2011 F1 season preview
At the start of last year there was much speculation about how McLaren would handle having two world champions in its driver line-up.
To the surprise of some, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have got on well, and whenever they’re together, seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
McLaren have had their share of problems in this area as well – not least with Fernando Alonso and Hamilton in 2007.
But, despite all the talk of Button entering ‘Hamilton’s den’, and the plain fact that he was out-paced by his team mate for much of the season, Button seems to be quite at home in the McLaren environment.
He snuck two brilliant, opportunistic wins last year, but his weakness in qualifying is an area he admits he needs to work on.
At times last year Button gave the impression he was trying a different set-up to Hamilton in the hope it would give him an advantage – an approach which work at Monza but didn’t at Suzuka.
Button does the corporate thing very well – as does Hamilton, though he sometimes allows his emotions to betray his true feelings.
Hamilton was visibly frustrated at the lack of running he had during testing at Barcelona. Similarly, his unhappiness with the team’s strategy at Melbourne last year was made plain in a series of terse radio messages.
During the winter Hamilton spoke of personal problems that affected him last season. He had earlier split publicly with his manager, father Anthony.
Whatever was the root of his problems, it didn’t prevent him from keeping Button under control throughout 2010.
But while Button came late to the development of last year’s car, the MP4-26 should be a better fit for him this time around.
We could see these two much closer on the track more often than last year. McLaren insist the pair will continue to receive equal treatment.
But think back to their dice at Istanbul in 2010 – with Hamilton asking the team on the radio whether Button was allowed to pass him – and it’s not hard to see how the camaraderie could come under more strain this time.
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