Hamilton and Button: All smiles – for now

2011 F1 season preview

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Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button

At the start of last year there was much speculation about how McLaren would handle having two world champions in its driver line-up.

To the surprise of some, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have got on well, and whenever they’re together, seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

No one expects F1 team mates to be the best of friends. Last year Red Bull’s driver pairing proved a combustible one and it wasn’t all smiles at Ferrari either.

McLaren have had their share of problems in this area as well – not least with Fernando Alonso and Hamilton in 2007.

But, despite all the talk of Button entering ‘Hamilton’s den’, and the plain fact that he was out-paced by his team mate for much of the season, Button seems to be quite at home in the McLaren environment.

He snuck two brilliant, opportunistic wins last year, but his weakness in qualifying is an area he admits he needs to work on.

At times last year Button gave the impression he was trying a different set-up to Hamilton in the hope it would give him an advantage – an approach which work at Monza but didn’t at Suzuka.

Button does the corporate thing very well – as does Hamilton, though he sometimes allows his emotions to betray his true feelings.

Hamilton was visibly frustrated at the lack of running he had during testing at Barcelona. Similarly, his unhappiness with the team’s strategy at Melbourne last year was made plain in a series of terse radio messages.

During the winter Hamilton spoke of personal problems that affected him last season. He had earlier split publicly with his manager, father Anthony.

Whatever was the root of his problems, it didn’t prevent him from keeping Button under control throughout 2010.

But while Button came late to the development of last year’s car, the MP4-26 should be a better fit for him this time around.

We could see these two much closer on the track more often than last year. McLaren insist the pair will continue to receive equal treatment.

But think back to their dice at Istanbul in 2010 – with Hamilton asking the team on the radio whether Button was allowed to pass him – and it’s not hard to see how the camaraderie could come under more strain this time.

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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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61 comments on “Hamilton and Button: All smiles – for now”

  1. Methinks Button will struggle this year, but keep a lookout for Hamilton – I reckon he’d blaze the trail!

    1. Hamilton is the better but remember he is by far more aggrassive on tyres which is a very key element this season.He lost many races due to tyre failure so if he can learn to manage his tyre like Button then I think he will be tough to defeat. But if that isn’t the case then I think Button have the advantage.

      1. I remember hearing something about the new tyres being stronger at the front than last years, which would suit lewis’ driving style more than jensons

        1. Not so, as Button focuses more, in comparison to Hamilton, how he modulates the pedals into and out of corners. With Hamilton’s aggressive style, the back end of the car may become much more unstable and shed the tyres. Button might have the advantage for tyres but possibly not overall speed when in qualifying.

        2. Not just that they are stronger at the front, but also that the balance changes between tyres and even over a stint.

          Be prepared to hear Button about having problems “finding the right balance” all year.

          1. … and “lacking grip.”

      2. Sorry but I really dont buy that cliché about Button been gentle with his tyres and extract better performance than Lewis.

        I think Patrick hit the nail on that. Lewis is much more adaptable to an unbalanced car and more important, to a car that change its behavior through different stints.

        Regard tyre management, a friend have a good opinion about that: “Tyre management Is the ability to extract The absolute best from a tyre when and where you need it, and you could argue that Lewis is better in this area.

        So, tyre preservation is about making your tyres last as long as possible without regard to extracting maximum performance only maximum distance, getting from A to B fastest and takes balancing up maximum performance against lost time due to factors such as extra greater tyre degradation, and extra pitstops.”

        And more important, Lewis won Canada last year, a race that was all about tyre management, and not about make the right call at the right time.

        1. Lewis won Canada last year, a race that was all about tyre management, and not about make the right call at the right time.

          Good point.

        2. Lewis is much more adaptable to an unbalanced car and more important, to a car that change its behavior through different stints.

          I have been looking forward to Button doing very well this coming season, with him able to look after the tyres and all that.

          What a sinking feeling as I read your words, which ring very true.

  2. I respect Mclaren and two champions in terms of how they handle each other. It was little suprise because we know what happened in 2007. I don’t think many things would change this year, but I expect Button’s performance would be better.

  3. I think the softer tyres should help with Button’s quali pace – he used to be great at it with the grooved Michelin’s and it’s only really in the last season and a half he’s struggled with it.

    1. They should help him. As some experienced during testing getting the tyres to work exactly the right lap (and not go off in the last sector) is quite challenging. That means getting heat into them should not be the problem.
      And sitting lower in the car will be good for Button as well (last year was a bit tight fit for him).

      1. Button overcooked his tyres during qualifying on several occassions in 2010 as well.

        It’s not just that he couldn’t get the heat in, also that sometimes he went too far.

