Relief at McLaren after last-minute changes pay off

2011 Australian GP team review

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McLaren’s decision to overhaul their MP4-26 in time for the first race was vindicated.

Lewis HamiltonJenson Button
Qualifying position24
Qualifying time comparison (Q3)1’24.307 (-0.472)1’24.779
Race position26
Pit stops22

Lewis Hamilton100.57393.77492.992.58292.47192.43492.44792.3192.61293.12192.73792.79592.47592.98493.186112.03999.56691.82391.491.19491.21291.52491.41491.56491.82591.41991.5192.26791.82691.14991.45394.25892.13392.01692.427113.29899.54891.01390.33891.290.31490.42191.08591.17590.51290.50890.63790.78590.75391.0191.31291.62991.4791.78991.76691.81392.18494.576
Jenson Button104.72294.13995.75693.81895.27893.29193.95994.02193.57794.65394.39693.19993.45393.61593.80294.897108.909100.864114.42799.91192.18792.01892.70691.73291.96891.17391.1691.14390.79691.67291.05591.26591.50891.61591.38891.459110.43899.62691.05690.58590.24390.40390.41190.22890.13290.17790.53690.54889.88390.64590.29390.09890.72990.55490.10690.28990.84891.203
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton was a full second slower than Sebastian Vettel in final practice, but just two-tenths off Mark Webber’s time. In qualifying he found an extra couple of tenths and split the Red Bulls to start on the front row.

He bogged down at the start and only hitting the KERS button allowed him to stay in front of Webber. Vettel streaked away and only towards the end of the first stint was Hamilton able to match his lap times.

Later in the race Hamilton was told to back off as part of his undertray worked loose. Despite dropping his pace quite considerably in the final laps he was still able to finish second.

Jenson Button

Button lined up fourth but lost out to Vitaly Petrov and Felipe Massa at the start.

He fought Massa hard for fifth in the opening laps, trying passes on several different parts of the circuit. He eventually got alongside Massa on the way into turn 11, but darted across the escape road and kept the position. He was handed a drive-through penalty.

Given the penalty Alonso received at Silverstone last year, Button could be criticised for not taking it upon himself to give the place back.

But on the other hand the stewards turned a blind eye to two other off-track overtaking moves involving Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi, so perhaps Button was hard done by.

The penalty cost Button precious time but he was aided by Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg colliding.

He overtook Kamui Kobayashi and later caught Massa again. But with the Ferrari driver by now on the hard tyres Button was able to use his DRS to pass him on the pit straight, taking sixth.

Without the penalty he might well have joined Hamilton on the podium.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said he was happy with the result given the team’s testing form: “When you consider where we were a few weeks ago, you?d have to say that for us to come away from Australia with 26 world championship points is a pretty decent outcome.

“More important, though, it means that we?ve got a very promising platform from which to develop our car and compete for world championship honours this season.”

2011 Australian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
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    79 comments on “Relief at McLaren after last-minute changes pay off”

    1. Being stubborn cost Button and McLaren a third place. Everyone knew he was going to get a penalty, a really stupid decision by them.

      1. Yeah.. but on the other hand.. what great racing it was to watch Button all over the back of that Ferrari for 3 or so laps. I loved it. For that, I’m glad I watched.

        1. What kept nagging at me watching that was that Lewis would have done Massa in about two laps…as battles between those two have often shown.

          1. Done him or hit the back of him (see Monza 2010).

            1. That’s unfair – Hamilton ran into the side of Massa – and he was the only one who didn’t see it coming.

            2. Or Australia 2010 perhaps?

            3. Yeh abit like vettel doing button in spa and webber in turkey :)

        2. It was a bit opposite to the start of last year (after Bahrain), where Button ran solidly for good results and Hamilton had a real good fight through the field.

          Nice to see Button do this kind of driving. A shame about the penalty, they should have seen that coming.
          But I think this rule needs a bit of clarity as to why Buemi was let off after investigating it and Vettel was not even investigated for making the move stick with going off track.

