Set-up gamble pays off for Button as Hamilton crashes (McLaren race review)

Jenson Button, McLaren, Monza, 2010

McLaren only got one car home for the third race in a row.

This time it was Lewis Hamilton who failed to finish after banging wheels with Felipe Massa on lap one and coming off worst.

Meanwhile Jenson Button came within a pit stop of what could have been a remarkable win with an unusual set-up.

Jenson Button Lewis Hamilton
Qualifying position 2 5
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’22.084 (-0.539) 1’22.623
Race position 2
Average race lap 1’26.557
Laps 53/53 0/53
Pit stops 1 0

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Jenson Button

The McLaren drivers had a choice between a high downforce rear wing with the F-duct, or a conventional Monza low-drag rear wing.

Button tried the high downforce wing in first practice, liked it, and stuck with it for the rest of the race weekend. It served him well in qualifying where he claimed his highest starting position of the year so far – second.

He passed Fernando Alonso to lead at the start and spent 36 laps with Alonso usually within a second of his rear wing – which was slightly damaged by contact between the two on the first lap.

Despite being up to 14kph slower on the straights Button’s superior pace through the middle sector kept him safe – until the pit stops.

Alonso pitted one lap later than Button and came out narrowly ahead. Button was diplomatic about the crucial eight tenths of a second lost in his pit stop:

The pit stops are always very tricky. The guys have practised over the weekend but I am the first pit stop for the team when I come in. It?s always a tricky situation. For me, the pit stop went pretty smoothly. I was quite happy with it but I didn?t know that Fernando was that much quicker.

So we lost time there but also for me, out on the circuit, when I got back out I struggled on the tyre. I could feel that I was losing time even to my option tyres which obviously weren?t in fantastic condition.

It wasn?t all the pit stop, I think. It was also maybe the wrong call on our part of choosing to come in early.
Jenson Button

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

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton tried the high downforce wing in first practice, then switched to the low downforce wing without an F-duct which he preferred.

But in qualifying mistakes on both his laps in Q3 left him fifth on the grid and questioning whether he’d made a mistake with his set-up:

It would appear that we took the wrong route by running without the F-duct this weekend. I just didn?t have the downforce today, and the car was sliding in the corners ?ǣ I couldn?t push any harder because the car just wouldn?t give me any more.
Lewis Hamilton

From fifth on the grid he was quickly up to fourth ahead of Webber. But an optimistic attempt to pass Felipe Massa at the Roggia chicane ended his race with a broken front-right wheel.

Hamilton apologised for his mistake afterwards.

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

2010 Italian Grand Prix
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54 comments on Set-up gamble pays off for Button as Hamilton crashes (McLaren race review)

  1. It seems Button is only able to surpass Hamilton with setups and race gambles. But I have to say, it makes things very interesting.

    • bosyber said on 13th September 2010, 14:47

      That is IMHO exactly what McLaren needs: someone to pick up points even, or especially, when Hamilton does not. Kovalainen had trouble on capitalizing on good grid position while at the team, otherwise they might have been able to fight for the WCC in ’08.

    • why dont teams lay the carbon fibre so body work is strong with loads from the air and loads from the side, its pathetic how they can withstand massive forces from the air but just flick off when they are clipped by another car.

      • You should email them about that, I’m sure it hasn’t occurred to them.

        /sarcasm

        Ok I get your point. But as DC said on the forum, teams make decisions about probabilities when they design these things for durability – Newey famously designs fragile cars because he wants to get the car working at 110% in the manner he wants it to go. “Touch it the wrong way and bits would fall off it” in his words – because there’s a speed or handling benefit to be gained by sacrificing strength in certain directions.

        That’s one of the things that makes F1 different – it isn’t the size of the engines, or the motorhomes, it’s the extraordinary lengths to which F1 teams will go to extract every little extra thousandth out of the car that they can.

    • As they say there’s more than one way to skin a cat !

      and F1 is played and won in the head as much as it is on the track.

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 13th September 2010, 21:18

      Button is the thinking man’s driver. His judgement on strategy calls seems to be second to none.

  2. graigchq (@graigchq) said on 13th September 2010, 14:59

    the comraderie between these two is truly fantastic, and they are both probably the best ambassadors for the sport that we’ve ever seen. Lewis is quoted after the race as saying that he was very happy for Jenson, and that results like this are needed for the team if either him or Jenson are to be WDC this year.

    Correct me if i’m wrong, but this is the first and only time that i’ve heard a driver saying quite flippantly that either him or his team mate would be acceptable winners. Most say “I” am not going to win or “I” am going to be WDC, but these two genuinely woudl be happy as long as its one of them that wins. McLaren, truly winning people’s hearts this year, first with the all-british line up, and secondly with the highly mature attitude of their two world champion drivers.

    with role models like this, it’s a good time to be proud of being british

    • Electrolite said on 15th September 2010, 3:05

      Nicely said. A great comment in the midst of constant criticism, whether it be against Button for only being ‘able to surpass Hamilton with setups and race gambles’ or just plain unconstructive comments against Hamilton.

