McLaren’s championship challenge blunted at Suzuka (McLaren race review)

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Suzuka, 2010

Both McLaren drivers finished behind the Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso Suzuka. That means both could be eliminated from championship contention at the next race.

More unreliability and a strategic gamble that failed to pay off blunted McLaren’s challenge in Japan.

Jenson Button Lewis Hamilton
Qualifying position 5 8
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’31.378 (+0.209) 1’31.169
Race position 4 5
Average race lap 1’42.657 (-0.492) 1’43.149
Laps 53/53 53/53
Pit stops 1 1

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Jenson Button

Button gambled on starting the race on the hard tyre. But he wasn’t able to improve on his first lap in Q3 and regretted putting in fuel for more than one lap. He qualified sixth and was promoted to fifth by his team mate’s penalty.

Button needed his soft tyre-shod rivals to run into trouble with wear early in the race for his strategy to work. But it didn’t happen, and the early appearance of the safety car further frustrated his cause.

The team stuck to the strategy, keeping him out in the lead and causing Christian Horner to speculate that it was a deliberate ploy to hold up the Red Bulls. But Button pitted before he caused the Red Bulls any great inconvenience, and re-took fourth after Hamilton hit trouble.

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

Lewis Hamilton

Ran wide at Degner halfway through first practice and thumped into the wall, wrenching the left-front wheel off his McLaren. He missed the rest of the session and almost all of second practice.

Despite that he qualified third on the grid, but a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change left him eighth. He avoided a further penalty for holding up Nico H?â??lkenberg in Q3 after a protest by Williams.

He quickly moved up to fifth at the start but couldn’t do anything to displace Button. Switching to the hard tyres on lap 20 appeared to transform his car and he was catching Alonso for third when he lost third gear.

He spent the rest of the race using only fourth gear and higher, and fell back to fifth behind Button.

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

2010 Japanese Grand Prix

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66 comments on McLaren’s championship challenge blunted at Suzuka (McLaren race review)

  1. Mahir C said on 12th October 2010, 0:17

    Wont Hamilton be needing a new gearbox in the next race? I heard Whitmarsh saying they can do it without a penalty. How? Does anybody understand the gearbox rules?

    • trulli dead09 said on 12th October 2010, 2:00

      The regulations state that each gerabox must be used for four straight races without being replaced although the gear ratios may be changed. So if Hamilton changes his gearbox he will drop 5 places at Korea, or he can use a faulty gearbox for the rest of teh year

      • DeadManWoking said on 12th October 2010, 8:55

        Once a driver is given a gearbox change penalty the replacement gearbox is only required to last until the end of that Event (Japan)and may be changed without penalty for the next Event (Korea).

        F1 Sporting Regulations 15 of 38 23 June 2010 © 2010 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile

        28.6 For the purposes of this Article only, an Event will be deemed to comprise P3, the qualifying practice session and the race.
        a) Each driver may use no more than one gearbox for four consecutive Events in which his team competes. Should a driver use a replacement gearbox he will drop five places on the starting grid at that Event and an additional five places each time a further gearbox is used.
        Any replacement gearbox must be fitted with the same gear ratios that were declared under d) below and will only be required to complete the remainder of the Event in question. Any change to the gear ratios declared under d) below will incur a further five grid place penalty. In either case a new four race sequence may start at the following Event .

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th October 2010, 9:05

          Thanks for that DeadManWoking, hadn’t had chance to check the rule yet, you’ve saved me a job!

          • DeadManWoking said on 12th October 2010, 9:14

            Glad to be of help, Keith. You do a hell of a job with all your post race analysis, can’t imagine how you find the time to get it up so promptly!

        • Patrickl said on 12th October 2010, 10:02

          Ah, I was wondering about that. Alonso and Webber have had several gearbox replacements where they didn’t receive a penalty.

          • DeadManWoking said on 12th October 2010, 10:36

            I imagine the regs are written this way so that if the gearbox failure is found to be caused by a design fault the replacemnt gearbox, which would have the same fault, would not be required to do 3 more races.
            McLaren could have changed this box without penalty after Singapore but chose not to as they didn’t detect any fault with it (the gearboxes are sealed and can’t be torn down for inspection) and a different engine/gearbox was used for Friday practice. The regs go on to say that if the driver fails to finish a race the gearbox may be changed without penalty at the next event.

            Unless the driver fails to finish the race (see below) the gearbox fitted to the car at the end of the Event must remain in it for three further Events. Any driver who failed to finish the race at the first, second or third of the four Events for reasons which the technical delegate accepts as being beyond the control of the team or driver, may start the following Event with a different gearbox without a penalty being incurred.
            A gearbox will be deemed to have been used once the car’s timing transponder has shown that it has left the pit lane.

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

      Apparently not.

  2. I don’t know how many of you observed, Button has much better start than alonso and he was leading by around car length in to Turn1 and all of sudden he lost it after turn2 or so. It makes really wonder whether button can win races on just dry ( even webber taken shot at button that he didn’t win in dry conditions). Same thing happened in singapore also, he got better start than lewis but lost at turn1 as lewis outbraked. Does button is so conservative in braking or just that hard tyres are bit slow?

    I believe button is definitely out of contention (For me it is surprising he was in contention until last race) but McLaren can put some hope on lewis provided top 3 comes up with some reliability or performance issues.

  3. Robbie said on 12th October 2010, 4:13

    There’s all this talk of McLaren now backing Lewis like Ferrari are with Alonso. How do you all know this?

  4. Jason said on 12th October 2010, 11:50

    When Lewis was delayed by Button, the BBC commentators didn’t see anything wrong with that. But when it happened to Schumacher, they had all sorts of things to say.
    I’ve never really understood these commentators bias against Hamilton, especially that Jonathan Legard.

  5. Carl Craven said on 13th October 2010, 11:48

    I think what a lot of people are missing is that in Qualification, Button (on the hard tyre)was very close to Lewis (on the soft) He’d had more practice time for sure, but he’d been faster all weekend except for Q3. If Button had gone for a low fuel Q3 rather than a 3 lap run he may well have qualified further up the grid and in front of Lewis on merit.

    Button’s pace when on softs was very fast, he’d probably have at least caught Lewis even if he hadn’t suffered the gear box problem.

    It’s true to say that Button was held out way too long, he had very old tyres when Lewis and co came out and started to catch him. It’s not surprising any advantage was lost. I think the same thing happened to Webber in Canada.

    Seems people love to hate Button who is only 3 points behind his illustrious team mate. 3 points hardly represents a margin worthy of backing one driver over another, especially when one of them seems to be making a lot of errors.

  6. Marcello said on 13th October 2010, 15:29

    totally agree with paul f about button….

  7. Marcello said on 13th October 2010, 15:31

    totally agree with fernando alonso…all 5 drivers still in the championship…ive seen far too many weird season endings to discount any1 out yet

  8. Marcello said on 13th October 2010, 15:41

    sorry guys I missed earlier comments…does any1 know if hamilton will have to take another gearbox penalty?

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