McLaren: The old Hamilton reappears

2011 Korean GP team review

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Lewis Hamilton was back on form in the Korean Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 1 3
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’35.820 (-0.306) 1’36.126
Race position 2 4
Laps 55/55 55/55
Pit stops 2 2

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
Lewis Hamilton 108.919 105.696 105.218 105.02 105.639 105.573 105.518 105.378 104.812 104.954 104.923 104.965 104.874 105.01 109.348 120.361 133.919 143.322 167.09 154.529 102.896 102.577 102.293 102.367 102.358 102.657 103.174 102.766 102.582 102.731 102.845 103.373 108.04 121.77 101.81 101.846 101.912 101.804 101.626 101.377 101.359 101.35 101.25 101.187 101.192 101.197 101.549 101.257 101.328 100.605 101.213 100.813 100.869 100.459 100.513
Jenson Button 111.861 106.873 106.384 105.883 105.837 105.896 105.488 105.317 105.014 105.453 105.711 106.072 110.71 122.46 105.039 103.636 135.904 132.428 166.835 153.281 104.306 103.306 103.429 102.997 102.994 103.095 102.907 102.66 102.804 102.538 102.737 103.215 102.945 106.834 119.127 101.851 101.772 101.689 101.588 101.367 101.129 101.314 101.283 101.23 100.997 100.867 101.36 101.168 101.491 101.071 100.943 100.978 101.031 100.874 100.709

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Korea, 2011
Start tyre Super soft
Pit stop 1 Super soft 20.846s
Pit stop 2 Soft 20.584s

Rain or shine, Lewis Hamilton looked quick in practice. He carried it through into qualifying, topping all three parts and breaking Red Bull’s stranglehold on first place this year.

Having done that, he failed to lead a lap during the race. He came under immediate attack from Sebastian Vettel and the start, left a gap for the Red Bull driver to squeeze through at turn four and that was that.

Hamilton slipped back, battling a mysterious understeer problem which led him to make all the changes he could in an effort to make the car turn in.

Under the circumstances he drove a fine race – easily the best since his Nurburgring win – to fend off Mark Webber’s attempts to take second.

His only slip-up came after switching to soft tyres for his final stint. He ran wide at turn four and Webber pounced. The pair ran thrillingly side-by side through the following sequence of fast turns, Hamilton clinging to the inside line to keep Webber back.

At one point Webber got past him at turn one, but Hamilton lined up the Red Bull driver in the DRS zone, took the place back with ease, and went on to finish second.

This was a welcome return for the old Hamilton: superbly quick over a single lap and excellent in wheel-to-wheel battle. He called it “one of my strongest races of the season”.

“There was so much pressure from Mark behind and it would have been so easy to make a mistake, lock up or go wide – but I’m really satisfied that I didn’t do so once. I believe that withstanding pressure is the mark of a world champion, and I think I showed that in today’s race.”

But his downbeat mood even after taking pole position on Saturday told that all is still not well beneath the surface.

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Start tyre Super soft
Pit stop 1 Super soft 20.766s
Pit stop 2 Soft 20.758s

Button was crowded out on the first lap, falling from third to sixth, and that dictated the rest of his race.

He admitted afterwards he thought Webber was alongside him at turn three on the first lap, and was surprised to find Massa there when he turned in. He ran wide trying to re-pass Massa at the next corner, falling behind Webber and Fernando Alonso.

Button dropped back from the group initially but closed in later on in the stint, then made for the pits on lap 14. Nico Rosberg followed him in, but got out ahead of the McLaren driver.

The pair swapped places twice as they returned to the track – Rosberg running wide at the first corner, then re-passing Button in the DRS zone. Button made the decisive move on the next lap, using DRS to his advantage.

Despite that delay both the Ferraris came out behind him, promoting him to fourth. He caught Webber but even as the Red Bull driver was queued up behind Hamilton, Button couldn’t find a way past for third.

Like Hamilton, Button complained of understeer: “Towards the end of each stint, the front end would drop away: I just couldn’t get close enough in the last sector.

“I added more front-end at the stops, but I had lots of understeer so I couldn’t get close enough to Mark to use DRS.”