      • That or Vodaphone’s communication team has done a good job. Plus, my comment on Button is somehow quite flattering for him (well, ok, just in my view)

  3. I had a feeling things were not going to go right for Lewis after his comments on Saturday. I don’t recall two cars from the same team look so diferent!

  4. Hamilton had a very good change of some good points regardless of his strategy. He also made a mistake in Qualy so his setup wasnt that far off like we saw in Practice. Im sure he learned a very valuable lession on Sunday but I still think it will cost him the Championship this year

    • It’s true he wasted an ideal opportunity. But let’s not forget that his chief rival also made a dog’s breakfast of his race, finishing behind where he started, despite Hamilton’s exit, and being outraced by this teammate, who even once ceded him a spot. That was a very poor showing. The difference now is the same. The season is still down to a match race between them–who beats who more.

  5. Ayrton Senna:By being a racing driver you are under risk all the time. By being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, competing to win. And the main motivation is to compete for victory, it’s not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win as long as I feel it’s possible. Sometimes you get it wrong? Sure, it’s impossible to get it right all the time. But I race designed to win, as long as I feel I’m doing it right.”

    • chemakal said on 13th September 2010, 15:41

      … and the keywords are “a gap that exists” on the track and not only in Hams immature head

    • Win what? None of them race to win only individual races, they all race to win the championship, especially Senna….of course race wins are a part of championship wins, but it is big picture or nothing…

      IF Hammy doesn’t win the championship this year, he can blame that move and therefore the loss of 12 – 25 points…I’m sure he’d rather get a 3rd at Monza and win the championship then a win a Monza and no championship….

      • I think in the case of Ayrton, it WAS individual races…unless there was a situation where a crash by someone else would insure him a championship win, and we all know he wouldnt shy down from that

  6. The quote makes sense but you also have to e a tactician as well as a racing driver in order to be successful, you must valance both aspects to be great in F1, it boils down to in order to finish first, first you have to finish.

    If Lewis does not win the title this year, experiences like Monza 10 will help him for races next year, just like last year he gained lots o knowledge to help him this year, ever since he burst onto the scene in 07 we knew he was good, and he will get even better with age. It’s nice to know if Mclaren produce a decent enough car, Hamilton will be there or thereabouts every year.

    By the way, that’s a different calum, I am the original ;)

    • That’s fine if you learn from & act on the experiences – You see I would have thought Monza ’09 would have taught Lewis something….

      don’t take unnecessary risks

      but he seems to have not taken on board that lesson.

  7. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th September 2010, 15:40

    After his pit-stop Button asked the team why they’d pitted first. The team said the hard tyre was faster, though not if it was faster straight away, which it wasn’t for the all the drivers I can recall who’d already gone onto the hard tyre. Bet Button won’t get as much stick as Hamilton did for his “terrible idea” rant in Australia, though!

    It’s really interesting, this year’s championship wasn’t for McLaren to win and yet their drivers occupy 2nd and 4th in the standings. The partnership has certainly paid off, and in another year with the best car the pair of them would likely be a comfortable distance ahead of their rivals by now.

    Good to see Whitmarsh saying Hamilton shouldn’t change his style. No style is 100% perfect, it’s his natural one and it’ll be the one to win him future titles.

    • chemakal said on 13th September 2010, 15:56

      Obviously, Whitmarsh and Ron Dennis couldn´t say anything different as they have made Hammilton from scratch. Like that one 07: “Hammilton: the new kid on the car brought up by simulators to be the new star”

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th September 2010, 16:03

        I think they care more about having a driver who can win than saving face. Aggression won Hamilton the Turkish and Canadian Grand Prix just this year too.

      • LuvinF1 said on 13th September 2010, 16:57

        chemakal – Lewis won the British Formula Renault, Formula Three Euroseries, and GP2 championships before entering F1. In F1 he has 14 wins, 18 poles and 34 podium finishes. Why do you not consider these reasonable accomplishments by the middle of your fourth year in F1?

        • antizyklon said on 14th September 2010, 18:28

          Lewis is an excellent driver, but you should not forget that he started in a top team like McLaren. Not many F1 drivers had this same opportunity.-

    • I don’t think Button’s radio exchange was on the order of Hamilton’s in Australia, though. He questioned the decision, but he didn’t attack the team, or demand to know who made the decision, or lose his temper.

      I genuinely wonder how much Hamilton has been learning from Button this year about maturity, keeping a clear head, and managing things. I think it’s more than people might assume, and Hamilton’s been a different (and better) racer for it.

      • The difference between Australia and Monza is that Hamilton made one stop more than everyone else which took him behind many cars he had already overtaken on the track. So he had to question the reasoning.
        In Button’s case, all the drivers made the same number of stops, only he stopped earlier.
        So they are two different situations.

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 14th September 2010, 10:44

        I don’t think it was either, although I could hear a little annoyance in his voice (only natural!). But Jenson has many detractors and I wondered if they would use this against him. Hopefully not.

