Hamilton splits Red Bulls before wheel failure (Spanish GP team-by-team)

An unexplained failure at the front-left of the car robbed Hamilton of second

An unexplained failure at the front-left of the car robbed Hamilton of second

With two laps to go in Spain McLaren looked on course to increase their lead in the constructors’ championship and have both drivers on top in the drivers’ standings.

But a shock failure on Lewis Hamilton’s car, which still hasn’t been explained, dashed those hopes.

Jenson Button Lewis Hamilton
Qualifying position 5 3
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’20.991 (+0.162) 1’20.829
Race position 5 14
Average race lap 1’27.997 (+0.821) 1’27.176
Laps 66/66 64/66
Pit stops 1 1
Spanish Grand Prix lap times: McLaren

Spanish Grand Prix lap times: McLaren (click to enlarge)

Jenson Button

Having edged Hamilton in Q2 by three tenths of a second it looked like Button was on course to repeat his Shanghai qualifying performance. But he didn’t – lining up fifth in front of Michael Schumacher.

Surprisingly, the team waited two laps to respond to Schumacher’s pit stop by bringing Button in, and that may well have cost him the place to the Mercedes driver.

But he was also impeded by a faulty dashboard which meant, among other things, he was struggling to get his gear changes right:

During the opening laps, my dashboard readout stopped working. The team was telling me over the radio to do things on the steering wheel but I couldn?t see if I was doing the right things.

And I couldn?t see the rev lights either: most of the time I was pretty close with my gear changes, but I was hitting the limiter quite a lot, which happens when you?re getting a tow and you?re shifting at different places.

Then I was delayed at the first pitstop: there was a problem with the clutch dragging, so the guys couldn?t get the wheel on, and then I had wheelspin.
Jenson Button

Button treated us to some of the best action of the race, repeatedly trying to pass Schumacher at turn one. While Schumacher carefully blocked the inside line, Button was repeatedly forced to try the outside. And with Felipe Massa in close attendance, Button could afford to risk out-braking himself and taking to the run-off and speed bumps at the corner.

Some – such as Eddie Irvine, who I spoke to on Talksport last night – criticised Button afterwards for bring too timid in his attempts to pass.

To me it looked like a case study in how aerodynamically-sensitive cars make overtaking very difficult. The onboard footage showed how Button couldn’t follow Schumacher closely through the final turn or turn three when he got close to the W01.

Other might blame the Catalunya circuit – but in the GP2 races this weekend several drivers, notably ART’s Sam Bird, were able to pass cars at various places on the track, thanks to their lower-downforce cars.

Compare Jenson Button’s form against his team mate in 2010

Lewis Hamilton

Bridgestone issued a vague statement about the front-left failure that put Lewis Hamilton out of the race with two laps to go:

We are working closely with McLaren to understand what happened to Lewis Hamilton, but initial impressions are that this was not caused by a tyre issue.
Hirohide Hamashima

McLaren are still investigating the problem so it’s not clear whether this was a breakage of something in the wheel or tyre, or something caused by Hamilton’s style of driving. Recent history suggests it could be either.

Hamilton had a similar crash in qualifying at the Nurburgring in 2007, the cause of which was eventually traced back to a faulty wheel gun. In 2008 Heikki Kovalainen, driving a McLaren, crashed in almost identical circumstances during the race at Barcelona after a wheel breakage.

However Hamilton also experienced tyre problems at Istanbul in 2007 and 2008 which were particular to his driving style.

What is clear is that McLaren, who judged their tyre wear very well in the previous race, didn’t see this coming – excessive tyre wear usually manifests itself in a loss of grip rather than instant failure.

The failure was a bitter blow at the end of a weekend where Hamilton led the charge for McLaren. He out-qualified Button and drove away from him in the race.

Though Hamilton was fortunate to get the chance to split the Red Bulls, he seized the opportunity with a brave dive between Vettel and Lucas di Grassi.

He maintained enough of a margin over Vettel to protect his position late in the race, but he was clearly concerned about losing time in traffic – McLaren’s post-race transcript shows he asked for blue flags on several occasions (and mistakenly called out “red flag” once!)

