McLaren: Button hit by debris in first-lap scare

2011 Belgian GP team review

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Button’s recovery drive from 13th to third was delayed by first-lap damage.

Lewis HamiltonJenson Button
Qualifying position213
Qualifying time comparison (Q2)2’02.823 (-2.327)2’05.150
Race position3
Pit stops13

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

Lewis Hamilton122.141117.795116.905116.073116.637116.644117.146115.647116.161119.35129.216115.778
Jenson Button127.195118.489121.509132.198117.351115.957115.007114.797115.261115.702116.335116.406134.885156.063170.428167.135117.034114.373114.059114.318114.032114.045113.13113.949113.253112.704113.029112.619112.567112.822112.602116.464123.712110.371110.711110.681110.535110.348110.062110.079110.334110.321110.431111.259

Lewis Hamilton

Despite an altercation with Pastor Maldonado in Q2, Hamilton lined up second on the grid as he did in 2010.

He lost three places in the first two laps but set about re-taking them. First he squeezed passed Felipe Massa on the run to Pouhon after the Ferrari driver had been slowed in battle with his team mate.

Next he took Nico Rosberg for second place, which became the lead following Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso’s pit stops.

After three laps in the lead Hamilton came into the pits, rejoining in eighth place. He quickly passed Adrian Sutil on the straight before Pouhon and moved ahead of Vitaly Petrov.

Hamilton’s next target was Kamui Kobayashi who he took on the straight heading into Les Combes. Unusually, despite Hamilton having his rear wing open, the Sauber driver was able to retaliate.

This seemed to catch Hamilton unaware as he moved back towards his racing line and the pair made contact, sending the McLaren into the barriers.

Afterwards Hamilton said his straight-line speed had been poor. McLaren had evaluated a new rear wing with stronger DRS effect during practice.

Hamilton initially blamed Kobayashi for the crash, but changed his mind after watching the video.

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

Jenson Button

Button blamed a “misunderstanding” for his failure to reach Q3 for the first time this year: “I’d just done a fast lap, and was cooling the tyres, not knowing that there wasn’t any more time left in the session.

“If I’d known, obviously I wouldn’t have slowed down on my final lap. ??Obviously, with the track getting drier with every lap, it was vital to be going quickly until the end of the session.

“I think I was second or third-quickest when I did my lap; it’s just a pity I that didn’t get a chance to put in another lap.”

He had a scare at the start when he hit debris from the collision between Bruno Senna and Jaime Alguersuari: “Someone’s front wing went through my front wing and ripped one of the mirrors off as well, so it was a pretty messy first lap.

“I was radioing to the team saying ‘I’ve got a lot of damage, I need to come in.’ They said ‘you can’t because you will be in so much traffic, just keep pushing.’ I did so for five laps and they said ‘pit and we’ll go to options.'”

Button also had damage to his rear wing which the team were unable to repair in the pits.

This further delay left him 14th behind Michael Schumacher. But after the race restarted Button immediately made progress, passing Rubens Barrichello for tenth.

On the next lap he took Sergio Perez and Petrov around the outside at La Source. He picked off Michael Schumacher, Adrian Sutil, Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg over the next eight laps, moving up to fourth.

Having dispensed with the medium tyres during his first stint, Button was able to stay on softs at the end of the race and used them to good effect, passing Alonso for third with little difficulty with three laps to go.

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

2011 Belgian Grand Prix

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    42 comments on “McLaren: Button hit by debris in first-lap scare”

    1. Having accepted the blame for the crash, I suppose that’s the end of the discussion, but I would still have liked to see a few more camera angles, as suggested also by the comment of the day yesterday (?). Did Kobayashi really start to turn in, as suggested by DC, and how much room did Kobi have left anyway? In the picture of the crash (in the “2011 Belgian Grand Prix in pictures” piece, for example), it looks like Kobayashi had a good 50cm of tarmac (and next to it, kerb) left on his left-hand side.

