McLaren: Button pleased to win on ‘Red Bull track’

2011 Japanese GP team review

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Button said it “means a lot” to win at a track where Red Bull have been strong.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 3 2
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’30.617 (+0.142) 1’30.475
Race position 5 1
Laps 53/53 53/53
Pit stops 3 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
Lewis Hamilton 101.597 100.289 100.096 100.086 100.175 100.899 101.955 107.004 118.449 100.258 100.628 99.846 99.919 100.441 100.162 99.695 100.118 100.176 100.504 100.66 104.927 119.069 99.151 114.349 126.971 145.337 152.229 100.464 98.248 98.029 98.167 98.445 98.868 99.01 101.317 115.931 98.579 98.456 99.792 99.335 97.981 98.506 98.554 98.528 98.17 98.393 98.527 98.297 97.645 98.036 98.198 98.34 98.889
Jenson Button 102.7 101.27 100.575 100.37 100.264 100.07 100.707 102.198 101.2 102.704 117.106 99.187 99.669 99.613 99.43 99.093 99.536 99.66 99.846 101.587 114.973 98.498 98.852 107.02 143.826 147.881 153.862 97.576 97.527 97.519 97.814 98.14 98.175 98.318 98.65 100.78 114.533 97.317 96.984 97.01 98.786 97.295 97.869 98.616 97.82 98.111 98.269 97.999 97.41 97.303 96.574 96.568 98.767

Lewis Hamilton

Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 21.091s
Pit stop 2 Soft 22.821s
Pit stop 3 Medium 21.292s

Hamilton was not on his team mate’s pace during practice but showed good form early in qualifying and was on provisional pole position after the first laps in Q3.

Then came the controversial incident at the chicane involving Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber, because of which Hamilton failed to get his final lap in. This is the second time in as many races his qualify effort has been compromised.

Afterwards he said he had been to blame for leaving the pits too late after a wing change, but team principal Martin Whitmarsh said Hamilton was being too hard on himself by assuming responsibility.

Hamilton took second off Button at the start but hit trouble when he lost tyre pressure in his right-rear on lap seven.

He ran wide at Spoon, losing a place to Button, and also fell behind Fernando Alonso through his pit stop.

But even after changing tyres it was clear he didn’t have the pace of his team mate. Halfway through his second stint he was leading a three-car train including Felipe Massa and Mark Webber.

When Massa tried to take fourth place off him on lap 21 Hamilton ran into the side of the Ferrari. “I don’t really know what happened with Felipe,” he said afterwards.

“The car’s mirrors vibrate at high speed, so I couldn’t see him pulling alongside me. I want to apologise for our cars touching, but fortunately nothing happened to either of us. There was no bad intention towards Felipe.”

He came straight into the pits for his second stop and lost another two places, this time to Massa and Webber.

During the race Hamilton told the team, “I’ve got massive understeer. My wing must be bust.”

At the time he was told “everything looks OK” but Whitmarsh said after the race: “We weren’t immediately aware that Lewis appeared to suffer a slow puncture to the right-rear in the first stint. That created a growing pressure differential across the rear axle, and potentially led us to add too much front wing to compensate for the lack of balance at the rear.

“In hindsight, that may have led to Lewis fighting to find a satisfactory balance for the next two stints.”

It was during the two middle stints that Hamilton lost the most ground. In his final stint, on medium tyres, he began to make progress.

He got back ahead of Massa in the DRS zone on lap 38. Three laps later he made a vital pass on Nico Rosberg at the same place which saved him from losing a place to Michael Schumacher, who was about to make his pit stop.

However he was unable to make any inroads on the leading quartet and finished fifth. He described his race as “shocking”.

Update: McLaren originally believe Hamilton suffered a puncture at the end of his first stint, but that turned out not to be the case. See here for more information: Hamilton did not have a puncture at Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Jenson Button, McLaren, Suzuka, 2011
Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 21.094s
Pit stop 2 Soft 20.713s
Pit stop 3 Medium 20.998s

Button was fastest in all three practice sessions as McLaren showed strong pace using their new Suzuka-spec rear wing.

But he missed out on pole position to Sebastian Vettel by less than a hundredth of a second – a distance of 63cm around a lap of Suzuka, according to McLaren.

