McLaren: Hamilton strong on “disastrous” Pirellis

2011 Spanish GP team review

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Lewis Hamilton described the new Pirelli tyres as “disastrous” – but used them to good effect on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 3 5
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’21.961 (-0.035) 1’21.996
Race position 2 3
Laps 66/66 66/66
Pit stops 4 3

McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61
Lewis Hamilton 96.991 91.189 90.239 90.011 90.083 90.127 90.183 90.464 90.526 90.838 92.882 105.417 89.076 89.875 89.844 89.976 90.001 90.482 89.603 88.024 88.595 89.022 91.408 105.362 87.841 88.047 88.15 87.706 88.09 89.879 88.459 89.61 89.338 90.054 92.869 106.276 88.458 88.371 88.343 88.705 88.516 88.21 88.072 89.434 87.497 87.827 88.268 89.217 90.037 105.301 87.881 86.727 86.911 87.386 88.058 87.879 87.548 87.422 87.655 87.185 87.167
Jenson Button 100.998 93.15 92.804 91.195 91.097 91.635 92.104 92.008 92.05 92.953 91.496 91.684 91.335 93.547 106.433 88.792 89.107 89.463 89.694 89.668 89.626 89.198 89.511 89.811 90.013 89.935 90.05 90.221 90.188 93.425 106.938 88.49 88.995 88.887 89.349 88.991 88.658 89.106 89.168 88.913 89.045 88.735 88.83 89.028 89.168 89.279 89.93 92.247 105.467 88.814 87.92 87.892 88.639 88.013 87.978 88.015 88.612 87.657 87.631 87.878 88.643
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Barcelona, 2011

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton was not impressed with his first taste of Pirelli’s new compound hard tyre, describing it as “disastrous” in a media briefing.

But he showed good pace on the car late in the race and hounded Sebastian Vettel to the flag, finishing just six tenths of a second behind the Red Bull.

This was despite qualifying almost exactly a second slower than the RB7s.

Hamilton entertained thoughts of leading by the first corner but he had no answer for Fernando Alonso’s flying getaway and fell to fourth.

He gained a place from Mark Webber at the first round of pit stops and jumped Alonso at the second.

In his third stint he cut into Vettel’s lead and continued the process after switching to hard tyres for his fourth stint.

On each of the last 14 laps he came past the pits less than a second behind Vettel; DRS open, KERS activated, trying to make a move into the first corner. But he couldn’t get close enough and said afterwards: “I never had an opportunity to overtake.”

“It was incredible how much downforce he had, a good step on us, and also through turn nine and through the last corner. So I was never ever able to get close enough to maintain the gap that I was then able to use the DRS to get by.”

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Button qualified fifth, just three-hundredths of a second slower than his team mate but two places behind him. But he dropped back with a slow start which left him ninth by the first corner.

He passed Massa around the outside of turn four but was held up at turn five and Massa went around him and Sebastien Buemi.

Button spent the next few laps battling with Buemi, eventually getting past on lap five on the exit of turn four.

As has often been the case this year, Button proved able to make the soft tyres last longer. He made his first pit stop five laps after Vettel and came out in sixth, before quickly picking off Michael Schumacher for fifth.

He staved off his next pit stop until lap 30. By this time Alonso and Webber had already made their third pit stops and were now on hard tyres. Button reeled them in with ease and passed both on lap 35.

Webber caught back up to the McLaren later in the race but dropped back as his hard tyres went off, leaving Button secure in third.

Afterwards he commented on how McLaren had been much closer to Red Bull’s pace during the race: “We obviously have upgrades on the car which have helped our performance compared to the cars behind.

“But yeah, to see such a big difference in qualifying, a second to the Red Bull and then see our pace in the race, I was a little bit surprised.

“And the car felt better than what we experienced on Friday. I think the circuit came to us a little bit and maybe the temperatures helped. But the car was much better today than it has been. For me, it’s got better throughout the weekend which is great.”

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

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    46 comments on “McLaren: Hamilton strong on “disastrous” Pirellis”

    1. McLaren made a good strategy call for Hamilton’s first stop; instead of pitting him in traffic they waited and he earned a place out of it. Unfortunately the concept of undercut still seems to baffle them. I don’t know if making his final stop 2 laps earlier would have won him the race but letting Vettel go first never was. It also seems odd they stuck him on his new set of soft tyres when they knew he would come out third and having to follow.

      Button did well and made his strategy work. I think if he had been 3rd into Turn 1 as I expected, he still would have been 3rd with that strategy but if he had gone for 4 stops he might not have, so a good showing.

      1. Im pretty sure that Hamiltons final pitstop was about 1 second slower then Vettels last (4.4 to a 3.4, i think) if not the one before. If that had come off well the dash to T1 would have been interesting.

        1. he also got held up by about 0.5-1 secs by an HRT when chasing down SV

        2. I just watched it again today, apparently the final stop was only 0.6 slower. I don’t think Hamilton used enough KERS down the main straight.

          1. That’s true I think. During the first few laps of trying to pass Vettel, the team were telling him to press one button, then another, then another – I was thinking, just press the lot Lewis!