      2. Many of you may remember me being in fits of rage last summer about the unfairness of Alonso’s penalty at Silverstone. I might be much more calm about what happened to Button on Sunday but the principle here is pretty much the same. Button received a penalty which was not only disproportionate to the offense but could have been avoided if the stewards acted decisively and told Button to give the place back in the time before Massa pitted.

        I know Button should have given the place back, but its really not good for racing to see him get punished as heavily as he did when decisive action from the stewards could have avoided it.

        1. I would think the punishment is more about his refusal to yield the position than the offence in the first place.

          1. agreed. also, as we’ve seen a few times now, charlie whiting and the fia are not in a position to hear arguments on this. they would have said “you should give the place back” as they did last year, but none of the decision making is theirs.

        2. For once Ads I’m going to disagree with you :P Alonso was told in plenty of time at Silverstone but Ferrari stupidly chose to ignore it. I don’t know if Button was told straight away but it should have been fairly obvious after Silverstone 2010. I don’t think it was disproportionate; Button got an advantage so had to give it back or got the only punishment available that’s often used and that’s a drive through. He shouldn’t have been allowed to have just have carried on and neither should have Alonso although I was hugely frustrated at Silverstone 2010 at the time I admit.

          1. Fact was Button didn’t need to be told, it was common sense to let Massa back past.

            Everyone knows by now if you cut the corner and overtake, you give the place back. It baffles me that Button and McLaren could have been so stupid.

            1. I have to agree with TommyB89. Jenson only has himself to blame anyway because he wasn’t actually in front.

              It initially like he went off the track to prevent Alonso getting him if he had had to back off… but the fact he didn’t then let Massa past baffled me.

              The benefits do not outweigh the risks. Forget talking to Charlie, he should have known what to do.

            2. Button convinced himself that he was leading before the corner though, so once he’d decided that it was likely hard for him to accept that he’d gained an unfair advantage.

            3. They weren’t being stupid, Button said he was in front so they were asking about that, Charlie said wait and we will get back to you, then just gave them the penalty.

          2. Well clearly I’m in a minority of one on this, but still I think it is disproportionate to send a driver to the back of the field when for gaining an advantage going off track during an overtake. Of course he should have given the place back, but these things are rarely clear cut and I’m sure Button believed that he didn’t have to give the place back. Its not that he refused to give the place back rather he didn’t think he was obliged to.

            If there was clear and rapid way for race control or the stewards to order a driver to immediately give up the place it would solve the problem. If the driver still ignored an order to let the other car back past then give him a drive through. But it can’t be right that the first clarification Button got that he’d gained an unfair advantage was when he was clobbered with a drive through.

            charlie whiting and the fia are not in a position to hear arguments on this

            Surely there could be a way for the stewards to look at the replay and give the order to a driver within a lap

            1. I think there should be an agreement between the teams and FIA/race control that goes as follows: if an incident occurs and the team that thinks its driver may have caused an infringement in overtaking is unsure whether it will be scrutinized or penalized, but can do seomthing about it (give the place back), the team can ask for a snap decision from race control within 1 lap (say). The onus would be on the decision being made as soon as possible, within a few corners ideally. However this decision (by one person, pref. Whiting) is binding – it cannot be appealed during or after the race, or changed by the stewards, or appealed by other teams. In other cases, normal steward inquiries apply.

              I’m really thinking of the Spa 2008 incident between Hamilton and Raikonnen when Hamilton let Kimi past him – briefly. McLaren asked for Whiting’s opinion and got a kind of answer from him quickly (‘think it’s okay’) that was later overturned. A quick ‘yes, that can stick’ or ‘no give it back and wait a corner’ would have been far better. Some people will always grumble or complain but as in football these refereeing decisions kind of average out over time.

    2. It’s quite plain to see where Button lost most time, and to see where Hamilton had his ‘off’.

      1. Both Ferrari’s got the fastest laps of the race (Massa was fastest), ahead of both Red Bull’s (Webber was fastest) and Button’s McLaren. Hamilton got 8th fastest lap.

        1. mainly due to the fact that when there was low fuel, he was looking after the damaged car

          1. Well yes, he damaged his car…or something did…or someone…or….these things happen.

            1. Rio Haryanto GP3
              28th March 2011, 20:54

              hey VXR,
              mclaren’s car not a dog after all, eh?

