren have a brilliant driver line-up at the moment.

      I think the F-Duct confuses the picture regarding the McLaren, it flattered the car on circuits where it could be put to good effect. Elsewhere the McLaren just didn’t look a match for Red Bull and Ferrari for most of the season. Hopefully they will produce a more consistent performer for 2011.

      Speaking of 2011, am I the only one surprised that the FIA is changing the technical rules? We’ve just had the best season I can remember, why not keep the cars the same for next year – it would allow the field to close up even more, this would be a huge help to the new teams too.

  3. Nicely done.

    Even with their development issues, it is striking that not finishing races was their realy downfall. In the end, they were really no better than RedBull in this area.

  4. Driving mistakes of others cost Hamilton the drivers championship. The car was good enough . This season was ripe with driver errors and the balance of points aquired changed from week to week. RBR should have won it all much earlier than it did. Ferrari did a good job of grabbing up the lost points and McClaren had a run of bad luck and never was able to quite get back to the to the championship lead, so the headline of this article could have applied to several other teams if the ball had bounced the other way.

    1. I don’t think anyone else has two champions!

    2. Driving mistakes of others cost Hamilton the drivers championship.

      Yeah, especially Massa’s mistake at Monza.

      1. Come off it that was ridiculous from Hamilton. I think the McLaren drivers have more to complain about Red Bull – when they weren’t conking out or taking each other off they seemed to have a homing beacon for the McLarens: Webber got Hamilton twice, Vettel skewered Button once. Did either of the other top two teams suffer at the hands of their rivals? I can’t recall anything off hand.

  5. If I only could grab by his neck the genius that suggested not to use the F-Duct at Monza… And if it was Lewis himself who came up with this brilliant idea, the team should have stopped him on the spot.

    1. It didn’t matter, the Tea tray wing probably was the better set up, at Monza the Mclaren Fduct (God bless it’s memory) was overrated, although Button used it well to produce his finest Mclaren race… in my opinion.

      1. I agree, I think – both of the setups they had were too radical really, on opposite sides of the downforce spectrum for Monza – something McLaren seemed to have problems with for a large part of the season, I think.

        Ferrari just produced a special Monza F-duct (sure, they needed it, but it did work too!). Maybe McLaren should have compromised a bit too, instead of failing with the radical choices.

        1. Then again, it was a very spectacular choice.

          I bet McLaren were looking forward to bringing that massive rear wing with them to Monza all year!

      2. The name of the game for Lewis at Monza was damage limitation. A quali time similar to Jenson’s and an uneventful race would have allowed him to administer his advantage a little longer and avoid the pressure mounting on him. With the points from a 2nd-3rd place at Monza, he probably wouldn’t have attempted to pass Webber so rashly at Singapore.

    2. Hamilton had the quicker set-up in Monza…. fact!, he just screwed both flying laps up and didn’t get anywhere near the ultimate time of the car.
      We’ll never know for sure because of the crash but I’m sure in my own mind he would of won Monza if he’d been patient

  6. Really think that had Lewis not crashed out in Monza and Singapore, he could’ve won the championship rather than just being a loooooooong shot at Dubai.

  7. Really liked the button Hamilton set up this year! I hope they now grow as a team and develop a championship winning car!

  8. In the end the car was not competitive with the Red Bulls and Lewis made too many mistakes. Tim Goss can say what he will that car was a b!*#@ to set for both drivers. The development was inconsistent and appeared desperate. McLaren staff must go to church because as a team they had no business coming in second to RBR in the WCC and Lewis had no business coming in fourth.

  9. Nobody stands a chance next year if the Mclaren is Brawn or RBR spec… we can hope I guess!

  10. I wonder if it is the contrasting driving styles of Button and Hamilton which is causing Mclaren troubles in developing their car. Button with his ultra smooth kind on tyres approach and Hamilton – aggressive on tyres – are probably leaving the design team at Mclaren with quite a dilemma. Since, what works for one, obviously doesn’t for the other. Even at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi, Button ran with the old F-duct while Hamilton used the new F-duct. Mclaren never encountered car development problems in 2008 and 2009 – when their attention was fully focused on what Hamilton wanted. Now that they have to cater to two contrasting champions, it seems to be becoming difficult.

    1. Apparently they use pretty much the same set-up bar little details.

    2. I think that ‘myth’ about Hamilton being too aggressive on his tyres as compared to Button needs to be discounted. Lewis proved in Canada this year above all else, that his tyre management issues have been all but ironed up.
      I seemed to remember Button posting a quicker lap than Lewis towards the end of that race, to which Lewis responded with a lap a full .5 quicker…..proving that he still had a lot in his reserve.
      I dont think its that quite frankly, I think its the fashionable thing to say, but according to Lewis, their driving styles using telemtry data are quite similiar.