  8. xabregas said on 13th September 2010, 16:46

    I sure apreciate Hamilton´s driving style ( there isn´t much like him ) but he messed big time in Monza. If he had the same set up as Jenson´s almost certainly would have won or came in second in the race and Alonso, Vettel and Button weren´t contenders anymore for the championship.
    For that, i thank you Hamilton.
    As for Button, he did a great race, couldn´t have donne better, but needs to increase his game in the next races or he´s donne for the championship.

  9. There was nothing gained for Button by his set up “gamble.” There was never any difference in speed between the set ups, for either driver. The most you could say was that was a selection based on his style. Hamilton stuffed up qualifying; that was the difference.

    I suspect that if Lewis had stayed clean in the early laps, he would have put the Ferrari’s in a big bit of trouble as they stayed bottled up behind Button, as Hamilton had the biggest terminal speed of any front runner by a long shot.

    • xabregas said on 13th September 2010, 17:14

      Hamilton didn´t need to go gambling with set ups, Mclaren was already the best out there with, basicaly the same set-up as the other teams actually Button used more rear wing than ferrari because they felt they were strong enouph to go that way and win the race and the truth is that he almost did it.

      • Interesting what you say comparing Alonso’s set up, rather than Hamilton’s, which may be the relevant comparison: Maybe Button used more wing than Ferrari because, as we know, he cannot live with a loose-sliding car.

        The question is, whether this high downforce setup for Button was faster or just more comfortable for Button. Alonso basically ran what Button did, but with less wing. And he was faster. Alonso is better than Button, obviously. And it could just be that in this case, forced to handle a hair-trigger car for 53 laps, Button could not manage that extra bit of twitch that Alonso can.

        Yes, in Button’s mind, he would regain what he gave up for stability with better tire wear. But, given that the soft tire turned out to be able to run the whole race, the trade off actualy was against him, and his “gamble” in fact failed:

        Remember that in practice McLaren ran good long runs on the hard tire, and then spent the soft-tire segment, late in FP2, trying to fiddle with the set ups, and they were not quick on the softs in what they ran. Clearly they expected, like everyone, that people would pit at 11-14. McLaren, and certainly I did, thought that they would then romp through to the end on the hard tire while Ferrari, especially Massa, faded away.

        Button is a fairly brilliant driver, don’t get me wrong. But it seems sometimes that he is the one, rather than Hamilton, whose style limits the way he can exploit the tires and the chassis.

        • xabregas said on 13th September 2010, 19:27

          Agreed with you in your Button´s opinion, but Hamilton could have taken the same ” Alonso´s set-up” and won this race, or at least fight for it.
          That, didn´t happened and now the championship wins with it, and of course the F1 fans.

        • graigchq (@graigchq) said on 14th September 2010, 15:56

          don’t really see how you get to: “alonso is better than button, obviously”. He was only 3s off the back of the ferrari at the end of the race, after 53 laps. That’s not significant at all, and shows that despite the differing setup, Button is just as fast as Alonso, who, incidentally, could not overtake, and had to rely on his engineers to win the race for him.

    • Re: “Hamilton stuffed up qualifying; that was the difference”…….

      But would he had stuffed it up if he had Jenson’s set-up with the higher down force and better grip I doubt it.

  10. Jenson and the team made an excellent choice, I’m very surprised that more teams didn’t run with the F-Duct, I know Lewis wishes he had.

    When it comes to the crash, Lewis made a small error of judgement, it happens in F1, the margins are so small. Another time he might have got away with it but this time he didn’t.

    I championship is really close now, and any of the top 5 drivers can win it!

  11. Sublime from Button the whole weekend, unfortunate that his team took him in first defeating the entire point of his strategem, an unfortunate Alo bit his diffuser off at the start, without these two problems he could well have won it today. It was so close at the pitstops.

    Hamilton, well he had the car for a podium, don’t know about a win as we didn’t get to see his race pace but there we are.

    Wonder what McLaren can do about the championship this year, they need a better car next, they have the drivers to do it no doubt.

  12. I don’t know if somebody has already mentioned it, but I think Hamilton’s Mclaren looks much better than Button’s car, despite the fact that Hammy messed up in Qualifying & the race. The deletion of the F-duct, the resultant cleaner nose & of course the sublime livery make the look much much better!

  13. It wasn’t all the pit stop, I think. It was also maybe the wrong call on our part of choosing to come in early.
    Jenson Button,
    that right there was the problem.
    the instant they brought Button in he was doomed, why the hell they didn’t wait till Alonso pitted i dont know.
    when the car behind you is faster you have to rely on them pitting first or else they will gain time while your in the pits plus coming out on slightly cold tires is always going to loose time.
    his team called it wrong.

  14. Jorge H said on 13th September 2010, 22:16

    Just loved that McLaren withou the F-Duct… awsome!!

    Unfortunately, it ended the race too soon and there are no pictures of it… :(

  15. Agreed, Eric. How come a team like McLaren can screw up on strategy so often. Cost them the WDC in 2007, cost Hamilton points in Oz, probably cost them a win in Monza, and could have already cost them titles this year. I have always been a Mclaren fan, and a Button fan, always will be, but the team needs to stop making these frequent mistakes on simple strategy.

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