            2. @Rio It is a dog…. it’s a greyhound!

          2. and fresh set of soft tyres

        2. These cars of which you speak all stopped 3 times.

        3. mclaren is still a young car compared to RB and ferrari as soon as they get to the zillions of miles RB and ferrari has dan mclaren will be on top in a matter of time.

    3. I think they’re best balanced duo in the grid. You know Massa and Webber are more than better driver but their team mates overshadow them. But even Hamilton has edge on qualifying pace, Button catch up in the race fairy. Well, if both of them outpace Webber, constructor’s championship would be Mclaren’s. But driver’s title is different problem.

      I cannot understand why pit-wall didnt’t say pull back or Button himself didn’t. They’re very familiar with short-cut issue, but it seems like they never learn from it!

      1. Indeed. Someone should have reminded Whitmarsh of Spa 2008.

        1. Except in that instance they gave the place back and were still awarded with a penalty…

          1. THIS – Why the hell would McLaren give the place back without being sure there would be no further penalty? That is why they asked CW i suppose.

            If Button gave the place back THEN got a drive through his race is even more wrecked – I thought watching it live he would just run down the road for 3 laps to try to minimise the penalty.

            His Inability to overtake the 6th fastest driver in F1 does not bode well for his season…

            1. McLarenFanJamm
              29th March 2011, 12:25

              IF button had given the place back and been behind Massa until Massa pitted there wouldn’t have been a penalty. Even allowing both Ferrari drivers past wouldn’t have hindered him and Alonso pitted a lap after the incident happened.

              Difference being that in Spa Lewis gave the place back but then immediately overtook Raikkonen (imo completely fair but clearly the FIA feel differently)

              The two situations are completely different though, which is what I was referring to.

              In regard to your last paragraph, I am sure Button will have a fine season, if he had just been slightly more patient in Aus he would have eventually passed Massa, either on the track or in the pit stops.

    4. Hard to believe that was the MP4-26, looked like a different car in performance. in 2009 it took half a season to cure their car, this time it took a fortnight. Loosing Bahrain was the best thing that could have happened for the Woking-based boys & girls.

      1. Ironic since they are part own by the Bahrain Royal Family.

      2. I don’t think anybody really knew what kind of performance the Mac had up its sleeve, meaning it was probably never a dog, just never got to be tested for raw pace due to reliability….testing is testing anyone???

        1. mclaren are positive from the test in WT and plus CDF the performance is there its just get to know the car batter and setings they will be on top of their game no matter what this was from the top boss so funds are there to do whatever it takes this got to be mclarens year.

    5. Button would’ve finished the race on the podium, perhaps even 2nd. Very unusual to see him being that stupid, as he’s always been very smart at every decision on-track.

      1. That sorta thing is a bit overrated I think. Every driver has had and will have his red mist/stupid moments on track…I mean, heck look at Rubens on Sunday. These guys aren’t robots.

        1. Button was clearly acting out of frustration more then anything, thats what I gathered from the radio feed prior to the illegal pass.

          1. Indeed. Massa just looks reckless when he’s defending position of late – going to cause a massive shunt soon if we’re not careful.

            1. How was it Massa’s fault that Button couldn’t pass? From what I saw -and I may have been mistaken as it was early- he didn’t weave but firmly held his line. First he gets criticised for letting drivers through now… :P

            2. He nearly also wiped Button out a couple of times by outbraking himself when he had the inside line in a desperate bid to keep the position. At least once forcing Button to take avoiding action and leave the track on the outside of the bend.

            3. Excuse me? Massa was very solidly defending, nothing wrong with that. That battle was one of the highlights of the race!

            4. @Steph, no one told Massa Button was faster than him…

              ( oooooo cynical!!! :D )

        2. Nope, these guys aren’t robots, but Button always seemed to be very calm and smart on track. Not sure what happened on sunday.

    6. Hope the myth about Hammy being a ‘tire-chewer’ gets absolutely blasted to smithereens this year. Its annoying to keep hearing that, when the data shows that his and Button’s driving styles are not that much different.