  4. If they do fallout it could be a lot worse and a bit more personal than say Vettel & Webber or Massa & Alonso because of the fact they get on pretty good now and seem genuine friends rather than just work colleagues. Would expect them to be closer on track more often this year as Button sorts out his qualifying. Hamilton has the slight edge on speed though as he probably has on anyone else on the grid. Button being better on this years rubber might help equalize that though.

    1. If they’ve actually managed to forge a genuine friendship off track, I doubt that that will change due to what happens on track. For example, Alonso and Kubica racing hard against each other hasn’t affected their friendship. I think the drivers all understand that there are no friendships on the track…

    2. Hamilton also has the edge on overtaking ability (maybe on everyone!). I do think they have a good relationship and mutual respect for each other.

  5. Button needs to qualify better,though I think Hamilton is a better driver then him & but Button is a WC & has to up his game in order to take the lead in the team so that the team can have both driver performing maximum.Among the four big teams this is the team who don’t have any issue between them as they are happy what they do.

  6. I think they will be even more evenly matched this season. Any talk of them falling out is nonsense though, they are both too mature. Button managed to ignore Villeneuve being directly unpleasant to him at BAR in 2003, and Hamilton (depending on what you believe…) was the lesser of two evils in 2007.

    The tyres should work in Button’s favour in that he may have the advantage of one less pitstop to Hamilton, but this won’t be the story every race. I do look forward to them fighting on track though – I think the only way their relationship will turn sour is through a coming together on track.

  7. I think the Istanbul thing showed how well Button and Hamilton actually do get on in reality. A potentialy combustibal situation, was delt with quietly in and around the podium, both drivers quickly establishing some sort of missunderstanding had taken place, then it all got resolved away from the camera’s. A relationship that was fine under stress looks to be a good one.

    I think they’ll have more mutual gripes this year if McLaren can’t sort the car out in time to ompete for the title.

    1. I agree, that kind of thing makes it a lot easier to cope with tough situations.

    2. I agree. I don’t think a repeat of that situation would result in hard feelings between the 2 drivers as I think both of them appreciate that they are racing drivers and are out to win above all else – unless the team specifically told them not to and 1 of them disobeyed that instruction.

      I think it would be more likely to lead to friction between driver and team.

  8. Nickthegeek
    5th March 2011, 12:26

    People always talk about Lewis beating jenson last year but the amount of points it was by means for me it falls into the could of gone either way camp. Compared to the overall points available in a season the final margin was minimal, a non-retirement here or there on jensons part and it would of been a role reversal. I think because Lewis out performed jenson is qualifing generally skews the actual facts in peoples minds. Yes Lewis is the quicker more aggressive driver but the formula one championship is a marathon, not a sprint… There are more than one ways to skin a cat as the saying goes. Had it not been for instance seb recklessly taking jenson out at spa and / or a forgetful mechanic at Monaco the smooth and steady reliable approach would of given jenson the win in the team, maybe even the title. It could be argued that Lewis had equal bad luck but it had to be noted that most of his bad luck was as a direct result of his own aggressive approach not outside influence.

    1. The only reason it was so close on points was because Hamilton had much more retirements which weren’t his fault.

      You only mention Button’s problems, but Hamilton had lots more.

      Hamilton Lost 18 points in Barcelona from a rim failure, 12 for the gearbox failure in Hungary, 2 for the gearbox problem in Suzuka and then he got rammed off by Webber twice costing him another 17 points.

      If you calculate the points they should have gotten but didn’t beyond their own fault then Button gets 224 points and Hamilton 274.

      That’s two full race wins difference and that much more closely resembles how it looked on TV.

    2. I understand where you’re coming from, but no way would Jenson have come 1st in his team all things being equal, let alone the title. Button lost less points due to car failure/other driver fault.

      Button: 20 pts (quali’d 8th in Monaco and was taken out while 2nd in Spa)

      Hamilton: 40 pts (taken out in Melbourne, tyre failure in Spain, mechanical failure in Hungary, mechanical failure in Suzuka)

      And let’s not forget eventual champion Vettel: 78 pts! (mechanical issues in Bahrain, Melbourne, Spain and SK, and clipped by Hamilton in Britain)

      Even if JB didn’t have those retirements he still would have finished 5th as he was 26 pts behind Hamilton at the end.

      But it was always going to be tough coming into a team set up around Hamilton. I’m reserving judgement on how he truly compares to Ham until the final race this year.

      1. Hamilton actually lost 49 points and Button gained 8 points from it too. Button only retired behind Hamilton. So that’s 57 points Hamilton lost over Button.

        Actually looking at it again, I’d say Button would have ended on 222 points and Hamilton on 289. If they hadn’t had any of these problems.

        Button wouldn’t have moved up even a single spot in the end results.