      2. They tried the undercut in Malaysia and it ruined Hamilton’s race.

        1. The dodgy second set of hard tyres (or whatever was wrong in that stint) ruined his race in Malaysia.

        2. They just do know how to do it – RBR appear to be particularly good in getting results from it when they need to. I would say the car is not the only thing RBR are better than McLaren at.

      3. Button strategy was fantastic, and it could work only on a smooth driver like him. Congratulations to McLaren and Jenson for making up many positions.

      4. Seems they did get the strategy right this time. Shame the stops themselves were not as good as Vettel had them, he lost over a second in them.

        As you say, the 3 stops enabled Button to get back to where he should be able to finish. But he did a good job of making it work and passing Webber to get there as well.

        Certainly two of the best drivers this weekend.

    2. Excellent, now if Mclaren can just find something in Qualy to compete with the Bulls there, it will make for a great fight.

      Nice to see Jenson a lot closer to Lewis this qualy too, only 3hundreths init and not tenths, and a bolder strategy paying off. Il admit I feared for Jenson when thinking back to Turkey and how it went there.

      And Lewis, well theres been enough said about his race and i cant add much more to it. Excellent race for Mclaren, even if they didnt win.

      1. @S.J.M –

        Erm…Jenson was only “closer” not because of a sudden improvement in his qualifying, but due to a mistake Lewis made in Q3. Lewis had a massive left wheel lockup,which lost him at least 3/10ths!

        1. fair enough. ;)

        2. Lock ups are part of the racing so i think SJM’s comments still carries some water

      2. Actually, McLaren should just work on nailing the starts, that seems to be more effective.

        Alonso said he worked hard to get the start right, indicating he specifically worked out how to best do it. He showed that it is indeed true that if someone can stop Vettel getting away cleanly in the first lap, a fight for the lead can be had.

    3. Now I just hope Hamilton stop Vettel. He’s the last hope. Ferrari looks like not working as complete team, just Alonso is trying to change something. MP4-26 could not be fast as RB7 in quali, but strategy is quite good, two drivers are doing well.

    4. Actually if you look into it Red Bulls 1 second advantage stood in the race. He finished 30 seconds ahead of Button and if Jenson had done the same 4 stops he would’ve been nearly a minute behind which is just about a second a lap.

      Lewis somehow managed to negate that disadvantage in the race as he often seems to do so i think it was an exceptional drive from him.

      1. But had he pitted once more he would have had fresher tyres and he had been able to go a lot quicker.
        Red Bull just seemed to struggle once they got on the hard tyres. It was clear that the advantage was there on the soft tyres (not as much as in qualifying, but they were still quite a lot quicker) Vettel was just held up when he was on the soft tyres so he was never able to build the gap. Then they got on the hard tyres and Hamilton quickly caught him.
        Qualifying pace and race pace is just not the same. There is so many factors playing its part in the race, in qualifying it is a much more straight forward demonstration of raw pace.

      2. It doesn’t quite work like that though. Jenson lost most of his time at the start after getting a bad run off of the line. He was around 15 seconds behind Hamilton at the first stop due to the traffic he found himself in.

        He wouldn’t have been nearly a minute behind if he had done a 4 stopper because he would have had fresher tires and therefore lapped quicker. I think he would have been a little closer to Hamilton, but not much more, with a 4 stop strategy.

        Of course he may have found himself stuck behind a slower car (like Webber with Alonso) that way, so the 3 stopper helped him move up from 10th to 3rd.

        It’s just not as clear cut as you make out.

      3. Isn’t it clear why RB are so far ahead in quali: DRS is unlimited in Quali.

        – Race:
        They have much more downforce and high drag all the way round in a normal lap. Fast in high speed but non-flat corners, but poor
        accel & and top speed.

        – Quali:
        Still have the really downforce on fast corners, but get DRS and low drag config wherever the high downforce isn’t needed.

        Compare to a low D/F low drag car, and there is a gain for quali that doesn’t occur in race.

        1. well spotted sir!

          The RB also runs a weird power boosted engine setting for extra downforce and more power in qualifying, which they could never run for a full race for economy reasons.

        2. Just improving my phrasing:

          Isn’t it clear why RB are so far ahead in quali: DRS is unlimited in quali.

          – Race:
          They have much more downforce and high drag all the way round in a normal lap. Fast in high speed but non-flat corners, but poor accel & and top speed.

          – Quali:
          Still have the really high downforce on fast corners, but get DRS and low drag config wherever the high downforce isn’t needed.

          Compare to a low D/F low drag car, and there is a gain for quali that doesn’t occur in race – in quali they can become
          a low D/F low drag car wherever that is
          an advantage.

    5. RB5 back in 2009 was a new design principle, it started off strong, won an early race in China, and became the class of the field by Silverstone. By the end of the season it had hauled itself into championship contention, narrowly missing out to the once invincible BGP001 of the Brawn GP team.

      I may be deluding myself, since I still have my rocket red tinted shades on, but Mclaren can catch Redbull if they continue to bring working updates to each, and I’m sure “the guys at the factory are doing a fantastic job” by working late each day to ensure they do just that! :P

    6. georges10099
      23rd May 2011, 17:47

      i was thinking the same the other night calum. it seems like 09 all over again for me, and that bodes well for mclaren!