He made a quick start and tried to get down the inside of Vettel at the first corner, but had to back off and was passed by Hamilton.

By lap eight Hamilton’s puncture had promoted him to second and he was able to reduce Vettel’s advantage while keeping an eye on his tyres. “Tyre wear was massive,” he said afterwards.

“It was a very exciting race and it wasn’t just down to being quick over one lap. You really had to think through the race.”

He continued to cut into Vettel’s lead through the second stint and, after pitting two laps later than the Red Bull driver, held the lead after his stop.

At the end of the safety car period Button bided his time before making a break for it, keeping Vettel at bay. But he came under pressure towards the end of the race as Fernando Alonso, now in second, began to catch him.

Button admitted he was taken by surprise how quickly Alonso caught him, partly because he hadn’t seen his pit board showing the gap on one lap. Button set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour, and crossed the line a second ahead of the Ferrari.

He didn’t drive a slowing-down lap having cut it very fine on his fuel load. However the FIA were able to extract a sample from his car.

He said: “I was looking after tyres, also looking after a bit of fuel, so it wasn’t the easiest few laps. The last five laps weren’t the most enjoyable, I must admit, but we got it home.”

Button added he was especially pleased to have beaten Red Bull at a circuit where they have been strong in recent years:

“The car has been great around here. The Red Bulls are always so strong on these fast circuits, especially with the change of direction, so for us to win here really does mean a lot for us, as we have been fighting this for two years now.”

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

2011 Japanese Grand Prix

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    47 comments on “McLaren: Button pleased to win on ‘Red Bull track’”

    1. Lewis was set for a good race after being fast in Q3 and taking second place on lap 1. After the puncture he disappeared though, and Button shone again, he is doing an incredible job and is gettin better and more consistent race by race.

      1. Button might appear to be getting better every race but the reality is you can’t soar with the eagles when your car is a turkey, the car and the team are what are allowing us to see the talent that Jenson was unable to demonstrate until his WDC year with Brawn and this year with McLaren. Of cause he has gained in experience which no doubt has helped him tactically but the talent was always there, other drivers have the same problem, some never get the opportunity to shine but usually the cream rises to the top. Sorry for the cliches, in my defence I could have used ” at the end of the day” but didn’t.

      2. @fixy – you might well be right with that. If we look at what Withmarsh said

        but Whitmarsh said after the race: “We weren’t immediately aware that Lewis appeared to suffer a slow puncture to the right-rear in the first stint. That created a growing pressure differential across the rear axle, and potentially led us to add too much front wing to compensate for the lack of balance at the rear.

        It might have been a mistake in changing wing angles at that first stop that left Hamilton struggling!
        Interesting how small things can upset that fine balance really.

        1. More interestingly for me was that they couldn’t detect a slow puncture through telemetry; and that they didn’t then change back the wing in the later stints.

          1. They did detect it though the telemetry and told Hamilton. Its just they didn’t spot it immediately as it was a particularly slow puncture, Whitmarsh explained in an interview after the race. :-)

        2. But wouldn’t adding on wing have made the car loose rather than understeering, as was his complaint? Either way, it looks like Hamilton just had another one of those accumulatoins of misfortune and misjudgement result in lackluster result.

          Compare this to Monza where he gets on the grass and loses the spot to Button. Here Button gets optimistic with a grass-pass, loses the spot to Hamilton, and Hamilton is pulling away, then this tire thing happens. It doesn’t come good.

          I’m reminded now of that crazy scene in Germany when the car was flooded, literally, and they were sponging out the fuel from the chassis seconds from the roll-off. He won that race in style, but it was like the glimpse of that dark cloud over him. Nothing has really gone well since then.

