Hamilton’s engineer got it wrong over Button pass, Whitmarsh admits

Hamilton was told Button wouldn't pass him

Hamilton was told Button wouldn't pass him

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the message given to Lewis Hamilton during the Turkish Grand Prix that Jenson Button would not overtake him was “wrong”.

During the Grand Prix race engineer Phil Prew advised him Button would not overtake. Whitmarsh admitted that Button’s pass on Hamilton came “shortly after” that message was given.

He also said Hamilton lifted more than expected in turn eight, giving Button the chance to pass.

Speaking to Whitmarsh during the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in I asked him when Hamilton had been advised Button wouldn’t pass him and why he had been given that message.

Whitmarsh explained Prew had read the situation wrongly:

Shortly after [Lewis] was told Jenson wouldn’t overtake him, Jenson did overtake him.

Phil gave his opinion, as it turned out his opinion was wrong. It’s as simple as that.

They both had a challenge in that race from the outside – the race was a bit quicker for the Red Bulls and the McLarens. We were consuming more fuel than we needed to so we had to find ways to save fuel.

Inevitably as you get to the end of race there is a dilemma about how hard you can race. I think we had it amply demonstrated that a team and their drivers can get that wrong.

Both of our racing drivers want to win and they were being told to look after fuel but as a consequence of that Phil had the opinion that Jenson wouldn’t overtake. Clearly that opinion was probably a wrong one.
Martin Whitmarsh

Whitmarsh added that Hamilton had lifted significantly in turn eight before Button passed him:

It wasn’t expected that Lewis would lift as much as he did in turn eight. I think for Jenson, as a racing driver, when he saw quite a big lift in turn eight he saw it as an opportunity to move up and subsequently made the pass.
Martin Whitmarsh

Drivers often lift at turn eight in Istanbul to save fuel.

Whitmarsh added that both cars were under instructions to save fuel which is why they maintained status up after Hamilton had taken the lead back from Button:

He asked a question and Phil Prew gave an instinctive and immediate response which is that he didn’t think Jenson was going to pass. He knew that they’d both been given the same instruction to save fuel.

Lewis understood that and wasn’t about to give up first place easily. He made a fairly robust overtake to ensure he remained in the lead.

Thereafter I think the two of them decided there was a reasonably fair and equitable equilibrium and they were looking to ensure they finished comfortably with fuel and with cars intact.
Martin Whitmarsh

Read more: McLaren told Hamilton Button wouldn?t pass him during the Turkish Grand Prix

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120 comments on Hamilton’s engineer got it wrong over Button pass, Whitmarsh admits

  1. kbdavies said on 8th June 2010, 12:22

    Keith, i’m really surprised you allowed Martin Whitmarsh to get away with so much tripe. There are so many glaring inconsistencies in this saga, and you undoubtedly took it “easy” on him.
    I would have loves to ask him a few questions myself!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 8th June 2010, 12:34

      In these phone-in interviews you get one question and not usually much chance to follow up. The question I asked him was:

      “Could you put us in the picture concerning what happened between Jenson and Lewis at Turkey? After Lewis got the message Jenson wouldn’t pass him, how soon after did Jenson overtake? And why did Lewis get that message given that Jenson was so close behind him and going quicker than he was?”

      There were others on the phone in, the person after me asked another question about Turkey, the rest all asked different things (some of which you can read Whitmarsh’s responses to here: http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2010/06/08/montreal-and-valencia-an-opportunity-whitmarsh/ )

      • kbdavies said on 8th June 2010, 13:03

        Thanks for the info Keith.
        On a different note,is there any chance we will get a “modify post” button on the forum at some point in the future? As much as i try to proof read my comments, i always find some elementary spelling mistakes afterwards..even when i use a spell checker!

      • S Hughes said on 8th June 2010, 14:46

        I have to say, good questions.