      Btw, I spotted some typos in the earlier articles: in the Ferrari overview, Alonso overtook Massa for third, not fourth, and in the Mercedes piece it said “and lap two” instead of “on lap two”.

      1. Eternal Newbie
        29th August 2011, 12:16

        Anybody has a decent video link of the crash?


          I tried to find video with another angle, but couldn’t find it. But from that video, I think Kobayashi wasn’t doing anything wrong. The timing when Kobayashi start to turn to the right compared to the Force India behind him kinda similar.
          From my pov, what happen is that Hamilton just didn’t expect Kobayashi to be there, especially since he was using DRS. Basically Hamilton was already quite far from Kobayashi, but for some reason the McLaren didn’t have the top speed even with the DRS open thus Kobayashi can catch him by using the slip stream.
          It was just another lesson for Hamilton to learn… always use your mirror when moving to another line.

          But I’m still quite surprised at how slow that McLaren was in the straight. Something to think about before going to Monza.

          1. But I’m still quite surprised at how slow that McLaren was in the straight. Something to think about before going to Monza.

            It’s not just in Spa where they’ve been slow in a straight line. I have the feeling that, this season, I always have to look at least two-thirds down when Keith posts the speed traps to find a McLaren.

            For McLaren and it’s fans, let’s hope it’s just that they like to run high-downforce settings, and that they can revert to low downforce for Monza, rather than the car inherently creating a lot of drag (if Scarbs is reading, could it be the low nose with L-shaped side pods that are dragging them back?).

            1. I think like last year they need the extra wing to provide enough downforce as the car lacks elsewhere to be competitive through the fast corners. They get away with running the extra wing due to the extra power they get from the Mercedes engine, which is why the Mercedes works team is always quicker in the speed traps as they have less wing giving them less drag and also downforce.

          2. There is something called “DEAD ANGLE” and you cannot see a hing even if an Elephant is there…

            1. sorry, a thing…

            2. I doubt behind and to your left is “dead angle”.

          3. I guess you are right there Frans.

          4. I concur… I was baffled to see how the Sauber was just coming back at Hamilton on the straight. I hope McLaren asks and answers this.

            1. Judging by the in car footage, I think Hamilton hit the rev limiter. That’s why Kobayashi caught him back up.

      2. Lewis’ comments and demeanour afterwards really showed how baffled he was that KK was there at all.

        He breezed past on the straight before eau rouge, was several car lengths ahead at raidillon but KK still came back at him despite the merc engine AND having DRS active. He said the mclaren was extraordinarily slow in a straight line, and this was undoubtedly proof of that.

        I can easily imagine his complete exasperation at being unable to pass and then escape from a Sauber.No-one in that situation would anticipate the car they were passing still being alongside by the end of that straight.

    2. Button is starting to look more and more like a proper racing pro at McLaren and even though i’m a huge fan of his i always thought there was a slight question mark over his World Championship credentials but these 2 years at McLaren have proved he’s the real deal.

      1. Strangely enough for me, you are not the first person to suggest that today, perhaps the recent outbursts by Hamilton, while Jenson consistently scoring when he has all four wheels.
        Let’s see. Particularly for Hamilton – Kobayashi situation, at first glance I thought it was the Koba to blame, but it appeared otherwise.

      2. Button fan as well, and I was really impressed with his performance. He’s proved that he can be aggressive when he needs to be, overtake when he needs to (a la Brazil ’09) and boy is he good at that. He’s proved that he can not only do it in damp/wet conditions, but also in the dry. He’s beginning to silence the armchair experts who keep saying he got lucky in 2009. If the Red Bulls had lived up to their history of being bad at Spa, JB would surely have cruised past and won the race. Especially if McLaren hadn’t cocked up his quali strategy and left him 13th.

        1. yes, he really was driving 2009 brazil like. I want to see this more often from Jenson. Who knows he might even win another championship driving like that consistently!