        1. NickTheGeek
          5th March 2011, 18:59

          Actually fair points Patrickl & Andy,

          at the time of writing for some reason I had completely forgotten those break downs. I think the crash outs towards the end of the season had clouded my memory.

          official Doh! :o)

    3. NickTheGeek
      5th March 2011, 19:28

      Looking back over the actual stats. They both DNF’d 2 races due to reasons beyond their control. Lewis DNF’d 2 extra races for “racing accidents” and still finished ahead. I guess when you look at it like that.

  9. Considering the Pirelli tyres are going to shred themselves in no time this year, this will play right into Button’s hands. He’ll make a set of tyres last longer than his competitors and could feature quite frequently on the podium, that is if Mclaren arent miles of the pace (which they seem somewhat fearful of being at the moment).

    I would say that Button would be the dark horse for the championship this year. Just a sneaky feeling on this one. If Kubica was racing, I would say him as well for the same reasons.

  10. Throughout 2009 and bits of 2010 we were reminded just how much Button looks after his tyres and the car as a whole. Maybe that cautiousness will pay off this year? I hope so.

    1. Indeed that same argument was made beginning 2010 that the importance of tyre management would mean that Button would be right up thre with Hamilton. Maybe he would even be in front.

      Yet he wasn’t. In fact Button had a terrible time dealing with the tyres.

      This year it just looks to get worse for him.

      These new tyres degrade for everyone not just for people besides Button. Every driver can go easy on the tyres. They have all demonstrated that they can do just about a whole race on a single set if they need to (Hamilton in Brazil 2009, Vettel in Monza 2010, Alonso in Monaco 2010, Rosberg and Petrov in Abu Dhabi). Of course it’s usually not the best strategy, but if they need to they can.

      Come to think of it only Button didn’t. He couldn’t make his tyres last in the first stint in Australia 2010, not in the middle stint in Malaysia and not in the first stint in Korea. Ah well.

      The tyres this year tend to give oversteer. The front is stronger. Which is what is supposed to give Schumacher more of a chance this year. It’s also the preferred handling for drivers like Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso. It’s about the opposite of what Button wants.

      Even worse, Button wants the balance to be perfect. If it’s not his whole weekend seems to fall apart. Now these new tyres have different handling between compounds and even during a stint.

      1. Let them hear that.

      2. Agree. Button only had a tyre advantage over Lewis last season, where the tyres didn’t degrade all that quick, and a driver can make the tyres last a whole lot more laps by adopting a more relaxed driving style. This year the tyres aren’t going to last no matter how much Jenson tries. Unless he coasts around the circuit 3 secs slower than anyone else, he is not going to be able to make the tyres last even 5 to 6 more laps. Additionally, the oversteering nature of this years tyres are completely going to work against Jenson.

        First of all I refuse to believe that Jenson is a master of tyre management, just as I refuse to believe that he is a master strategist. I think Button will get hammered by Lewis this year.

    2. I read in Autosport this week that the tyres’ degrade mechanically and the driver will be able to do very little to preserve them. So driver’s like Jensen might be able to make them last half a lap longer than Lewis, but Lewis will be further down the road anyway!

  11. I think Jenson could have a really good year; he struggled last year withn some dreadful qualifying performances but in the Michelin days it was his qualifying that was usually his speciality so if he can make the Pirelli’s work on a Saturday he could be in for an easier season, the car will be more suited to him than last year’s (just fitting in it from the start will be a boost) and his smooth style could make the Pirelli’s last longer. I think I read on JA’s site (you know that other not so good F1 blog :P) that Hamilton seemed frustrated with the new tyres and I know it is still early days and Hamilton is a brilliant driver and should couple fine but there is the potential for Jenson to push Lewis very hard this year. If Jenson saves his tyres during the race while Lewis drives like a maniac it could be really fascinating although I think that’s just me wishfully thinking as I’d love to see how it would play out.

    He didn’t do too badly at all last year when he collected two wins, nearly won at Monza with great strategy choice and very good race and his race at Brazil was mighty impressive. He also got some bad luck at Monaco and was cruelly taken out at Spa but I suppose it was balanced out by Hamilton’s Hungary problems and his own wreckless move in Monza. However, I do think they were fairly closely matched at least on race day so I hope Jenson is one of the surprises of 2011 if he can sort out his qualifying.

    1. I agree with tyre and I think Button would deal with rear wing and KERS better than Hamilton. even if he could not match Ham’s raw quali pace, it should help closing gap or more than just closing.

      1. Hamilton proved to be the most adept at using KERS of any driver in ’09.

        1. I don’t think Hamilton will struggle with KERS as he had it before and he was great with it but I also can’t decide if he was the best at using it. From interviews it just seems like the engineer a lot of the time tells the drivers when to use it and the Mclaren had the best system plus there was only really 4 cars that used it throughout the season.

