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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

2010 Turkish Grand Prix

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

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  1. 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…….

    1. I Agree,

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

      1. 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. . .

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  3. martin bell
    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.

    1. 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…

  4. 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.

    1. Should say I agree fully with Martin and DGR above as well.

      1. Same. Wanted to make it to the point, but there’s a minimum character thing.

  5. 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’.

  6. 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..

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

    1. I really wonder how peoples brains work sometimes……

      1. i wonder how civilization occurred, it must be an accident.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. Nonsense, anyone that swallows this whopper whole deserves their head examined.

    So here we are two weeks later, and despite the best efforts of an FOM video to try and drag the truth into the open, we still all know nearly nothing.

    The follow-up questions for Whitmarsh this weekend, should include:

    – Hamilton said he was being given a stream of laptime targets. Button said he was not. Can you explain this discrpenacy. Why was Button not being provided with targets. What instruction was being given to him in lieu of targets?
    Pre-podium, JB: “No, not really, all they said to me was [cut off by LH]…[inaudible]… that’s why I did it.”

    – Why did Tim Goss, acting team manager for the weekend, claim that both drivers were being given identical targets?

    – What was the context for the normally careful Phil Prew to base his conjecture that Button would not overtake.
    Was it just his gut-feeling, or did he have access, as principal engineer to both cars and conduit for all radio traffic, to something more substantive?

    – No correction made to that transmitted “opinion” during the race? What did the pitwall expect to happen with one driver being left under the impression the race was over, the other still charging? No one think to offer Hamilton improved situational awareness?

    – Engineers unprofessionally offering opinion as fact, apparently, and team-managers not knowing the basics of what was being transmitted, for a process driven team like McLaren, doesn’t paint a very convincing picture.

    – How many people is McLaren senior management willing to throw under the bus, professional reputations to impugn, how much is it willing to obfuscate and obstruct in the information it provides, in order to either over-protect itself from a charge of team orders, or to protect a driver that pulled a stunt.

    – Why don’t you release the radio transcipt?

    We know how this ends, let’s all save some time. Take our lumps and put this to bed once and for all, settled, instead of this tiring drip-drip of new versions of the story that always conflict all the previous versions that you told us.

    Let’s not wait on more FOM tapes to surface, and another spin on this latest spin.

    1. “we still know nearly nothing”. This apparently does not matter.

  12. Maybe we should move on now from this topic.
    Can we get articles about the Canadadian grand prix perhaps?

  13. Pretty straight forward comments from Whitmarsh. McLaren should get on with the season and forget about drawing attention to this sort of thing, they need to focus on making the car faster.

    Hamiltons behaviour after the race doesn’t help the team either, on the podium, in the press conference, comments on the BBC podcast were true to form and frankly I’m a bit tired of it. He needs to grow up a bit and stop acting like a kid whose sweets have been stolen.

    I’m more and more put off by the “new generation” of drivers like Vettel and Hamilton because of this type of attitude.


    You are all reading into this far too much.

    I make absolutely nothing more than this than when I first saw it.

    It blatantly was a communications error and Martin Whitmarsh hasn’t made a statement – he has answered Keiths question with a very straight answer.

    There is no favourite at McLaren – a 1-2 at the race gives them maximum points no matter which way around the drivers finish and if this happens alot the team will win the constructors championship – something which they have missed out on a lot recently.

    If they wanted to favour one driver they would put a shirt-filler (or overall-filler if you want to be picky about it) in the other car. By having two fantastic drivers in their cars they are maximizing their chances of winning both championships. In fact, they have twice as much chance of winning the drivers championship with two top-drawer drivers.

    If they favour one they would overturn this apple kart and lose one of their awesome drivers – thus lowering their chances of winning both championships.

    Rant over!

  15. HewisLamilton
    8th June 2010, 21:28

    Forgive me please, but did Whitmarsh not get asked about this overtaking in a press conference?

    Keith says in his article “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.”

    EVERYONE that is asking why is Whitmarsh saying this now, blah blah blah…. Whitmarsh was simply answering a question posed to him during the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. Was he supposed to say sorry, can’t talk about that?

    No conspiracy, no “gate”, just an overtake that has caused too much griping.

    1. HewisLamilton
      8th June 2010, 21:29

      My apologies, I read all of the thread except for the message directly above this one.

      Nicely said djdaveyp .

  16. Personally, I’m satisfied that in the heat of the moment, Hamilton’s engineer simply made a mistake. With the two McLarens leading the race, and at this early stage of the season, there would have been NO good reason for the boys on the pit wall to attempt orchestrating the finish.

  17. I’m just going to assume that Turkey was a miscalculation on behalf of the Red Bull and McLaren teams, and they didn’t expect the laptimes between the top four to be so low (supreme driving from all of them for those first forty laps, too) and as a result short filled all the cars? I know they’re now running it as fine as possible, but the tenth or two lost from running heavier surely is preferable to the half second lost later in the race when needing to lift constantly or running a leaner mix in order to save fuel. Not to mention that even when running heavy, a driver in a car with fresh tyres and all engine power available should be able to defend more effectively. Unless of course every single ‘save fuel’ radio transmission was always just a ‘hold station’ in disguise.

  18. This from Whitmarsh is an insult to our intelligence.
    We may be “ignorant peasants” in his opinion, but this is nothing more than an effort to cover up a blatant mismanagement of their team orders.

  19. Friction in the McLaren camp as should be expected with two talented world championship drivers…

  20. Guys, something to throw out there:

    Without the rim failure on his car in Spain, Hamilton would be leading the world championship 102-93 over Webber. Throw in another 7 points, at least, for what would have been a sure podium in Australia if his team hadn’t cocked up his pit strategy, and Hamilton would additionally have at least a 16 point lead right now.

    No doubt about it; Hamilton has been the best driver so far this year, despite his team undermining him with screwups and a car that isn’t the pacesetter.

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