      • chris sz said on 8th June 2010, 15:39

        hi keith,
        did you talk to Whitmarsh?
        “Speaking to Whitmarsh during the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in I asked him”…

        it’s pretty similar to the formula1.com interview.


        how do these phone in sessions work actually?did formula1.com quote you?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 8th June 2010, 15:51

          About six or seven people were in the call, typically each person asks a question, sometimes there’s time for some extras at the end. Everyone hears the full session and can use whatever they like from it. There was someone from formula1.com in on the call, so no they aren’t quoting me.

      • sumedh said on 8th June 2010, 15:45

        Way to go Keith!! You always seem to get the most information among all journalists. I remember a similarly piercing question you had asked Lewis Hamilton during the 2010 pre-season testing.

        Nice scoop-up.

        Autosport are now publicizing the same story without crediting you!!

  2. Adrian said on 8th June 2010, 12:42

    What I would love to know is what was said to the drivers AFTER Hamilton re-took the place..!!

  3. tharris19 said on 8th June 2010, 12:42

    Andy Leatham is Lewis’s engineer and Andreasen is Jenson’s. Phil is their supervising engineer.

  4. Somehow the more fiery pairing of Massa-Alonso as widely contested for the battle between teammates during pre-season has taken a back seat with the highly unlikely Jenson-Hamilton and Vettel-Webber now staking their claim over the much coveted title :)

    • BasCB said on 8th June 2010, 13:18

      You don’t suppose that is because they do not have that much to fight for at this moment?

      They certainly are not fighting it out for race wins, or podiums.

      • Plus Alonso is generally quicker than Massa, so to some extent the point is moot. Most of the predictions of fireworks at Ferrari (those that weren’t just wishful thinking, that is) were based on Massa being unexpectedly as fast as, or faster than, Fernando.

        • matt90 said on 8th June 2010, 18:50

          I thought the predictions of fireworks would be if Alonso got a bit ‘ruthless’ (as in overtaking into the pits) and Massa threw a hissy-fit for that- and for generally being beaten. That was my prediction anyway. I think you can tell that my opinion of Massa is pretty low next to Alonso lol.

  5. Zahir said on 8th June 2010, 13:17

    Isn’t the whole point of Mclaren having all the engineers in the garage to improve communication and stop mistakes just like these happening? All Phil Prew had to do was walk a couple of steps to Jensons engineer after Lewis asked the question.

    I dont really want to get caught up in the conspiracy theories but it was a big blunder by Mclaren considering they made big changes this season to stop events such as this one unfolding.

    They are lucky to get away with it in my opinion.

    • Rob said on 8th June 2010, 14:33

      Considering how it was revealed that Webber’s engineer refused to tell him to let Vettel pass him, I wonder why people think it’s impossible that Button’s engineer bluffed about how much fuel he had and what the delta time would be, therefore allowing him the chance to overtake Hamilton?

  6. DGR-F1 said on 8th June 2010, 13:19

    Why is everybody (including Whitmarsh) making such a big mountain out of this molehill? There are two drivers in the team, with distinct driving styles, yet able to compete with each other in the same car.
    Hammy is a fighter, but Jenson takes his time and chooses the moment.
    So, under instruction to save fuel, Hammy, being in the lead, does what hes told and even slows enough that it opens a window for Button to take the opportunity and at least have a go before the end of the race.
    Isn’t that what these guys are paid to do? Isn’t that what we pay to watch? Nobody has said anything wrong, it was down to the drivers on the track to seize the moment.
    And if you think about it, it was the same for Vettel and Webber too. Webber was caught dozing by Vettel, who forgot just how long his car is…….

    • Millsique said on 8th June 2010, 13:38

      I Agree,

      I think people are too quick to jump to random and even conflicting conspiracies.

      • Bobby_B said on 8th June 2010, 15:26

        If this matter was to simply have both drivers race naturally, then why issue instructions for the leading driver to turn their engine down.
        In both situations this was the case, making it easier for the driver behind to catch up. in normal racing conditions neither of the two trailing drivers would have had a chance to get so close so quickly to even attempt an overtaking manoeuvre.
        Just wish all the underhanded pitwall meddling would stop so we can watch honest racing. . .