    2. I’ve got to admit, as much as it pains me to watch Lewis struggle like he has, Jenson has really grown on me. As much as I’ve tried to deny it, Jeson has outraced Lewis this year. Although he’s not as quick as Lewis (13-2 in qualifying for Lewis-pretty impressive), you’ve got to admit, he’s a pretty damned good and mature racing driver. That being said, I just can’t believe Lewis’ luck. I mean, the guy just can’t catch a break. It’s sad, really, because everything he does, when he’s in the situation he is in, just exacerbates the problems he’s having. Everything he says is infinitely dissected, every action he makes is ruthlessly picked apart by internet “therapists”, every somewhat controversial action on the track is a mark of his “attitude problem” and immaturity. I honestly just find it fascinating how true the statement is that each driver is as good as his last race. We sometimes need to put in perspective just how good guys like Lewis (and Sebastian, and Jenson, and Fernando) really are by remembering what they’ve done BEFORE the last race. Remember when Lewis was a God? When Fernando was just a lowly backmarker fighting the mid field? When Sebastian was the “crash kid”? I do, but I try not to let that effect my perception of their incredible talent as racing drivers.
      End Rant

      1. Even in qualifying results you need to calculate the cost gain ratio, ie.” do I try to gain .01 of a second through this corner to move up 1 place on the grid if there is a good chance of losing it and damaging the car?” Jenson is a risk averse driver but if the reward is sufficient he goes for it and usually has the skill to make it work. Other drivers are less risk averse so can be more exciting to watch without necessarily being more skilled.

      2. I think that is very well put and agree 100%

      3. I agree with all you’ve said. Button is in a very good place right now (the best time of his career along with the first 7 races of 2009), but even at the beginning of this season he wasn’t looking that mighty (of the top of my head):

        Australia: slow qualifying and start led to a messy race to 6th
        Malaysia: very good race; as Hamilton’s tyre woes went from bad to worse, he got better and better.
        China: decent race, but he got the best chances of the two McLarens, but was outshone by Hamilton
        Turkey: slightly dodgy three-stop strategy (leading cars did 4) didn’t work, but also didn’t have the pace in the stints
        Spain: good race, but slow start meant playing catch-up, and that day Hamilton managed his tyres quite good as well, and was in front all day
        Monaco: excellent weekend, but I was a little disappointed that he seemed to play the waiting game behind Alonso and Vettel, with less than 10 laps to go.
        Canada: another great weekend, though in the early stages Hamilton was certainly quicker.
        Europe: some KERS issues, but crucially a slow qualifying and slow start meant he had a lacklustre afternoon
        Great Britain: In the early wet stages, Hamilton was faster, but once the track started drying out, Button was able to make his tyres last longer, and looked good for a podium until his wheel fell off.
        Germany: strangely off the pace in qualifying, he improved somewhat in the race until a hydraulic failure stopped him.
        Hungary – now: a sterling Button that nailed it both in qualifying and the race, and yesterday for the first time I saw his name mentioned alongside Vettel and Alonso, whereas for two years it had been Vettel/Hamilton/Alonso.

        I think the current rules suit Button perfectly: tyre management is more important than finding the final two tenths of a second over a single lap, and the tyres, DRS, and KERS ensure that you can overtake relatively easily, and intelligently, rather than having to pull of ballsy moves. Even so, as I think I outlined above, it has taken him half the year to really get it down.

        Also, this year is a far cry from 2010, when outright speed was much more important than tyre management; last year, he sometimes did go longer on his soft tyres than Hamilton, but if I remember correctly it only served him well in Melbourne. What a difference a tyre manufacturer can make…

      4. I honestly just find it fascinating how true the statement is that each driver is as good as his last race. We sometimes need to put in perspective just how good guys like Lewis (and Sebastian, and Jenson, and Fernando) really are by remembering what they’ve done BEFORE the last race. Remember when Lewis was a God? When Fernando was just a lowly backmarker fighting the mid field? When Sebastian was the “crash kid”? I do, but I try not to let that effect my perception of their incredible talent as racing drivers.
        End Rant


        In addition, I think ‘outright pace’ is something Jenson has had in abundance this year and has often looked like the only one likely to pose a threat to Vettel in the race. Especially in Hungary, Spa, Singapore, Japan, Monaco and Canada from what I remember.

      5. “Although he’s not as quick as Lewis (13-2 in qualifying for Lewis-pretty impressive), you’ve got to admit, he’s a pretty damned good and mature racing driver.”

        Though I agree that Hamilton probably has greater raw pace, though Jenson when he chooses to can match any man for speed, I am afraid the current qualifying score stands at 10-5 in Lewis’ favour. Still makes your point but thought I should mention it.