      1. But in Brazil Hamilton wrecked his tyres twice, and in Abu Dhabi Button made his tyres last for much longer than his competitors.

        1. But yet Jenson remains slower. The point is Lewis can play the tyre preservation game, however, that is not conducive to outright pace to the car, and as he was pushing the Bulls and Ferrari and fighting for his championship in Brazil of course wear is going to increase.
          Button ended up third in Abu Dhabi might I add.

  11. Button Malaysia outside top ten there as well.

  12. I think Witmarsh was pushing for Button to take top spot and not really giving Hamilton the strength in stragety that was really needed. This partly left Hamilton a little on the back foot and fighting for purchace on the track unecessarily. I think the issue of who is the stronger driver is largely academic now. Lets hope Whitmarsh has the good sense to recognise what most people with any incline of F1 talent awareness accepted as probably before last season even started.

    1. I think Witmarsh was pushing for Button to take top spot and not really giving Hamilton the strength in stragety that was really needed.

      While I would agree that Whitmarsh was/is favoring Button to Hamilton, I don’t think that extends to strategy or equipment. If it did it would disrupt the entire team. He cannot afford the kind of internal disorder that would come from those types of favoritism. He would have lost one of the drivers by the end of the season.
      Finally, I don’t think Lewis being the stronger driver is going to change Whitmarsh’s bias. But that’s ok, as long as the cars are equal and the stategies are clear and fair for both drivers.

      1. I think thats a bit of a problem though. You need the team principal to be unbiased and be able to face race situations with clarity. To favour one driver, and it certainly appears that Martin likes Jenson more, when there’s a much stronger one in the team is setting a dangerous precedent.

      2. Frankly, I didn’t see Button being favoured in any way this year (contrary to last season).

    2. Is it only me who thinks that Whitmarsh favoring Button is absolute nonsense? Both drivers were treated equally throughout the season. Just because Jenson fluked a couple of lucky strategic calls and Lewis didn’t, really doesn’t change much. I cannot see how any team principal in their right mind would favor a tortoise over potentially the best driver on the grid.

  13. Button will be leaving McLaren soon.
    When the Mercedes
    engine deal ends. The Mercedes money that brought Button will not be there. McLaren will be powered by Mclaren, Paffet will join Hamilton in the all Mclaren team. Hamilton & Paffet have come through the Mclaren driver process. Mclaren will build their own engines. Mclaren WILL B number 1 again.
    It is in Ron`s script.
    The MP4 will show it 2 Newey (Ex McLaren – I am better than U, I will go on my own and prove it with redbull) AND Ferrari (no love lost between these 2 teams!!)

  14. Thoughts on this year, I think it was a fantastic year for Lewis. My opinion, drove better than he did since 2007….Some unlucky incidents happened, The monza thing was a gimmie, each driver had one unlucky thing happen to him this season, the failed overtake in singapore was just painful as Webber declined to follow racing protocol and just barge ahead, probably knowing that Lewis suffering damage would be to his advantage. Apart from that though, the pressure he put on the Bulls throughout the entire year was amazing.
    It was quite a shame Mclaren lost the plot as far as development was concerned…It seemed as if their car got worse and worse during the last stage of the season, losing front grip and appearing highly unstable.

    I think for next year, Its time for Mac to put up or shut up, quit the talking, quit the fraternizing(Martin) with Jenson, create a good baseline car to which updates do not upset, and just get on with it.

    1. It was quite a shame Mclaren lost the plot as far as development was concerned

      To me, this was the most frustrating part of the season for McLaren. They talked a good game before most races and failed to produce a car that was driveable. By the end of the year they were sounding like American politicians trying to convince the public that they had their best intrest in mind; in other words, “********”.

  15. If Vettel had just taken himself off instead of torpedoing Button at Spa the Button would have been much closer to the championship at the end. Hamilton may be capable of doing a quicker lap than Jensen but he was at times less effective at gathering points.

    1. MadMalc, That is just plain false! Button basically covered Hamilton’s 2 late season DNF’s with his 8th place in Hungary and 12th place in Korea. In every race this season Hamilton was running in the top six of every grand prix at the finish or when his race finished (Mech: ESP,2; HUN,4 Race Inc: ITA:4 SIN:4). That is unsurpassed consistency! He also was ahead of Jenson on about three-quarters of all race laps, the third best record on the grid.