  7. Lee Sharp said on 8th June 2010, 13:46

    why dont they just finish the race 15 laps early, if teams are going to short fill their cars and tell them to back off to make it to the end whats the point in the final quarter of the race.

    • bosyber said on 8th June 2010, 14:25

      Something like the Stewards/Race Control monitoring teams engine settings, and stopping the race when it was past 75% AND the top 10 were fuel saving?

      If they announce it beforehand, the teams just short fill a bit more to be just as much on the edge, of course. Maybe something like:
      “Race Control: race will end in 5 laps from now – please race to the end”. But they can’t enforce it, unless a penalty if you have too much fuel ie. were too careful, meaning that again races would be only finally decided well after the race, which is not so good.

      I think that there were good indications McLaren were rather close to the edge, fuel-wise, with Hamilton in Turkey – maybe it will lead teams to be a bit more generous when they fuel their cars in future races!

      • DaveW said on 8th June 2010, 15:31

        I don’t think anyone was “short filled.” Turkey is a high-consumption track. As there is only one monocoque for the year (and no-refueling), the cars obviously are built to carry just enough for Turkey and probably a bit less, in favor of the rest of the calendar. So I don’t see this situation recurring, except maybe at Monza. It could be that with the F-Duct, McLaren is more efficient where there are long straights, and thus may gamble on starting slightly light. Anyway, as we saw, RBR was fuel-critical too.

        Of course if there were refueling, the teams could manage the strategy to ensure the ability to race to the end. So this conservation race at Turkey is just more lameness brought to you by the refueling ban.

        • F1 Novice said on 8th June 2010, 20:40

          Yes but when we had re-fuelling and two team mates were out front the race was nullified and positions held after the last pit stop which may have only been at 2/3rds distance.

  8. martin bell said on 8th June 2010, 13:50

    Didn’t we all enjoy just watching them battle for the lead? Who cares what went on on the radio, what was said to whom and when? Jenson laid down a marker, Lewis responded with one on his own – they’re racing drivers, it’s what they do, neither is going to roll over, nor give an inch. Perfect, just what we all want to see, perhaps something that’s been in short supply for the last few years. I am genuinely excited to see how this plays out over the season, now that we know that they are prepared to race each other closely, and fairly. What I can’t get me head round is where some here have the idea that Mclaren would actively want to undermine their star driver, the one they have been nutureing for half his life. It just doesn’t make sense.

    • Rob said on 8th June 2010, 14:43

      I believe that some people for whatever reason are so against Jenson Button that the only way he could pass Hamilton is with the team all working to help him and slow Hamilton down!

      Until this season it seemed nobody had much good to say about Lewis, but now in a team with Jenson he is the lesser of two evils!

      Personally I thought the race was great, and hope that we get a real Senna/Prost battle developing, with it being a shooutout for the championship between the two of them at the last race! Well, I can dream…

  9. Rohan said on 8th June 2010, 14:29

    Not sure why there is such a huge fuss over this with people having a go at Button or McLaren. This is proper racing done right. They were in fuel save mode but that doesn’t mean you stop racing especially around a relatively fast circuit with some opportunities to sit in slipstreams.

    If Button saw Hamilton lift off excessively and had a real opportunity to go past try he’d be an idiot not to take it. If he wasn’t going to save enough fuel and because of a one lap charge then he’d have had to ease off excessively later in the race with the likely result of Hamilton being able to go back through. Alternatively if he had saved just a little fuel by sitting in behind for some of the last stint fair play to him. Like conserving tires it’s part of racing.