Hamilton set the race’s fastest lap on the 59th tour in response to Fernando Alonso reducing his lead. At the time of his crash on lap 66 he had backed off and seemed to be cruising to a second place in the race – and the championship standings.

Compare Lewis Hamilton’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 Spanish Grand Prix

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69 comments on Hamilton splits Red Bulls before wheel failure (Spanish GP team-by-team)

  1. Button doesn’t seem to be as brave in the McLaren as he was in the Brawn at overtaking. Alguersuari and Schumacher showed it is possible to go round the outside into turn one.

    Was so gutted for Lewis this race, he split the Bulls and came home with nothing. He deserved so much better with that great drive :(

    • Scribe said on 10th May 2010, 12:02

      I’d agree with all of that except Button not being Brave. To be honnest, the brave unthinking move was going round the outside, the only realy way for Button to get past Schuey was to shove himself done the inside, Hamilton style.

      An then his tyres went, really I think this is Buttons first bad drive for McLaren because really, an even at this circuit he should have got past Schumacher.

      • BasCB said on 10th May 2010, 14:12

        Scribe, I do think that Button was having some extra trouble getting the most speed out of the car (as seen at the beginning of the straight) because of having to improvise his gear shifting.
        And Schumacher is not the easiest guy to overtake, even more so if he feels good in his car and you feel somewhat unsettled. To put it into the inside of him might have been the easiest way of throwing away some points there.

        • Scribe said on 10th May 2010, 14:22

          BasCB, maybe I was harsh, but on the hard tyres, Button was clearly faster than Schuey. He got beside him a number of times. An the way he did doesn’t provide an excuse, he was in the tow, he got beside Schuey, he had the speed to shove it up the inside.

          However I do acept thathe probably did have other things on his mind, an not having a rev counter probably messes with your overtaking skills. Still Alo nearly got past him with a totaly craked gearbox

          • BasCB said on 10th May 2010, 14:58

            Well you are right about Alonso, although passing Button is probably not the same as passing Michael in a drivable car.
            But i do feel Alonso would have taken the chance to get past Schumi, even if it would have ended in a crash, so i agree with you that Button is not the top overtaker. He needs the car to feel good for him to make such a move.

    • Christian said on 10th May 2010, 12:24

      It would have been nice to see Button attempt to dive past Schumacher, but Jenson is looking to consistently score points, that’s the driver he is.

      If he trys to out brake Schumacher with Massa behind he loses his place or ends up out of the race. As it is he still leads the championship, if the overtake goes wrong he is second.

      Granted it’s not as exciting as Hamilton, but he still gets the job done. He will have chances to pick up more points as the season goes on. It’s about picking the right time to be brave (like Brazil last year when the championship is on the line).

      Very unlucky for Hamilton, it could have been a much better result for McLaren this weekend.

    • Einar AI said on 11th May 2010, 2:35

      All right I feel that the trend of the conversation – which seems to slam Jenson for “not being brave” and failing to overtake Michael Schumacher – is, as always, very unfair on the reigning champ. The public seems to generously underrate Jenson on almost every small mishap he has – however hard he tries really – and extolling LH on every mistake he does. Inevitably, when Hamilton gets a puncture everyone says its bad luck, and his completely useless urge to record fastest laps at the end of the race is described as “driver’s passion/sheer force of nature” and not idiotism. You guys may not see the pattern between all the LH mistakes/punctures but I certainly do. It’s not the first time Lewis pushed far too hard without much use (Monza 2009 anybody?) – inevitably if you put overworked tyres under starin theyre more prone to blow up.

      Now this is by no means a rant against Lewis – I quite like him as a driver, but it is hugely unfair that he is almost never criticized while Jenson is. When Jensons attacking Schumi (a certain 7-time world champ) on a dry track, everyone says Jenson’s moves were “not brave” or “stupid” – that of course Lewis would have “shoved” himself in and showed everyone how to do it. When that certain Lewis repeatedly failed to get even close!!! to Sutil in a Force India (a car far inferior to Mercedes) at Sepang, everyone just balmed it on “dirty air,” or “Force India’s superior straight-line speed.”