      1. Button led more laps than Hamilton and was the only driver in the top 5 to not make a single error all season.

        1. Lewis had more wins, qualified better, more fastest laps….more faster laps IN the race compared to Button. Suffered two mechanical failures and still finished ahead of Jenson in points.

        2. So why did the young lad finish well ahead on points.

        3. Hmmm so your saying that even without making any mistakes and leading more from the front of the field he still only managed 5th place and 36 points behind his teamate… doesn’t exactly sound like an endorsement to me.

    2. Sorry -MadMalc- but you need to forget the school of ‘IF’ here. By the same token that you use if vettel hadn’t speared Button, I could say IF Hamilton hadn’t had a tyre fail, or IF Massa had been largely quicker than Alonso, or IF Webber hadn’t flipped overtaking Koveleinnen… the list is endless. When you use the school of ‘IF’ argument, you cannot use it to your favour then deny everyone else access to it. It doesnt work like that. What has happened has happened. It’s great to hear different opinions on the outcome, but leave the ‘IF’s out of it, speculate on the future yes, but not the past.

      1. Good talk there Jimscreechy. School of “if’s”….now that’s something interesting.

        Anyways, the word ‘if’ certainly belong to the past. Surely.

  16. It is a shame. There were some points like Turkey, China and Montreal where it seemed they were really going to win at least the constructers at the end of the year. The Red Bulls and Alonso was always going to be something to compete with though.

  17. Another thing to add was that on a few occasions when Mclaren had some momentum and had good things going for them, they’d bring in some sort of radical change or ‘experiment’ with some setup, realise it didn’t work after practice, and spend the rest of the weekend catching up. I really do admire their innovative approaches but sometimes they shouldn’t try to fix something that ain’t broken.

  18. A shame Lewis will never have a team work for him.
    Like Ferrari worked for Michael, or Renault work for

    1. That is a sad thing. unfortunately he is so loyal to McLaren that maybe he cant see the other side of things.

    2. *cough* 2007
      *cough* 2008
      *cough* 2009

      2010 is the only year I can recall where there seemed to be true parity of support for the drivers. Even pre-Hamilton, there was always bias towards one driver over the other. But yes, for 3 years in a row, Hamilton has enjoyed his team’s confidence and support.

      1. 2007????? Remember Monaco where a much faster Lewis was denied the win by the team? Are you aware that Alonso had Lewis excluded from several test sessions? Mclaren bent over backwards to make Alonso comfortable, so can we please stop with the nonsense that Lewis was favored in 2007. The simple fact is that he outdrove Alonso.

    3. U hypocroites. When Renault/ferrari worked/works for Alonso, u whine and takes everyting babd on Alonso coz team is backing him and u want the same for ur fav driver and since hw isnt getting that, u sympathesise with him.
      What a bunch of hypocrites.
      One thing which is good , cant be good for one and bad for another

      1. It is a bit hypocritical I admit. But ive come to accept that that is apparently wat Formula1 is about….it appears that mobilizing a team to back one driver produces a better recipe for a championship run at least.
        It seems McLaren, by splitting their car strategy between the two, end up hurting the whole in a sense…because we do know Lewis is the faster driver, and were the car and the mechanisms of the team structured around his tendencies and his driving style, I think that would be when McLaren would encounter the most success.

        1. Red Bull backed both of their drivers and it seems to have worked out alright for them…

          1. REally US_Peter? Do you actually believe that? When a team clearly has the fastest car on the grid, favouritism isn’t so much of an issue, though it can still cause some serious inter-team disharmony.
            For example when they broke the golden rule and took each other out in Turkey, it becomes relatively obvious which driver is favoured. The cuddling and consoling of Vettel (who most experts agree was at fault) is a clear indication who was ultimately favoured, as was the case with the issue with the broken front wing taken from WEbbers car and handed to Vettel at Silverstone. For the most part the cars are the same and drivers get equal treatment. It’s not like they tie one hand of the No.2 driver behind his back, or give half his mechanics the race weekend off. Still, differences subtly (or sometimes obviously) emerge, especially when there is an incident or the status quo is upset. I think one of the problems Horner had (for all his lipservice) was justifiably favouring Vettel when Webber was never truly outpaced by Vettel. Admittedly Red Bull did have some reliability issues, but the difference in peformance of the two drivers was often too close to call. If you still beleive Horner’s rhetoric about no team orders after looking at the evidence you are not being trully honest about the situation… INHO.