      1. Considering that one rookie driver did the whole race on one stop, I don’t really think that tyre wear was a particularly big problem for most drivers in the race. Some obviously got it seriously wrong (Webber), but it’s probably more of a car thing than a driver thing at the moment.

        1. yes but to be honest this myth should have been dismissed a couple of years ago.

      2. Right on the money Sam…….Lewis was the last to stop between, Vettel, Alonso and Webber for the first series of pitstops.

    7. One thing I’m happy about from the first race is that the MP4-26 seems to be good on its tyres, at least better than red bull and ferrari, this might help them at later races.

      1. Not as good as the Sauber though, which did a faster race lap than Hamilton did and only stopped once!

        1. you really are doing your best to put Hamilton and Mclaren down. Might be linked to the joy you seemed to take out of their winter testing form (did eddie share any of his pie?).

          As I’ve said above, Hamilton isn’t going to set a good lap time if his cars damaged when the cars light. And it’s far more important that they have better tyre wear over the teams they are competing with and this is the case

          1. Actually, I would be pleased as punch if either Button or Hamilton won the championship in a McLaren.

            What McLaren mustn’t do is read too much into what happened in OZ, because the tyres held up better than was expected, which may not always be the case. And then you’ll see teams like maybe Sauber putting in unexpected performances and perhaps some of the top teams will suffer. One Swallow does not make a summer.

            1. It could be that Perez choice of starting on the hards was what allowed him to be on a 1stopper. None of the top 10 are likely to mimic that though. It might inspire others behind them to try it at times though.

            2. Team McLaren has a habit of messing up a wet dream. Drivers, engineers, team managers, all, have made drastic mistakes over the past three years that makes one wonder about their intellect and common sense.

    8. If you just look at Lewis’ laptimes, it’s really interesting to see having new tyres, the tyres warming up and coming in before dropping off over the stints.

      I’m assuming that the big blip is the off and the little blipsis traffic (yes I know, the giant blips are pit stops). Quite incredible really.

      Not too dissimilar to Vettel’s, aside from outright laptimes and Seb’s times seemed to be consistently flat for a stint.

    9. Jenson would not have been in the position he was had Hamilton not seriously c@cked up the start. It’s clear he chose to slipstream Lewis to the first corner hopefully to edge out Webber. Instead he was left floundering around looking for the next best option whilst the faster starters behind jumped all over him. I think it’s a shame Massa has lost his mojo – he was a force the year Lewis won the championship – now when someone attacks he’s 100% defensive.

      1. I agree with that: Ham’s slow getaway has been decisive in Button’s misfortune at the start. I think he should have been more patient and should have stuck just behind Hamilton at turn 1, instead he just opened a huge door to Petrov. Poor decision.

        1. Well he could have just outqulaified Hamilton if he didnt want that problem

          1. Correct Hamiltons start screwed everyone that opted to go down that side of the grid.. mainly losers from it were Button and Alonso

            1. So it’s Hamilton’s fault that several other drivers CHOSE to follow him off the start line? Give me a break…

    10. I agree with many on this, McLaren should have told Button to yield immediately when safe to do so. The excuse that the FIA did not get back to them in time is rather naive.

      Great result for Hamilton and he seemed genuinely thrilled with it, that rate of development from McLaren is something to be feared.

      Button had a bit of a disaster but Massa did an impeccable job of keeping him at bay. Enough to force him to break the rules. The pressure starts already!

      1. The excuse that the FIA did not get back to them in time is rather naive.

        Though I agree with that, Whitmarsh said that the stewards stated they would get back to McLaren about the incedent after they asked for advice, and instead they went straight to officially investigate then hand out a penalty.

    11. Forget drivers of the Aus GP the real achievers were the Mclaren designers and the guys in the garage getting the car seriously competitive in such a limited amount of time with no testing. All of the people who said Lewis should leave Mclaren should pause for thought but he’d be walking away from a seriously talented group who can turn a slow car into a challenger in a heart beat.

      1. Agreed. But do we really know that they were not sandbagging – and that everyone (including the drivers) were taking us for a ride?