      Oh yes. We’re also forgetting that Lewis failed to beat Sutil at Sepang, while Jenson failed to beat Schumi at Montmelo. Now, do u remember many people who actually did overtake successfuly at Barcelona?

      • George said on 11th May 2010, 18:21

        I think you’re just biased in the opposite direction, when Hamilton makes a mistake he gets abuse thrown at him from every direction, it’s only his hardcore fans that never criticize him.

        Hardly anyone is criticising Jenson, at least those who know about the sport know Barcelona is almost impossible to overtake around, especially when the guy in front covers the single opportunity every lap. It’s not as easy as just ‘sticking it down the inside’, especially when you’re fighting for the championship.

        Hamilton’s crash was simply a component failure, even if his driving style did contribute to it, it should have been able to stand that. When Kovy had his crash in turn 3 no one suggested it was his fault.

  2. Dan said on 10th May 2010, 12:05

    From looking at the video it does look like that it was not the tyre that went first, i dont think his tyres were that bad. also he was crusing to the finish and was not pushing

    just really bad luck, would have been a great result

    • Dan said on 10th May 2010, 12:15

      here is a still of it going, im guessing rim failure, the tyre looks fine

        • MarkC said on 11th May 2010, 1:45

          Just before that frame I can see a spark / explosion where the tyre and rim meet at the 8 o’clock position. Or put another way: inline with the right hand edge of the left hand mirror in that image above. I’d therefore assume that Whitmarsh’s post race analysis was correct: it was a rim issue possibly caused by track debris.

          Certainly looks like a piece of rim rather than tyre flying off in your image, Dan.

  3. VXR said on 10th May 2010, 12:41

    It’s easy to say that Button should have got passed, but let’s not forget that this was a dry race and he was trying to pass Schumacher. Others have tried that and failed miserably.

    There’s no doubt that Hamilton was quick though. Maybe too quick for his cars liking. And he was very rough over the kerbs during the race, I noticed, as was Vettel.

    • Apostolos said on 10th May 2010, 13:33

      Dont forget that Buttons dashboard wasnt working too.

    • Frans said on 10th May 2010, 17:55

      and not to mention that this is Catalunya Circuit. It’s hard to overtake here… that’s why the quali is important. I don’t think Hamy can overtake Schumi in that situation too… he probably would be braver, but still wouldn’t be able to overtake Schumi. And doing aggressive overtaking move multiple times surely would ruin his tires faster which can put him in a very dangerous situation.

      Basically we can speculate if this if that, but I’m not really expecting any overtaking moves that stick between the top teams on this circuit.

  4. kowalsky said on 10th May 2010, 12:51

    he didn’t want to destroy his tyres trying to pass schumi, waiting to see if he could gain some positions at the end of the race. He did.

  5. Gusto said on 10th May 2010, 13:20

    I think in 2007 Enkei devoloped, at Mclarens request a 7mm rimmed wheel instead of the standard 14mm, since then Mclaren cars have suffered 3 near identical blow outs……just a thought.

    • Gusto said on 10th May 2010, 18:14

      Sorry for a multi+long comment but this is really worth a read. Its old but interesting,

      To ensure optimum reliability, McLaren regularly carry out non-destructive tests on the wheels. But even with all this effort, it’s hard to guard against the unexpected and so wheel failures can – and do – happen. For McLaren, the most recent came at the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix, when driver Heikki Kovalainen suffered a high-speed crash linked to a manufacturing fault on his car’s left-front wheel.

      “That accident was caused by a set of unfortunate circumstances – an undetectable finish had been incorrectly applied to the surface of the wheel, causing the wheel to suffer a loss of preload at racing speeds,” explains Terada. “As a result, the wheel loosened and started rubbing against the brake duct, which led to the sudden loss of tyre pressure and Heikki’s accident. It wasn’t easy to recreate that exact set of circumstances in the laboratory, but once we understood all the issues, we were able to further tighten our inspection procedure.”