    3. I don’t see how it’s possible to conclude anything other than a slowly deflating rear tyre plus incorrect pit stop wing changes by the team stuffed up Lewis’ race.

      Saying that, during practice the teams were going out of their way to conserve tyres. It was natural this would help Button as a result but what a dull race. Decided by pit stop rather than by actual racing.

      1. I disagree entirely regarding it being a dull race.

        And I disagree even more about it being dull because of how the lead was taken. Button had one lap. One lap to pull enough gap. He would have put absolutely everything into that lap and he made it stick. That is what a great driver can do.

        I honestly think this weekends race was brilliant.

        1. I want to see races decided more by on track passing than by who’s clever strategy gets their car out in front. Apparently that’s too much to ask with these tyres.

          1. During the Schumi dominant years it was all about overtaking with strategy and pits. At least we have DRS this year to help with some of it – but yet people say it’s making the art of overtaking look cheap. But I’d say at least we get to see it on the track and not just via pits/refuelling/strategy.

    4. I think the safety car help Jenson a little. Looking at the timing screens it looked like Seb could keep up as he used DRS to stay within the 1 second window. Once the safety car was out, Jenson had the few laps after to get out of the DRS window and therefore increase the gap at the front.

      1. Interesting, counter-intuitive observation but I think this race McLaren had the best package.

        1. @hohum Before the pit stop (and Sebs tyres going away), Jenson was gaining 0.2 in sector 1, lost 0.2 in sector 2 and gained 0.1 in sector 3. However once Seb was behind, the 0.2 gain in sector 1 was zeroed, while the other sectors remained the same. It wasn’t enough to overtake, but was enough to stay within the DRS window.

    5. isnt there a minimum speed limit for cars when the safety car comes in? Wasn’t button slowing down a bit too much? I mean it definitely wasn’t like last year where he came to an almost dead stop but still, doesnt FIA tell how much slow are you allowed to be before a restart?

      1. There is a maximum speed (for safety), and a minimum distance to the safety car (or car in front). However when the safety car is coming in, there is no minimum distance to the safety car.

      2. Actually he had to get Vettel off his back…he was VERY much on his tail but after Jenson slowed downed it kinda throw Vettel off, and when they crossed the finish line Vettel was already more than 1 second off of him…it was different from what Vettel usually does, but Jensen made it work AND his slowing down didn´t resulted in a collision or an incident involving the other drivers…

      3. @hatebreeder as far as I know, they are not allowed to speed up, and then brake hard to bunch them up, but slowing down steadily before accelerating again is allowed.
        The same issue was discussed, If I remember right, after last year’s China race, where some cars hit each other right befor the restart.

        1. @BasCB yeah that was button leading the pack in china last year and lewis had pushed webber off at the restart. I dont know if i am wrong, But I find it a little unsporting and unsafe.

      4. Button Learned this from Schumi in – I think Hockenheim, in his debut season. Schumi slowed almost to à full stop, causing Button to crash out!

        1. I think everyone learned this trick from Schumi, as he was the one usually leading the race when the SC got more regularly used in F1 :-)

    6. I wonder if someone has had a quiet word with red bull about that suspicious floor wear at Monza and have now played it safe from here on in

      I’m not sure McLaren and Ferrari caught up as much as Red Bull fitted a stiffer floor now that the championship was in the bag. Hmmm, just putting it out there ;)

      1. There has been no proof that Red Bull has breached any technical regulations.

        Yes it may look suspicious; but suspicion does not a criminal make.

        Holding a gun while standing next to a dead body doesn’t instantly mean you were the killer.

        1. it’s a fair bet though.

    7. Jenson has been Quick all round this weekend,His amazing ability of conserving the tyres with his Precision enabled him to win the race.Ignoring the fact Seb got pole by the tiniest of margins,Jenson has more or less dominated a race weekend in my opinion for the first time since Monaco 2009 & also outperforming Lewis for the first time since being at McLaren.

      This is psychologically a massive weekend & possibly even a turning point for him,maybe this might be the story from now on,Lewis will definitely pick himself up for certain but maybe the No.1 at McLaren would be a different driver to the one everyone is used to seeing.