        1. Yes we do know that they weren’t sandbagging. You don’t stick a whole new floor and exhaust system on less than two week before the first race if you already have performance.
          Oh and reliability.
          Ask Brundle, James Allen, or anyone that actually saw the car in testing, failing that find a video of testing, I was shocked about how visible the problems were.
          You can’t over look the reliability either they genuinely could do enough laps…

          1. could not do enough laps… that not sand bagging.

    12. Buttons 2nd Pitstop was 2 seconds slower than his drive through penalty. that pitstop was actually incredably fast!

    13. Looks very promising for McLaren, the U shaped side pods worked, and that’s the key thing; their radical design will still have lots of optimisation left in it, and hence it should be easy to unluck more time, where as Red Bull are probably very close to the peak of their design, seeing as it’s a heavily optimised version of last years car.

    14. They made a very big step forward.I will say that the penalty Button received was justify.Good race for Hamilton,if he had a good car till the end he may have had challenged Vettel for the top spot.

    15. How many time have Mclaren been told not to ask thd stewards anything. I also wonder why they haven’t learned from all their previous assocations with Whithing. Whenever they ask him a question he delays, they gdt a penalty.
      In my honest opinion they have no excuse. And I’m surprised Button was using words to distort a video evidence.
      To even attempt to blame Ferrari for anything is beyond me.
      Withmarsh is just great at making excuses and explaining irrelevant things.

    16. Lewis alaways get a podium finish when nicole is around the track. there always a woman behind the success of every driver.

    17. It was disappointing to see Button get sixth, especially with the pace he had. It was an uncharacteristic move of him, and I think that was mainly brought on through frustration. I thought he thought that it was better to gamble and have it pay off than be stuck by not one, but two Ferraris!

      Having said that, I think if Jenson had have known that they were pitting in the next 1-2 laps, then he would have given the place back. The damage had already been done.

      It may not have been the case if he hadn’t got stuck behind Hamilton, which caused his start to be hindered and therefore allowing Massa and Petrov through.

      Ifs, buts and maybes though. Hopefully he’ll shine through in Malaysia :D

      1. Yes, agree with everything you say. It was Buttons own fault at the end of the day, but it must hurt a bit as looking at his pace for 2/3 of the race he should of been fighting with Hamilton which would of been great to see, oh well.. if onlys.

        1. Jeffrey Powell
          29th March 2011, 19:05

          Has Schumi. lost it or is this really how fast he has always been (were most of the opposition other than Hakinnen not up to much sorry D.C.) . Was the 2007 and 2008 Ferrari much quicker that the Maclaren and did it make Massa and Raikkonen look much quicker than they really were. Is Massa that much slower than Alonso and therefore Alonso’s old teamate Hamilton. Are Vettel ,Alonso and Hamilton quicker than there teamates by at least .5 seconds per lap. Would Button have been able to scrap with Lewis in his broken car ,we will never know .

          1. That’s what makes the debates interesting, we will never know the full truth to all those questions

    18. Think Hamilton drove a stellar race, despite his poor start. Would have been good to see what could have happened if he got a good start of the line, then use KERS to attack Vettel around turn 1 as I believe race pace for those 2 cars were very similar (also maybe mclaren better on the tyres?). Button was unfortunate at the start, but cant help feeling he could have “stuck one up the inside” on massa (MB speak). JB/Mclaren should have known better than to wait on the stewards, give the place back and attack again, but guess lesson learnt. Excited about the long straights in Malaysia/KERS/DRS/Merecedes engine vs Renault etc. Red bull are def fast but with all the variables/KERS reliability others (and hopefully Mclaren) can be in the mix. I think that al the pre-season reviews and expectations should never be taken too seriously as shown in AUS – Ferrari were quite behind where they were expected to be & Mclaren turned it around. Bring on Sepang.

    19. mclaren are the best team in inovation and this radical car performance is just the start as soon as they get to know the car batter finetune it they will be compiting with RB, tyre managment thats ok coz its the key to this year.

    20. beckenlima (@)
      29th March 2011, 22:20

      In qualifying he found an extra couple of tenths and split the Red Bulls to start on the front row.

      He had no KERS, wich denied him some tenths in the pocket and, beyond that, Whitmarsh said that without KERS Lewis lost some balance in his breaks in that final lap.

      That was an superb performance in qualy from him.

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