      Quote from Enkei Technical Support

  6. VXR said on 10th May 2010, 13:22

    I still remember the tyre issues that Hamilton had in Turkey 07 and 08.

    Hamilton tends to run a very ‘stiff’ Go-Kart type F1 car setup, which is great for him, but not so great for the bits that are attached to his suspension arms.

    • VXR said on 10th May 2010, 13:23

      And I don’t just mean the tyres.

      • Scribe said on 10th May 2010, 14:25

        How many mechanical faliures did Montoya have in comparison to Raikkonen? Maybe answers questions on car recking set up an fragile McLarens.

        • VXR said on 10th May 2010, 14:45

          The cars are built ‘on the limit’ and that limit can easily come in situations like Hamilton had on Sunday.

          It wasn’t so much that he’d worn out his tyres (let’s not forget that these were Bridgestones hardest tyres), but more that the left front of the car takes all of the forces at Barcelona. If your setup is in anyway different to your team mates, then it’s not surprising that these things are more likely to happen to certain drivers and not others. Same thing applies to Vettel really. Always has.

    • George said on 11th May 2010, 18:24

      I’m pretty sure Hamilton mentioned earlier this year that he thought last year’s car was too stiff (might be my memory playing tricks though).

  7. Derek said on 10th May 2010, 13:33

    Vettel, Hamilton & Alonso are the real racers out there this season. Webber is like Massa and to some extent Button, when everything comes together and is right for them they will win. But the first three can extract that little bit extra when things are not coming together for them.

    • VXR said on 10th May 2010, 13:49

      “But the first three can extract that little bit extra when things are not coming together for them.”

      Either that or it goes horribly wrong.

      Woe betide any of them that get behind Schumacher in another dry race.

    • m0tion said on 11th May 2010, 4:30

      man that is a story you’ve written in your head with no basis in fact. Webber’s career has been dogged by mechanicals rather than him showing up as not being able to fight with a bad car. Up until last year Hamilton was the one under the pump for only being good in a good car and we are not sure yet whether he has any capacity to modify his driving style to ease it up on his front tyres and maintain speed. Some of vettel’s qualy’s have been speed generated by taking curbs to the limit too (straight after one qualy that piercing look on Webber’s face might have said that Vettel broke team guidance on banging those high kerbs on his last run like noone else in the qualy field did) and as VXR said Webber was alluding to that respect for the fragile edge that neither Vettel or Hamilton have yet. You see Alonso adjusting to it all the time and so could Schumacher. You see Rubens doing it too which was why you say Button is bad and yet it is equally Rubens’ talent to drive a bad car. Webber has always qualified cars far higher on the grid than they deserved to be at and you only got to see him running exceptionally going forward in races in oppressive or wet conditions or tracks like Monaco where he was also dogged with mechanicals. Felipe showed he could fight Hamilton on track and win too. He could get ragged but that was not about having no ability to do well in a bad car … just look what happened to Gene and Fischi when they got into his ride last year. He is not quite right for some reason that we probably don’t know – maybe Santander money is at the heart of it.

  8. Icthyes said on 10th May 2010, 13:33

    Still gutted for Hamilton.

    I’m afraid if Button wants anyone to blame for his 5th place it’s himself. There were at least 3 times I noticed that he could have at least tried to go down the inside of Schumacher – and he chose not to.

    I knew this would happen. Two great results out of four and everyone was talking about how it would be the pattern for the season (as usual, the BBC being at the forefront of the hyping). Back to a normal race and Button is miles away from Hamilton. It’s just a shame that, for the third race in four, a more gutsy performance by Hamilton isn’t reflected in a points haul superior to Button’s (though it would be difficult to reconcile this with the fact that button deserved his two wins!). And as good a driver as Button is, I prefer racers. Today we saw the gulf between the two in that respect.

    • VXR said on 10th May 2010, 13:42

      ” There were at least 3 times I noticed that he could have at least tried to go down the inside of Schumacher – and he chose not to.”