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

2011 Korean Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    65 comments on “McLaren: The old Hamilton reappears”

    1. Some times these performances gives a lot of boost to the driver. Vettel had similar criticisms and discussions going on last year and the moment he won the races in Japan, Brazil, Abu Dhabhi and the the world championship he was a different person.

      For Lewis He never had a s slump of form in his life, never was beaten by a team mate and also never had to get criticized for his driving so this was all new to him. I hope it make him stronger and more solid over next year. Good drivers need such mental litmus tests to make themselves stronger. Way to go Lewis !!!!!

    2. Exactly, this was Hamilton like he should be. I really thought Webber got him there several times. Lovelly defensive driving.

      1. @BasCB Probably some of the best defensive driving i’ve seen all season. It must have been so frustrating for Webber!

        1. lucky Lewis had DRS or he wouldnt of gotten back past Webber. apart from that, geat defensive driving. buts its strange how he couldnt do it against Vettel in the other redbull…

    3. Yeah, truly great to see Lewis in action – the whole race…

      Although a superb drive to maintain second against a surprisingly strong Red Bull without showing any signs whatsoever of driving erratically I still don’t think we saw Lewis at his best. But certainly on the way there.

      An on form Hamilton would not have let that happen on lap one. I feel a super strong Vettel exploited a slightly fragile Hamilton (relative terms of course) at the right time. Outstanding merciless attack from Seb, mature measured response from Lewis.

      1. Or as the article said, with a car that isn’t massively understeering he wouldn’t have let SEB past.

        1. They were driving in a straight line at the time though to be fair. :-)

          Any understeer issue he had was not a factor at that point.

          He did well in the race. I hope he does well for the rest of the season.

          1. I think you just proved my point. Superior straight line speed and traction kept Webber behind, but look how he caught him in the corners …

            1. @Nick F didn’t inadvertently prove your point.

              Seb and Lewis didn’t exit a high speed corner. They came out of a hairpin, where “superior traction” should have allowed Hamilton to get away better. Vettel then slipstreamed Hamilton, negating the MP4-26’s “superior straight line speed” and took him.

        2. It looks like even if vettel does not start on pole and even if he Overtakes someone fair in a straight line it is not considered as his talent but it is because the other cars were understeering. :) now that is cool….

        3. The car began understeering at around Lap 8 or 9. The radio message came through the broadcast at Lap 9. Give a lap’s delay that’s Lap 8

      2. The new one move rule took effect from Korea.
        Hamilton was forced t leave the door ajar.

        1. No he wasn’t. The requirement to leave room for the other car only applies when they are returning towards the racing line, not when they are moving off-line to defend.

          1. Thanks for that clarification Keith, I too, misunderstood the rule.

          2. Hamilton himself claimed he had already moved once.

            1. But as it was just pointed out, the new rule only applies to those moving back to the racing line, not for the initial defending move.

            2. Perhaps he felt he had made a move early on before the braking zone. Lets not forget his incident with Petrov where a move at the start of a straight was considered blocking despite there being no attempt beng made to overtake.

    4. Motor_mad (@)
      17th October 2011, 20:08

      Hamilton’s and Buttons lap times throughout the race are extremely similar.

    5. Lewis was always there,His mind just wasnt in the right place & at some points he was plain unfortunate,some of the incidents were bad judgements and thats life,Its an ongoing process & you just got to learn from your mistakes and move forward.But nonetheless great to see Lewis back on form,hopefully he can grab a win or two in the remaining 3 races.

    6. To be honest, I don’t think the old Hamilton went away. In his rookie year, he didn’t make many mistakes, but the ones he did make were over-looked due to it being his first year.
      His second year was pretty much the same, and although he won the Championship, his only real competition was Massa, and we all know that he is far from a top runner, he just had a better car.
      Hamilton’s third year, he had a terrible car at the beginning, but the team itself was experienced and they developed the car well. I’m not denying that he’s not a good driver, as he did get some good results that year.
      In 2010, he was okay, but no better than his previous years, especially against a dominant Red Bull car, which was making its own mistakes all year long.
      This year, Hamilton has been exactly the same, but now he is realising that with his current performances, he’ll never reach the same level as Vettel, and it’s causing him to be even worse than he is. That added with the fact that Button has had more input with the car, is making him look him look just what he is, a good driver, but in my opinion, not the best.