      3. Especially this year. Sometimes he’s driven like a man possessed without being reckless.

    3. Can’t really blame him for the quali mishap in Spa, but if Jenson could sort out his quali performance in general, he’d be beating Lewis consistently. His race pace is incredible, and his overtaking this year has been the best in the field. But he just can’t seem to find those crucial 2-3 tenths one lap pace which always puts him on the backfoot in the races.
      That said Button has mightily impressed me this year. A deserved champ laying down his mark as one of the best in F1.

      1. “Can’t really blame him for the quali mishap in Spa, but if Jenson could sort out his quali performance in general, he’d be beating Lewis consistently.”

        Not sure that’s true tbh, he only seems to go really well in races where Lewis has problems.

        Hamilton has had some shocking inncodents this year, if he could stop getting his wheels tangled up in other cars, he could have been right up there with Vettel this year, the race pace of the car has been solid since the first race in Australia.

        1. My respect for Jenson has increased sinc he has been at McLaren, I agree with others that if he can get quali nailed he could be a real contender for the remaining races (The titles long gone IMHO). I have always supported Lewis, and still think he is probably the most naturally gifted driver, but the last 2 years have shown that speed is no longer enough and to be consistantly competitive requires a cool head and good race management from inside the cockpit. This for me is where maybe Lewis should take a leaf from his team mates book.

        2. to N
          \If Hamilton wouldn’t have crashed so much this year, he still wouldn’t have been close to Vettel in the championship.

    4. I think it’s pretty clear to say that Lewis was concussed after hitting the advertising board side on. You could see on the in car footage that after initially letting go of the steering wheel he never tried to regain control of the car, either by steering (he could easily have avoided the second barrier and taken the escape road had he retaken the wheel) or by just braking. You can also see he loses the use of his legs as they shake uncontrollably when running along the armcote into the red barrier, you’d never let them bang about like that normally as it hurts and all it takes very little effort to steady your legs. Add in the laboured way he got out of the car after pausing for a good few seconds and the way that the marshall checks the right side of his helmet (which hit the hoarding) first tells me he wasnt totally with it at that point.

      His behaviour both straight afterwards in his interview, lacking any sort of detail and being a bit vacant I’d say, and his twitter posting come across a bit odd also pointing to him having a concussion.

      If so, we’ll never know for sure as I doubt the McLaren doctor will make it public and that’s if he was even tested for it, and looking at Perez’s crash side on at Monaco, should the FIA be looking at better protection for taking hits side on?

      1. I didn’t imagine it was as serious as you say. Maybe he waited because he had a headcahe or felt dizzy.

        1. We’ve seen drivers try to counter-steer cars with no front wheels … here it definitely looked like Lewis was out cold as the car scraped and banged its way along the rails, thumped into the tyres and then switched itself off.

          The first marshall on the scene, prods the helmet which has remained motionless throughout and immediately turns and signals the radio marshall, and a safety car is announced. By then Lewis looks to wake-up and only then slowly begins to climb out the car.

          1. Agreed, Hamilton was definitely out cold. Seems that McLaren are deliberately trying to keep this one quiet, presumably so that the FIA’s doctors don’t get involved and potentially pull him out of the next race. Interestingly this also seems to have been a prepared strategy from McLaren.

            1. I totally agree, I said the same thing to my wife as the replays ran. Obviously I can’t be sure but if he hadn’t have hit the advertising board (which is probably what knocked him out) he maybe would have continued in the race. The reason I say this is because at that point, as far as I could see the only thing missing was the nose of the car which could have been replaced in the pits. However, as no attempt is made to correct the vehicle once it starts heading towards the tyre wall, further irreparable damage was done. Watching the footage from the T camera his hands come away from the wheel and then appear to flop around. If he was conscious and elected to let go of the wheel to protect his digits during the secondary impact he would be clutching his seat belts to prevent his arms bashing on the inside of the cockpit. Also, by the time the car had started to face in the track direction after the initial impact I feel that there was sufficient time to make a manoeuvre to avoid the secondary impact had Lewis been conscious as all 4 four wheels were still on his wagon at that point, the front left being damaged against the Armco just before the car hits the tyre wall head on. The digit saving theory is also unlikely as we’ve seen drivers head straight into a wall at far higher speeds whilst still trying to steer the car. Also, Lewis sounded dopey in the short interview he gave and appeared to just cut the interview short as the journalist was asking what became the final question. Also strange. Perhaps he wasn’t feeling too good.