      Of course, you would know better, and maybe you weren’t around when Schumacher was imfamous for his ‘not letting people passed without first crashing into them’ era ?

      In the meantime the ‘Hare’ is falling further behind the ‘Tortoise’ with issues relating to how he manages the front end of his car.

      • Icthyes said on 11th May 2010, 0:37

        Sigh. I was a Schumacher fan, after all…

        Of course I don’t know better. But Button should have. and after trying the outside so many times, wouldn’t you try something different?

        • Icthyes said on 11th May 2010, 2:52

          Which, by the way, doesn’t mean that I think Button would have passed Schumacher had he gone down the inside – just that he should have tried.

    • DaveW said on 10th May 2010, 14:43

      I’d like to give Button the benefit of the doubt but the fact is he never tried the inside. At the end of the day unless you are going to use the pit exit and possibly the grass, you are not getting by him. Hamilton lost his winglet getting by Massa in a similar situation, going way over to the right. That may not have been the smartest move, and Hamilton balances out his brilliant passes with daft mistakes, but that is the situation and if you want to get by a guy like that, you have to make a wreck one of the 2 most likely outcomes of his defensive move.

  9. Mike said on 10th May 2010, 13:43

    I think Button pushed very hard to take Schumacher, I’m rather impressed how close he got considering Schumacher has proved he is very good at defending his position.

    This is the first time I have seen this post race transcript thing, it is great! you can see exactly what is going on with the drivers. Do any other teams do this???

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th May 2010, 14:04

      It’s been there since the start of the season – they have live commentary and telemetry for their cars during the races, though the telemetry didn’t seem to be working properly this weekend. We’ve referred to it here in the live comments during the races.

      • Patrickl said on 10th May 2010, 16:57

        On the BBC they said that McLaren was the only team to still have their own telemetry when the general system failed.

  10. Steezy said on 10th May 2010, 13:58

    Yeah, that transcript thing is good. I’ve always thought of McLaren as a very closed team (since all the scandals and such)… it’s good to see them doing something, I guess.

    • Scribe said on 10th May 2010, 14:27

      Now both Ferrari an McLaren have got rid of their old mecurial masters, the whole paddock seems nicer.

  11. DaveW said on 10th May 2010, 14:40

    Can anyone cite one example of Hamilton’s “driving style”, or any other qualitative aspect of driving by any other dirver, causing a mechanical failure in a car in “recent history”? This is talk from the days when cars had clutches and no rev-limiters. The McLaren has been one of the most reliable cars on the grid in recent years. By comparison, the RedBull has not been—-and no one lays the known fragility of Newey’s recent cars at the feet of the RedBull drivers. Assuming the driver-breaks-car-by-rough-driving theory, if anything, the data would tend to show that recent McLaren drivers compared to their peers are geniuses at preserving the car.

    Of course, this falls into the wisdom of the well-studied spectator who knows that the complex machinery “in the front end” requires some kind of extra-sensory acumen that people like Hamilton don’t have and can’t get. Hamilton steers and hits the brakes all funny and causes the rims to fail. When will he learn?

    I recall that when McLarens were unreliable (when designed by you know who) the standard wisdom was that Kimi Raikkonen broke cars. The talk cleared up when he went to Ferrari. Remember all that?

    • Rob said on 10th May 2010, 15:03

      Right on Dave W. You know, the difference is that Lewis is a winner. You always know that he will do his utmost in qualifying and the race. It’s mentality. It’s something Mansell or Hill never had. The technique of Senna combined with the guts of Mansell. I love watching him race. Alonso is a great driver, but you always know that watching Hamilton will be worth your money ! I feel a sense of gratitude that is in F1 today. All you naysayers can go …………..

      • VXR said on 10th May 2010, 15:15

        I would agree with all of that if only **** never happened. ;)

        I liked Senna too, but I also liked the way Prost could make it look like F1 was the easiest thing in the world to do. Always we wondered how he managed to finish in front of everyone else by driving slower than they were! And then it dawned on us! He was a “winner” too!