      So I don’t think there is a return to form at all, I just think he was finally able to get a decent result in comparison to his team mate, and to be honest, if his attitude that we saw in Korea continues, then I wouldn’t mind betting that he will soon find that McLaren, or any other top team for that matter, will not be his home.

      1. In 2010 you said he was o.k. yet the people on this site voted him best driver of the season, he did not enjoy the car advantage vettel had all season yet he managed to stay within a race win of the man who eventually won the championship, that was a hell of a effort

      2. 2007 – You completely forgot that Hamilton beat his two-time world champion team-mate in his ROOKIE YEAR,Missed out on the title by 1 Point,a point that when you look at Hamilton’s season you can mention a lot of ‘ifs’ & ‘buts’ & that point could have easily made up

        2008 – Redeemed himself by taking the title he well & truly deserved,Should have won the title comfortably but he doesnt make things easy for himself(Brazil)

        2009 – Struggled with a poor MP4-24(Decent results in China & Bahrain),but McLaren’s ability to develop a car shone in Germany onwards,allowing Hamilton to score the most points in the 2nd half of the season(2 Wins,5 Podiums,4 Poles)

        2010 – One of his best seasons despite being in argubly the 3rd Fastest car(I think it was the 2nd fastest) with the Dominate Red Bull being present,He was at his best(and still is) but the car & himself on occasions( i.e Monza & Singapore) was the downside,At the end that Wheel rim failure in Spain ended up being the main event that costed him the title,Lets refer back to one of my statements;IN argubly the 3rd Fastest car).Forgot about Button,Clearly out-performed his new team-mate

        2011 – His worst season currently;His emotions sometimes got the best out of him at times(Monaco),Critics were all over him,Mistakes like poor judgements in Canada,Hungary & Singapore costed him potential victories & podiums,Unfortunate events in Spa,Monaco & Japan costed him further podiums.However,His natural talent never failed to disappoint as he shone in races like China & Germany along with other great but calm drives in Spain,Korea & Monza(a bit too passive) showed that Hamilton has learned from his team-mate Button,who has clearly stepped up his game.

        1. Not sure the MP4-26 was the 3rd fastest car. In pre-season testing, it was lapping at back marker speeds and only seemed to work with the previous year’s rear wing attached.

          1. Not sure the MP4-26 was the 3rd fastest car

            Im talking about the MP4-25 being the 3rd Fastest.

            Besides whatever you’re stating about the MP4-26 only working on the 2010 Rear wing is completely false because the Rear wing was mainly based on the F-Duct & Shark fin,which were both banned for this year & onwards

            1. I think @Franton is talking of the MP4-24, which was the 2009 dog of a car. When the 2008 wing was slapped on the car in preseason was actually competitive.

        2. He did not beat Alonso. They tied on points.

          1. Countback – hence why you always see 1: Raikonen 2: Hamilton 3: Alonso

            1. They tied on points and Alonso was sabotaged by McLaren.

            2. @huron The FIA steward who oversaw Alonso’s garage seemed to think otherwise.

              If you’re going to make a claim like that, back it up with some proof. By which I don’t mean hearsay, innuendo and conspiracy theories.

          2. Everyone remembers 2007 as the year Hamilton lost the title to Raikkonen. He beat Alonso.

            1. Or they remember it as the year McLaren backed the wrong horse…

        3. In 2008 the championship wouldn’t have gone down to the last race at Brazil, if his win at Spa wasn’t taken away, and given to Massa.

      3. “Hamilton’s third year, he had a terrible car at the beginning, but the team itself was experienced and they developed the car well.”

        Someone got memory loss?

        Back of the grid in Aus at the first race of 2009, finishing 3rd, in one of the worst cars in the field.

        Stick that on a butty and eat it.