      2. Concussions are always serious. Even if you don’t get knocked out. He was clearly very dazed in the car. It was a very serious crash. The entire front crash structure of the car was destroyed. The wall there curves to the right so his impact was not simply a glancing blow to the side. And although that hoarding was styrofoam or the like, try firing a chunk of foam at your head at 200mph. Even with a helmet, that’s a lot of accelleration.

        Button’s near miss was almost as disturbing. Some piece of carbon came close enough to his head and hard enough to shear off his side mirror.

        Let the research on canopies continue.

        1. Agree DaveW. Two examples of what can go horribly wrong there luckily stayed without serious consequences.

      3. The lack of hand use and lolling of the head until a marshal patted him had me worried he was somehow really hurt. I was actually pretty relieved when he got out of the car. I also thought his straight-line towards the final barrier suggesting he wasn’t even braking.

      4. When it happened, I did think it looked a bit scary, but I immediately thought that he’s probably in disbelief that he’s effectively thrown his title chances away and was probably just sitting there trying to take it all in. I know I’d probably do something like that too, actually! He just seemed completely stunned rather than angry and I’d imagine he’s feeling quite depressed and dejected at the moment.

    5. One thing I seem to have missed is any mention of Hamilton’s condition after the crash. He appeared to lose consciousness at the initial impact and when his car comes to a stop he doesn’t move for a second or two.
      Has there been any news?

    6. Thanks Alec, you must have posted just as I was. Agree with what you say, he had all the signs of concussion and I hope the necessary medical precautions take place before Monza.

    7. A shame that the strategic cell @ MacLarens (apparently) asked JB to pit in Q2. He drove a nice dry race, showing his ability to overtake properly, on the inside and the outside of the busstop chicane (whereas SV didn’t know if which was best last year and chose the middle), at La Source on the outside of Petrov and a Sauber, and of course after the Raidillon. At last a decent result here after 2 horrible week-ends there the past 2 years.

      Will he try another high-downforce setup in Monza as he did last year ? It seems the McLarens were not so quick on straights in Spa (well, JB looked quick enough i thought…)

      If only we could get back to Q2 right now !

      1. I think the high-downforce setup at Monza only worked because of their f-duct (which could be used any time in the race). That setup might work in quali but should be very slow when the DRS is not being used for the whole lap.

    8. My view of Button has change considerably this year and I think this he is best season in formula one. Brilliant passing manoeuvres at Spa. He could have been more ahead of Hamilton in the standings if he didn’t have the two DNF at Silverstone and nurburgring. Let’s hope Mclaren get their act together at Monza

      1. Agreed. He’s having an amazing season apart from qualifying and his only two retirements have been no fault of his own. He really should be second in the championship, I think.

    9. I enjoy greatly watching Button carve his way through the field during this years races…it is really something to watch.
      I know Lewis has accepted the blame for the shunt with Kobi, but I have had AI cars behave the same way the Sauber did when I play racing Sim games (especially entering the Parabolica) and I think it is wrong, they should mind the car that is clearly in front.

    10. It was a tough day for Hamilton, but Button raced well throughout the race,he showed that he can be aggressive at time & can also do moved very nicely indeed.

    11. Check out the consistency of Button’s laps – really impressive!

    12. A good race from Button, always nice to see him on the podium. Unfortunate for Lewis but no doubt he will be out in force in Monza, knowing that the Red Bulls have the most to lose in Italy.

    13. I have always loved Jenson’s smooth consistent style of driving and just knew everyone would eventually see how good he really is . This season he has been a pleasure to watch. He has also shown if he has the speed to be able to pressurize Vettal ,Seb makes mistakes . So I am still hoping his run for the championship is not over yet .

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