    Look at the Indy500 the same day and you won’t see anyone holding station becuase they were in fuel save mode – you make the right charges into the lead/overtake moves at the right time and then hold on with your finger nails. Both Indy and F1 cars have super accurate measures of how much fuel is left I understand so they can nurse the cars accordingly as individuals. I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t open up new tactics at fast tracks (perhaps the new Silverstone) with certain drivers deciding to carry more fuel – then accepting the early time penalty but then winding it all up later in the race with a rev limiter busting charge.

  10. Cacarella said on 8th June 2010, 14:40

    What I’ve learned from all of this in the past week is that true inner team battles do not exist. If there is a threat from behind, and one team car is faster than another, the slower one is expected to move over, and if there isn’t any real threat from behind, then the two are expected to hold position till the end. It all sounds orchestrated to me and it’s very disappointing. From now on, I’ll never really know if Jenson is stuck behind Hamilton because he’s slower and sucks at passing, or if Mclaren have asked him to ‘Save Fuel’.

  11. Carl said on 8th June 2010, 14:43

    I think the reason there is so much politics in F1 is because they only race every second week. That gives the general public 2 weeks to come up with all sorts of conspiracy theories because they have nothing better to do and they just cant keep away from F1 for 2 weeks. So I vote that they race every weekend, cause 2 weeks is a very long time for me aswell.. lol..

  12. michael said on 8th June 2010, 14:52

    For sure SOMETHING is not right over at the McLaren garage it is not all peaches and roses, but, the true insult stems from making the drivers say things they don’t feel “all is well, we were just having some fun, so, no worries here!” Why not just come out with the facts immediately and then that’s that?! @ZAHIR is damn right when he asks whether this whole new garage setup plus new engineers for both drivers was installed in order to prevent stuff like this from happening? This isn’t **** happens. No, this is far worse! it’s an insult. Just let the boys race and stop fooling around in garage give’em what they need to get the job done. We are not asking for more just stop this idiocy and foolish toiling around and lies. Whitmarsh set out to please the crowd, “A New McLaren” open up the garage, give people more insight, but, what we have learned now after the Turkey GP is that it is not worth much watching mclaren.com/home “live” broadcast because it is like watching Endemol’s big brother show everything is edited so why should I bother watching let alone being spoon-fed by Whitmarsh? this whole saga sucks big time. but heh the races so far are “goram” exciting!

  13. DaveW said on 8th June 2010, 15:14

    So, we see the Artful Dodger had an inside man. It simply won’t do to claim Prew merely gave his “opinion” to Hamilton—Hamilton specifically followed-up on the comment to clarify exactly what the situation was. Prew is not paid to give opinions and this explanation makes him look like a fool or a liar. If this is the case Hamilton should hire Hair for his race-day advice.

    And blaming Hamilton for lifting too much in eight is outrageous, because Hamilton’s question to Prew and the resuling answer should have made his speed through 8 irrelevant. Hamilton was trying to save the 1-2 for the team, then not only does his teammate try to nick the spot, the team blame him and him alone for the pit wall breakdown. Prew gets a pass, Dawkins gets off scot-free.

    This is a subtle but very clear message from Whitmarsh that he has the Dawkin’s back, and that Hamilton should watch his own. It’s not about eye-color or street vs. neat. Hamilton is Dennis’ man, Dennis, who once embodied the team, is gone. This happens in every field. The new boss does not want incumbent prodigies telling him how things used to be done, or reminding him of how awesome the old boss was. And regarding what they spent on Hamilton over the years, that is, as they say, sunk-cost.

    Later this year, Webber and Hamilton sign to swap seats for 2012.

  14. Bullfrog said on 8th June 2010, 15:16

    Drivers often lift at turn eight in Istanbul to save fuel.

    Any chance they can lift along the straights in Valencia? We might have ourselves a race then!

  15. Joey-Poey said on 8th June 2010, 15:34

    Y’know, even I at first was suspicious of the “save fuel” order being code for “don’t pass.” But even I’m willing to accept them admitting “we made an oops, okay guys?”

    Save all the conspiracy theory nonsense until we see more evidence. It’s ONE RACE.

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