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. 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.

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

  3. Oli said on 8th June 2010, 18:55

    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.

  4. djdaveyp said on 8th June 2010, 19:23


    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!

  5. HewisLamilton said on 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.

    • HewisLamilton said on 8th June 2010, 21:29

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

      Nicely said djdaveyp .

  6. schooner said on 9th June 2010, 0:58

    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.

  7. dragon said on 9th June 2010, 3:03

    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.

  8. Stuart said on 9th June 2010, 10:06

    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.

  9. Chaz said on 9th June 2010, 15:04

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

  10. Paige said on 10th June 2010, 21:24

    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.

  11. kbdavies said on 11th June 2010, 13:19

    A bit late in the day for this, but after listening to the radio transmission again, it is clear that when LH asks “If i back off, is Jenson going to pass me, or not?” The unequivocal “No, Lewis No” reply actually came from Martin Whitmarsh!((http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7IiR6Mgwyk)), not Phil Prew as Martin suggested in this interview. This makes the whole saga really interesting.If confirmed, it would mean Martin is being duplicitous of the whole affair.
    This shoots to pieces the already flawed idea McLaren are trying to advance that Phil Prew gave an “opinion”, and it was a case of “miscommunication.
    I hope the FIA pick up on this. A simple analysis of the voice patterns would show it to be Martin’s.
    Again, this shows, as many people already think that McLaren were really trying to engineer a Button win – Conspiracy theories or not!

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