Jenson Button brought home the best result for McLaren for the third race in a row.
|Lewis Hamilton||Jenson Button|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q3)||1’22.725 (-0.052)||1’22.777|
McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
|Pit stop 1||Soft 22.083s|
|Pit stop 2||Medium 21.876s|
Hamilton was fastest on Friday and could have made it through Q2 using only medium tyres. But he elected to play it safe and do a run on softs to ensure his pssage to Q3.
He shared the front row with Sebastian Vettel but said he could not have beaten the Red Bull driver, whose efforts he heaped praise on: “Sebastian was mega quick today.
“It looked like we would be quite competitive throughout the weekend but today in that last lap, that was untouchable for me.”
Hamilton’s performance in the race was decidedly conservative. He fell behind the flying Fernando Alonso at the start, then lost another place when the safety car came in.
He was busy warming his tyres up and keeping an eye on Michael Schumacher when Alonso bolted towards Parabolica. “They caught me napping,” he admitted afterwards.
Schumacher passed the McLaren easily on the run to the Rettifilio. Hamilton, running with comparatively low top speed in order to remain competitive with Sebastian Vettel, was literally powerless to re-pass the Mercedes, which was clearly quicker in a straight line.
Hamilton got past at the Rettifilio on lap 13 but didn’t defend the outside line at the Curva Grande – perhaps a little wary following his crash in Spa – allowing Schumacher to re-take the position.
Three laps later he took a look at the inside of the Curva Grande but Schumacher stuck to his line, obliging Hamilton to back off, allowing Jenson Button through into fourth. Moment later Button swept around Schumacher at Ascari which must have left Hamilton fuming.
Schumacher came in at the end of the lap, denying Hamilton a chance to pit before him and gain the benefit of fresher tyres. With Button now the leading McLaren, he came in next, meaning Hamilton couldn’t respond for another lap.
When Hamilton finally made his first stop on lap 18 he fell back behind Schumacher once again.
Hamilton continued to throw all he had at the Mercedes, finally making it by on lap 27 as Schumacher had a poor run down to Ascari.
He began catching Alonso once both of them had switched to the medium tyres. From 8.3 seconds behind on lap 37, Hamilton began the 53rd and final tour one second behind the Ferrari.
Hamilton had ended his 2009 race at Monza in the barriers taking to make a pass on the last lap, but there was to be no repeat of that this time. He had his DRS open as they blasted from Lesmo 2 down to Ascari but it was too little, too late to get on the podium.
Having questioned whether Schumacher had made too many defensive moves on the team radio during the race, Hamilton offered no criticism of his driving afterwards:
“We were a little bit slow on the straight today, which meant it was hard to get past Michael, who was faster along the straight even when I had my DRS activated.
“I had to really fight Schumacher, but the fact that I finished ahead of him meant everything was okay. That’s racing.”
|Pit stop 1||Soft 21.66s|
|Pit stop 2||Medium 22.095s|
Button tested new, low-drag parts in FP1 but discarded some of them in the afternoon session.
He said he was happier with the car on Saturday but aborted his final run in Q3, certain it was not going to be better than his initial effort: “I didn’t get a great first sector and I just carried that all the way through the lap so I was a tenth-and-a-half down.
“I knew through the last corner, the previous lap was perfect through there, so I looked down at the speed and just pulled into the pits knowing that I was a tenth-and-a-half off my best.”
A problem with his clutch caused a poor start in which he lost places to both Ferraris and Michael Schumacher. At the restart, Mark Webber passed him as well.
Webber’s collision with Massa left Button clear to attack Schumacher and Hamilton. This he did very successfully on lap 16, passing the pair of them within four corners.
During his second stint Button drew closer to Alonso, then began to drop back as the Ferrari had its usual strong end to a stint. But once they switched to the medium tyres Button was on the attack.
Alonso struggled to get traction out of the Rettifilio chicane on lap 35 and Button pounced, diving up the inside at the Curva Grande to take second place and his third podium finish in a row.
“On the whole, the team’s done a great job this weekend,” said Button, “but it’s the little problems that are frustrating.
“If you have one of those, then you’re not going to beat Red Bull and Sebastian. Hopefully, we’ll have no problems at the next race because if we can get everything together then we can challenge for a win.”
2011 Italian Grand Prix
Images © McLaren