    7. Another solid drive from Hamilton, and a solid strategy from Mclaren to get Jenson up the order. Its amazing how Jenson has to constantly adopt a different strategy just to be able to compete with the front runners, and its even more amazing how so many of those risks pay off.

      1. What’s amazing is how Button CONSTANTLY shoots himself in the foot with either poor Q3 or a terrible start.

    8. I don’t know why Hamilton didn’t use KERS smarter. If I were him I’d save most of the KERS for the exit of the last corner, keep using it until the finish line, then use all the 6.6s again. He didn’t do that, and I’m not sure why – it would have given him better top speed and maybe helped him take the lead.

      I think Hamilton is a better overtaker than Button, but I also think Button would have overtaken Vettel yesterday with smarter use of KERS (we saw how clever he is with it when he was trying to get past Massa in Australia).

      1. He was hitting the rev limiter wasn’t he.

        1. I noticed after he stopped using KERS he got more speed from the slipstream, so I think if he kept using KERS he would have hit the limiter sooner, hence getting the top speed sooner and gaining on Vettel.

          So I still think he could have used it better, but you are right, KERS wouldn’t have kept giving him speed forever, he was gonna hit the limiter.

          1. He did hit the limiter every lap, that is why he didn’t waste it all on the start finish straight. It was suggest to him but he knew he was on the limiter. There was nothing he could do with Vettel so fast out of the last corner. I’m sure he was thinking of everything and trying everything. As it happens the 2 and 3rd lap from the end were his only chance but Vettel got a tow and DRS from back markers.

          2. I am sure Lewis is aware of all that you say – afterall he has won a championship. If he didnt use that option its probably because it was not the best he had access to.

      2. I thought the same, but I think Hamilton needed the KERS during the lap, to make sure he was within that second when they crossed the DRS line.

      3. I remember laughing when Whitmarsh suggested they would gain a second in Australia by taking off some upgrades. Now it seems they have found another .5-1s already. This is impressive. And all this without the Octopus.

      4. Didn’t you hear Prew on the radio telling Hamilton to save up his KERS for the straight? I think he was doing exacly as you suggest. He was running down Vettel on the straight at a frightening pace, but the advantage Vettel got out of the last corner was massive. Hamilton would have been better served by a reverse DRS that let him increase his rear downforce coming out of that corner, allowing him to keep in slipstreaming distance.

        1. Reverse DRS is exactly the kind of thing I’d like to see, though of course it would be for the following, not preceding corner!

          1. Because the angle is higher on the McLaren DRS when open, it does not give as much a speed boost as the RBR nor Ferrari version. If the Macca DRS would have been able to open fully like the rest of the grid, Lewis would probably have passed Vettel

    9. Hamilton is proving to all who where saying he cant look after his tires, if you look at his lap time and stint he was very gental on his tires than button

      1. I don’t think you can say anything either way to be fair.

        Lewis did an extra stop to Jenson’s. Of course that was just part of his strategy though. If anything Jenson clearly made his tires last longer, but then that irrelevant as it was just part of his strategy too.

        They just had different approaches.

    10. The thinly veiled attacks on Hamilton’s intellect have gotten boring, and as well are unfounded. @enigma, I’m glad U think U know better than him how best to use Kers. Even though He is a world champ, w/ a previous season of kers use and ultra keen drivers instincts. And U are… like Me, posting on a blog. No disrespect Brah, but it just seems a little weak that.

    11. box this lap
      23rd May 2011, 20:11

      It was nice to see Button move to the podium after a bad start. McLaren seemed very strong this race. I hope to see maar chases for the lead in the future, McLaren chasing the Bulls!!

    12. Hamilton should of done a China. I.e saving all his KERS for a place where Vettel wouldnt expect it. This probably would have left him outside the DRS 1 second though.

    13. I’m glad that poor performance in first sector during qualifying was just a setup issue. McLaren looked much stronger in the race which is good thing for the championship.
      But, the traction of RB7 is frightening. The exit speed out of the last corner also…
      I’d like to see McLaren improving but I’m afraid they are still not getting the front wing issue.

    14. Typically firing from the hip with Hamilton’s “disastrous” comment! He did a fantastic job to pressure Vettel as much as he did. Go back 12 months, Vettel may have buckled under the pressure.

      Great result for McLaren. Good to see them both on the podium.

    15. Good race by both the drivers.I am impress by Button’s performance in this race as he still proving that he too can fight for the WC. Hamilton is still raising the game so far looks to be the only person challenging the Bulls.

    16. McLaren has been a pleasant team to watch this season. Hamilton is putting on great fights with the Bulls. I just wish Button was more aggresive. He is doing a good job in picking up points for the Constructor’s Championship but he’s no near Hamilton. I really miss the McLaren from 2007, even though it was a tense situation in the team, even if it ended in such a drama, that was the most competitive and exciting season the team had for the last 10 years. Hope Button retires soon and Hamilton gets a team-mate of his calibre.

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