    • Patrickl said on 10th May 2010, 17:00

      A problem like Vettel’s could be the result of overdriving the car though. If a driver overheats the brakes the brakes wear down (too) quickly.

      I remember that someone from McLaren even stated that Ferrari were in for a lot of problems with Raikkonen’s “wrecking of cars”. Wasn’t that Whitmarsh?

  12. VXR said on 10th May 2010, 14:51

    “Can anyone cite one example of Hamilton’s “driving style”, or any other qualitative aspect of driving by any other dirver, causing a mechanical failure in a car in “recent history”?”

    Ah! It’s the left front! (no one mentioned ‘tyre’) we all cried, as Hamilton speared into the barrier.

  13. FelipeBabyStayCool said on 10th May 2010, 15:20

    Master, I guess the 2nd quote is wrong. It has to be from someone at Bridgestone, not from Lewis Hamilton (unless he’s speaking about himself in third person)

  14. rampante said on 10th May 2010, 16:22

    Here in Italy the fault seems to lie with the front left suspension and nothing to do with Hamilton. Every time his name is mentioned we have the same outbursts of “he can’t drive” “he’s the best”. Are British F1 fans ever happy? Even if he has made a mistake or not( not on this occasion) I have never seen an F1 driver who has not in their career. He has bags of ability and talent and he’s not perfect but just let him drive. When we have a race and all 23 drivers have the perfect faultless race and Hamilton stuffs it into the wall then give him a hard time.

    • Icthyes said on 11th May 2010, 0:41

      Are British F1 fans ever happy?

      No-one in Britain is ever happy! ;-)

      • MarkC said on 11th May 2010, 1:55

        I am, or I was. How dare you! It’s comments like that which really get on my wick, there I was all happy and now… now… now I’m really mad.

        Oh wait, what?!

  15. Scalextric said on 10th May 2010, 16:41

    Button’s delayed stop relative to MSC meant he came in after Vettel and thereby ‘helped’ delay Vettel’s pit box exit, according to Vettel. This then enabled Button’s teammate to take second. I’m just saying.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th May 2010, 16:48

      Interesting – did they time Button’s pit stop to help delay Vettel for Hamilton? Would explain why they left it an extra lap.

    • Patrickl said on 10th May 2010, 19:09

      Did he really say that? Would be incredibly sad if he lied about this (again).

      They had a problem with the right front wheel on Vettel’s car. That’s why he was delayed.

      Vettel actually pulls out of his box well after Button stops.

      Schumacher was stuck behind the Williams cars and he was losing time. Makes sense that they kept Button out till the same lap as Alonso and Vettel.

      • Patrickl said on 10th May 2010, 19:15

        BTW Hamilton was able to run 3 laps longer on his tyres, also had a problem in his pit stop and still came out ahead of Vettel.

        It’s funny how the psyched Vettel into stopping so early. Vettel said that he thought that Hamilton would stop early so he did too. Trying to cover Hamilton.

        I was wondering why McLaren was so openly discussing their strategy of stopping before the others to pick up a spot.

        Turned out they were actually planning to stop late and hoped to trick other into stopping too early. Guess it worked, lol.

      • Scalextric said on 10th May 2010, 22:16

        Vettel said he was delayed by the right front wheel and then held in his box by his mechanics due to two cars in pit lane, the last one being Button, as I recall. This was in the post-race news conference, so please check this for me if you can.

        McLaren could not have planned for the first two delays as far as I can see. Any resulting delay was therefore coincidental.

        • Scalextric said on 10th May 2010, 22:22

          Fine, I’ll do it myself!
          “I was unlucky as I had a slow stop and had to wait in the pit box for the Ferrari to drive past and then Jenson was coming in, so it felt very long!”

          • Gusto said on 10th May 2010, 22:44

            To number crunch your own stop is a feat in itself, to coordinate it an interrupt your opponent is a feat I see as highly unlikely…But as Murry said `anything can happen in F1`

          • Patrickl said on 10th May 2010, 22:58

            Lol, OK.

            Button and Alonso weren’t that close together that he would have been held up by both.

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