      2. Gill, what are you talkin about? There is no hypocrisy here at all. I can’t say I like Briatore’s agressive and often undermining style of management towards his no.2 drivers, but there was certainly nothing wrong with him favouring Alonso stategy, development, and position-wise within the team.
        The same is true of Alonso at Ferrari. He should be treated as No.1, development should be biased towards his preference, becasue he is the better driver. It has nothing to do with favouritism or fan based support. I think it is fairly well established that favouring the weaker driver is counterproductive to the team.

        I think the problems with Mclaren in 2007 largely developed becuase originally he (Alonso) was favoured as the faster driver and given the No.1 spot till Hamilton then clearly demonstrated he was at the very least on equal terms with Alonso in driving capability, and then proceeded to outpeform him for the remainder of the season. If next year Massa begins to dominate Alonso, Dominically would be foolish to continue to treat Alonso as top dog. What would you do?

    4. As much as I’d like to have a go as the comment encouraged the same string of angry posts everyone’s heard many times before, i’ll have to disagree. 2008 and 09 were 2 years where he pretty much did have the car to himself.

    5. Younger Hamilton
      16th December 2010, 17:53

      Lewis does have a team that works for him,McLaren.Anyway F1 is a Team Sport not a one man show.

  19. Mclaren drivers are talented & they have the most strongest team combination going into 2011.Yes Red Bull have it but the thing is that they had a crack in their relationship which we didn’t expected but we expected that to happened in Mclaren.

  20. Not a bad year for McLaren, their main problem was that the car design was fundamentally weak and sorely lacking in mechanical grip due to their obsession with fast-corner speed and stability. By my own calculations this cost them more than they gained as the tracks slightly favoured a good mechanical base. Of course, without the EBD it would have been a smart choice as downforce still rules the roost, but with it existing and the McLaren being more sensitive to its negative effects McLaren were caught out.

    Still, they were in contention for a very long time thanks to mostly only breaking down when off of the podium. With a good car McLaren will really be the team to beat next year.

  21. And the only one pole position by Lewis for McLaren in 2010..

  22. My guess is that while Jenson is slower no problems will come from the drivers at McLaren. The only stress signs came when Hamilton was behind in the WDC, or Button tried to pass him or was quicker in that odd race. I think Button is only getting on with his job. He is of the relaxed and easy going kind.

  23. so, what was Newey doing all these years @ Mclaren showing up @ RBR and ultimately making idiots out of great big monster teams such as Williams Renault Ferrari and yeah especially McLaren?

  24. As the great Murray Walker used to say:
    IF is F1 spelt backwards

  25. Absolutely correct Mark…..after Lewis beat Fernando at Bahrain…..Fernando went to Mclaren, and had Lewis excluded from his scheduled upcoming test sessions for Fernando’s home race at Spain. It didn’t help Alonso, because Hamilton still beat him in Spain.

  26. At the end of the day, neither driver won a championship in a car that was always capable of doing it. Don’t give me none of this “Ferrari and RedBull were a tenth faster” BS. Both drivers have issues to solve before the start of next season. The difference between the two will be how the car suits one compared to the other.

    Button did much better than anyone ever expected him to this season. If you want to point the finger at a poorly performing top team driver that was never going to win the championship, then you don’t have to look much further than Ferrari.

  27. Younger Hamilton
    16th December 2010, 17:50

    AND THOSE 18 Points he lost in Spain was deemed costy for the title and if he did get 2nd there then he would of won the title by 5 points taking Vettel’s and Alonso’s 3 points they gained from the premature crash.

  28. Younger Hamilton
    16th December 2010, 18:35

    McLaren need to focus on Downforce Creating Innovations instead of Stratight Line Speed Innovations(not saying they should stop) also they need a car that has good Mechanical Grip and are suited to both types of Tyre Compounds and in 2011 its crucial because of Pirelli’s Entrance next year.Im Counting on them!!! Make the MP4-26 the new MP4-20 but more reliable

  29. Infact I was impressed by Jenson Button in 2010. I must admit when it became public knowledge at the end of 2009 that Button was going to McLaren I feared the worst. I imagined Hamilton blowing the doors off Jenson and all the tantrums and scandals of 2007 within the McLaren team. There was none of this, and despite the events of Turkey, the two drivers appeared to respect one another.
    Now, I am not suggesting that Button is a better driver than Hamilton nor denying that Hamilton beat Button in the championship. What I am saying though is that Jenson is a far better driver than most gave him credit for, myself included. When you compare Button’s season at McLaren to Heikki Kovalainen’s rather lacklustre two year career there there is no comparison.

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