        1. Well technically he was classified last after being disqualified due to lying to the stewards

          1. Yes, but this is about driver performance on the circuit.

            1. There’s one constant in Hamilton that I think he really needs to improve. To me, Hamilton is probably the fastest driver in the grid. However, he’s not the most complete package. He proved to be able to fight and even be faster than Alonso. However, it was probably Alonso that developed that Mclaren. Alonso has proven he can help develop cars and teams. Button is proving the same. Vettel, for example, while, in my view, not as fast as Hamilton in pure racing, is a more complete package- that kid’s focus and attention to detail is admirable. Not a big fan of his finger pointing celebration, but truly admire the determination. Hamilton needs to up his commitment. I’m still a fan, but recently Hamilton just doesn’t seem like the complete driver I thought he was. He is still young, he can wise up and learn from the Red Bull kid. And I hope he understands that his childhood hero, Ayrton, was the most complete package there was in his time. To confirm it, just listen to Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard’s comments on Top Gear’s Senna special…

            2. Withmarsh said early this year that the car was designed more to Button’s driving style.
              So if Button is developing the car, he is doing so for himself only, which then makes Mclaren’s lack of competitiveness all year understandable.
              When Hamilton was developing the car they won a championship and fought till the very last race in 2010.
              With Button as the “lead” development driver, Mclaren lost both championships half way through the season. Great achievement if you ask me

            3. His performances outside of that race in the first half of 2009 did see him struggle.

    7. Whitmarsh has said that it turned out that Hamilton’s front wing slot was crammed full of tire “marbles.” And that Button’s was punctured by a rock. Thus, they both had terrible understeer. This adds up with Hamilton questioning on the radio during the race whether the team had actually made the wing change we heard reqeusted on the radio before the third stint. Whitmarsh replied “that’s all we’ve got.” This is such strange story coming after the bizarre “pressure differential accross the rear” axle debacle at Suzuka.

      Maybe the wing got fouled right after the first stop when he went wide then started losing heaps of time to Vettel. However, from then on, he was no slower than Button. Maybe Button met his mysterious missle at the same time.

      This race was a vintage 2010 McLaren event. Hamilton gets his statutory .3s on Button, which means that Button loses 2-3 grid spots to Hamilton, and then Button never quite recovers the deficit, however smooth a race he runs, and finishes a couple places behind.

      That Hamilton-Webber battle from turns 4 through, a lot of turns, was amazing. I wanted to cover my face when I say Hamilton jump Webber coming out of 6, because I did not think two cars could go through that flat out sweeper. The McLaren had so much grip that coming out of 2 and 3 and 6, Hamilton would just drive away even though he came into the corner in a defensive line.

    8. What is the slump Hamilton had?
      He has been consistently fast all season in qualifying. Yes he has not finished many races or finished behind Button, that isn’t necessarily a slump.
      At Monza he had a very slow top speed compred to Button, rendering his DRS useless.
      In Canada he got taken out by Button but he had the speed.
      Monaco, Massa refused to behave like all the other drivers who got overtaken at thed hair pin and give room.
      A few times he got out qualified by Button was because the team spoiled his second run, even at that, he was always only one position behind his team mate.

      So I believe Hamilton never went aywhere, the team just had him mixing with the wrong crowd.
      Once in a while he likes to bond with his pals at the stewards office, we can’t always choose who our friends are. :-)

      1. Eh? Both McLarens had the same (similar, anyways) top speed in Monza. Monaco I believe Massa himself was avoiding Webber

        1. They didn’t have the same top speed, and they didn’t either in Belgium where the disparity was eve wider.

    9. Lewis admitted he made a mistake on the first lap. He said it didn’t matter that Vettel got him on the first lap because his car was so superior to his that he would get him sooner or later anyway.

    10. Good drive by Hamilton he needs to keep quiet & let his driving do the talking.He raced well with Webber harsh but fair.Button had a quiet race.Mclaren is sure looking strong for the last three races.

      1. Yes, I like his new mood.

    11. Hamilton slipped back, battling a mysterious understeer problem which led him to make all the changes he could in an effort to make the car turn in.

      A McLaren engineer diagnosed the mysterious problem:

      “…The problem on Sunday was what’s called compound ‘push’ understeer. The front end push causes slight grain in the tyre surface, the more the driver corrects the worse the tyre gets and the more understeer that occurs…”


      1. That is just talking of the problem after it happened, but nothing of the cause of the problem. I can kind of figure out what he means by compound push understeer but I have never heard anyone call it that.