      Now as of Lewis,Well another weekend of Misfortunes that some were probably in his control.I agree with him about the fact it was a ‘shocking’ race from him,One of the worst i’ve seen from him in my two years of watching F1 but thats Motor-Racing & i believe Lewis along with any other driver on this grid today will respond,A non-troublesome Podium in Korea will most certainly be Satisfactory for him since he hasnt been on the Podium since his last Victory at Germany.

    8. Cracking stuff Button! – as soon as I heard about the high tyre where I thought the weekend would be his.

      How many of us winced every time Massa & Lewis got within 0.5 sec of each other this race?

      Got to say looking at the graph there I think Lewis did OK with his tyres this time round; prehaps the puncture wrecked his race, prehaps the axle-dif-wing-thingy did more.

      Anyone know if it was Massa’s spare parts or Shumy’s that brought the safety car out?

      1. both i think. If i am not wrong, they mentioned turn 6 and 17. 17 was massa n lewis. Dunno what hapnd at turn 6.

        1. Yes, I think it was both the debris from Massa’s front wing and from Webbers FW from hitting Schu that got them to bring out the SC

    9. What caused Button to lose pace at the end of the race? Surely it couldn’t have been a fuel problem, so were his tyres shot?

      1. It can only have been the fuel issue really. Interesting to wonder what would have happened if the race were a couple of laps longer. Anyone mention Monaco…?

      2. Fuel saving.

        Nothing wrong with his tyres, once they had enough fuel to make the end and Alonso was in the DRS window Button set the fastest lap, you don’t do that on shot tyres.

        1. But how could fuel be a problem after a lot of slow laps behind the safety car? Or was he just doing the same as Vettel in Singapore?

          1. I guess that shows just how much more he had had to use that fuel to jump Vettel in the first half of the race and then had to build a gap to stay in front of both Vettel and Alonso.

            Who knows, maybe Vettel falling back was not even due to the tyres, but saving his fuel a bit more conservatively then Button and Mclaren did in the hunt for a win!

    10. Early pace of Hamilton was really bad(in Hamilton’s standard). I don’t know what was going on. Later he recovered and overtake some guys but it was too late. Is it due to tyre degradation? I don’t know. Whatever Button did amazing job!

    11. Not for the first time we saw Button running towards the podium.Great race from him,showed that he is a capable driver,he is suiting well in the Mclaren.Hamilton I knew will have something in this race but wasn’t sure it will be Massa again.

    12. Vibrating mirrors: On lap 28 we were blessed with in car footage from Hamilton’s car. The reflection in his mirrors is rock steady coming up to the chicane (and elsewhere). The reflection includes some shafts of sunlight (presumably reflected first off body work). The lack of movement in the reflection makes me strongly believe that the mirrors do not vibrate relative to the chassis/bodywork and probably not relative to the rest of the planet/solar system.
      So should I conclude that Hamilton was lying about not seeing Massa due to this alleged vibration? I hope not.

      1. Same as Vettel saying he did not see Button, when we could all clearly see how he was looking in the mirror.

        To me the “I did not see him in my mirrors” excuse is pretty bad. Even if he does not see them clearly, a driver should have a general awareness of where they are and see those small shimmers of movement he can see to know a move he should have been expecting is coming.

        1. @BasCB Yea it’s an easy excuse, really!

          I imagine that the drivers don’t kick up a fuss about it as they’ve probably all used that excuse in their time!

    13. I really worry for Hamilton, he just doesn’t seem to be himself. Every weekend I say this time it is going to turn around for him and it just doesn’t. I think Hamilton needs to completely forget about this year and expect the worst. Start a fresh new year and take some positive steps forward.

      If it keeps going on like this I can almost see him walk away from the sport and the spotlight which would be such a shame for F1. Hamilton always provides some drama and is so exciting to watch behind the wheel.

    14. Great, great result for Button! A flawless weekend and it’s great to see someone so close to Vettel in qualifying. Maybe it’s because he won the race but I thought he acted very sensible when questioned by the BBC about the Vettel incident at the start. Almost making a point to Massa and Hamilton?!

      Not the best of weekends for Hamilton but considering he had a puncture he did well.

    15. Pirelli confirm it wasn’t a puncture for Hamilton:

      Hamilton did not have a puncture at Suzuka

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