          1. All true. Räikkönen made the single best move with it as Spa, but Hamilton seems to me like he used it better overall. My memories a bit fuzzy on it all to be honest though.

          2. right. timing decision and advice are all from engineers. but it’s only in terms of single lap time. when you follow front runner it’s more difficult especially rear wing. pit-wall could advice but choice and timing is up to drivers. it would be very interesting.

          3. I remember Hamilton beating Alonso in a (if not “the”) KERS on KERS duel. It was pretty amazing to watch.

          4. Could you please let me know exactly when it happened? I was little lazy in 2009(little bored by Brawn :D) so my memory is poor. it sounds like pretty interesting scene.

          5. Sorry I forgot which race it was, but it was a dry one in the beginning of 2009 (obviously when Renault were still using KERS)

            Alonso used up his KERS while defending from a few pokes from Hamilton and in the end Hamilton still had some left.

        2. I think it doesn’t mean Hamilton is the most adept. of course he could be. but no evidence, right? I’d rather say it means Mclaren’s KERS is superior.

          1. Mclaren’s KERS is superior.

            It definitely was in ’09, though wasn’t it a Mercedes KERS? That should be helpful to Mercedes GP this year. Of all the fron runners Red Bull are probably in the least strong position in terms of KERS. They have no personal experience with it and are running the Renault which was not the best in ’09.

    2. If Lewis drove like a maniac, and as you say, “made a wreckless move at Monza”……I would hate to read what you thought about Vettel, especially when you consider some of his moves, that he made last season.

    3. If lewis drives like a maniac, and as you also say Steph, “made a wreckless move at Monza”…….I would hate to read what you may have to say and thought about Vettel, especially when you consider some of the moves that he had made last season.

  12. If this two drivers ever have a problem then it will have been created by the team, like they almost did in Turkey.
    Neither driver has any problems with being outpaced by the other, but the onus is on Mclaren to convey precisely, whatever the actual race situation and performance status of each driver, to all team personnel, especially the indivdual race engineers.
    At that Turkis race, Hamilton had no problems with Button, but he was left bewildered that, the assurance he received from his race engineer proving to be spectacularly wrong, only moments after it had been delivered with full confidence.

  13. I think as long as Hamilton has the upper hand they will remain amiable. Button seems the level headed of the two that allows the two to get along. Hamilton seems ok too, personality wise but I think if the roles were reversed last year they would not be as friendly.

    1. But Button realises that Hamilton is faster an he seems resigned to it. The best he can do is try to stick as close as possible.

      Besides, Whitmarsh is his biggest fan, so there won’t be any Horner/Marko type focus on only the fastest driver.

  14. UKfanatic (@)
    5th March 2011, 14:14

    I don´t know what is going to happen. If mclaren is winning most definitely there are going to be some fights between them and the press will know about it, if mclaren isn´t winning they will be fighting aswell but no one cares about it cause they arent winning, certantely a typical teamate situation, they will never like each other this is the same for any team

  15. They may be closer to eachother this year, but not the leading cars! ;)

  16. It is understandable that last year, people were wondering how the relationship would turn out. This year however, there is no need to wonder – they are good friends. Nothing will happen. End of story.

  17. michael harries
    5th March 2011, 15:43

    It will all be fine unless Jenson outperforms Lewis – then it would get nasty.

  18. This “falling out” rubbish is just the media trying to make a story.

    1. What falling out?

      1. Exactly

        1. Hamilton and Button: All smiles – for now

  19. Wobblebottom
    6th March 2011, 23:07

    Indeed. Lest we forget, 2007 (really don’t want to bring this up again but I need to). Hamilton can spit the dummy as good as anyone (even Alonso ;-)), if Jenson was beating him, I would bet my first born that Hamilton would pull an Alonso – problem is that Whitmarsh loves Button and wouldn’t play ball but of Dennis was still in command……well……he just might :-)

  20. Think you might all be a little bit blinded by Hamiltons more aggressive style, sure he takes chances and pushes but don’t forget Brasil when Button needed a points finish of 5th in his Brawn to wrap up title, what a drive that was particularrly against Kobyashi in the Toyota, Hamilton needed to make some moves in Brasil and couldn’t do it relying on a slip from Glock in the last corner to win his title, without the rain Massa was World Champ.

  21. Without the rain, Glock wouldn’t have gotten into 4th place, because he didn’t stop like Hamilton and Vettel. frow14 without the rain Hamilton had a lock on the championship.

  22. Going to be fun watching these two self destructing this year! Can’t wait for Melbourne.

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