        What he said is basically something that happens in most cases of understeer; not something specific to Lewis’s case. It’s a snowball effect as the front end not biting would cause understeer and front slip; which then rips grains of rubber, causing it to understeer more, and yadda yadda

        1. @raymondu999 It is a bit weird that it would affect them both so much here, perhaps it was just the tyre choice this weekend put both Hamilton and Button right on the limit?

          1. The latest reports were that marbles got stuck in the slots in the front wing and caused a stall. What this basically means is you lose downforce but you have the drag; and the drag of a brick at that. Having said that the front wing produces very little drag anyways so the drag wouldn’t have hurt them much.

            1. @raymondu999

              The latest reports were that marbles got stuck in the slots in the front wing and caused a stall.

              I heard that but couldn’t see any evidence of it on the front of his car after or during the race. Could’ve been underneath the wing I suppose.

            2. @keithcollantine Same here. I heard reports as such but have yet to see photos confirming it.

            3. You don’t need total blockage before you have a loss in performance. Besides since the slot gaps are usually small it just requires some debris to be lodged deep within and all lift/downforce from that particular section is lost.

    12. It was a great drive from Hamilton – fast and fair. That’s all any of us can really ask from him. It was also nice to see a Red Bull off pole, even though it should have happened in Japan also.
      Something to take note of is that even against one of Hamiltons’ best performances this year, Button was able to bounce back from a poor start and finish only a couple of seconds behind his team-mate. He has definitely stepped up his game this year and I believe that the two are now very equally matched on pace on a good day

      1. If you’re talking of this race in particular I don’t think JB was on Lewis’s pace at all. Lewis was defending against Mark, which would have slowed him down; but JB still couldn’t catch them. Lewis didn’t have the use of DRS; so theoretically Lewis is doing the best lap time off a McLaren without DRS use in the activation zone, and as such limited Mark to the same lap times. But Jenson still couldn’t catch them.

        1. Well JB did catch them got the use of DRS once but then couldn’t get close again

          1. So what does that tell you?

            1. Button was on Hamilton’s pace but Webber was mighty in S3 so never got a serious chance to over take him.

    13. It is a big puzzle to me why there are people that still say “Lewis is not a complete driver”, or that others are so much better at car development than he is. We have in today’s current crop, and thanks in part to the test rules, no driver that is doing a bang up job in car development. The cars evolve at the factory and each advantage seems to come from a particular design advantage that no other team seems able to perfect. And as for Lewis, the 2009 car came alive thanks to data provided to the engineers from hard races by him, period. Jenson is a great driver, but he gets a lot of credit for something that he has never done. The Brawn, sort of de-evolved while he drove it, however, there has never been a case where the Mclaren has gotten worse over the year while being driven by Lewis. He will probably have many bad years, just as Michael did on way to his seven titles, but I agree with others, he really never left, he seems to be fighting too many battles to be really good at any. Also, I believe as part of the drivers agreement he has to speak to the media.

      1. The Brawn team didn’t have the budget of Mclaren to develop the 2009 car.

        1. But they had an epic budget to get that 2009 car designed and built. Probably the biggest budget that will ever be spent on an F1 car. It would not have been more costly were it encrusted in diamonds. Practically.

          I don’t know whether Brawn were digging change out of the sofa later in the season, but the fact that McLaren spotted them three seconds in lap time but caught and passed them later is a valid comment about which driver-engineering combination was better at developing a car. And it would pretty bold to pin the development issue on a fully-staffed Ross Brawn engineering team.

          1. It’d also be bold to claim it went backwards simply because of one driver.

      2. One must also add that Brawn/Honda, trusted the car development to Barichello as he had vastly more experience and excedllent feed back.

    14. the flying finn
      18th October 2011, 16:57

      Martin brundell is saying in an article at the bbc website, that hamilton was trying to say something to someone in his inner circle with his demeanor after qualy. He is suggesting that he is breaking up with his girlfriend.
      I think it would be important to know this things, t try to understand how he is coping with it. I imagine we’ll get some info soon on it.

      1. I doubt it has anything to do with his girlfriend, but more to do with the public linching he gets frequently. Also I doubt he is happy with how some members of his team seem to be messing up his chances and always quick to blame him for the teams errors.

        1. Oliver, I don’t necessarily agree with you regarding his girlfriend, but your spot on regarding public lynching.

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