Relief at McLaren after last-minute changes pay off

2011 Australian GP team review

McLaren’s decision to overhaul their MP4-26 in time for the first race was vindicated.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 2 4
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’24.307 (-0.472) 1’24.779
Race position 2 6
Laps 58/58 58/58
Pit stops 2 2

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58
Lewis Hamilton 100.573 93.774 92.9 92.582 92.471 92.434 92.447 92.31 92.612 93.121 92.737 92.795 92.475 92.984 93.186 112.039 99.566 91.823 91.4 91.194 91.212 91.524 91.414 91.564 91.825 91.419 91.51 92.267 91.826 91.149 91.453 94.258 92.133 92.016 92.427 113.298 99.548 91.013 90.338 91.2 90.314 90.421 91.085 91.175 90.512 90.508 90.637 90.785 90.753 91.01 91.312 91.629 91.47 91.789 91.766 91.813 92.184 94.576
Jenson Button 104.722 94.139 95.756 93.818 95.278 93.291 93.959 94.021 93.577 94.653 94.396 93.199 93.453 93.615 93.802 94.897 108.909 100.864 114.427 99.911 92.187 92.018 92.706 91.732 91.968 91.173 91.16 91.143 90.796 91.672 91.055 91.265 91.508 91.615 91.388 91.459 110.438 99.626 91.056 90.585 90.243 90.403 90.411 90.228 90.132 90.177 90.536 90.548 89.883 90.645 90.293 90.098 90.729 90.554 90.106 90.289 90.848 91.203
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton was a full second slower than Sebastian Vettel in final practice, but just two-tenths off Mark Webber’s time. In qualifying he found an extra couple of tenths and split the Red Bulls to start on the front row.

He bogged down at the start and only hitting the KERS button allowed him to stay in front of Webber. Vettel streaked away and only towards the end of the first stint was Hamilton able to match his lap times.

Later in the race Hamilton was told to back off as part of his undertray worked loose. Despite dropping his pace quite considerably in the final laps he was still able to finish second.

Jenson Button

Button lined up fourth but lost out to Vitaly Petrov and Felipe Massa at the start.

He fought Massa hard for fifth in the opening laps, trying passes on several different parts of the circuit. He eventually got alongside Massa on the way into turn 11, but darted across the escape road and kept the position. He was handed a drive-through penalty.

Given the penalty Alonso received at Silverstone last year, Button could be criticised for not taking it upon himself to give the place back.

But on the other hand the stewards turned a blind eye to two other off-track overtaking moves involving Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi, so perhaps Button was hard done by.

The penalty cost Button precious time but he was aided by Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg colliding.

He overtook Kamui Kobayashi and later caught Massa again. But with the Ferrari driver by now on the hard tyres Button was able to use his DRS to pass him on the pit straight, taking sixth.

Without the penalty he might well have joined Hamilton on the podium.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said he was happy with the result given the team’s testing form: “When you consider where we were a few weeks ago, you?d have to say that for us to come away from Australia with 26 world championship points is a pretty decent outcome.

“More important, though, it means that we?ve got a very promising platform from which to develop our car and compete for world championship honours this season.”

2011 Australian Grand Prix

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79 comments on Relief at McLaren after last-minute changes pay off

  1. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 28th March 2011, 19:28

    Being stubborn cost Button and McLaren a third place. Everyone knew he was going to get a penalty, a really stupid decision by them.

    • Hare said on 28th March 2011, 19:52

      Yeah.. but on the other hand.. what great racing it was to watch Button all over the back of that Ferrari for 3 or so laps. I loved it. For that, I’m glad I watched.

      • What kept nagging at me watching that was that Lewis would have done Massa in about two laps…as battles between those two have often shown.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 29th March 2011, 8:41

        It was a bit opposite to the start of last year (after Bahrain), where Button ran solidly for good results and Hamilton had a real good fight through the field.

        Nice to see Button do this kind of driving. A shame about the penalty, they should have seen that coming.
        But I think this rule needs a bit of clarity as to why Buemi was let off after investigating it and Vettel was not even investigated for making the move stick with going off track.

    • Many of you may remember me being in fits of rage last summer about the unfairness of Alonso’s penalty at Silverstone. I might be much more calm about what happened to Button on Sunday but the principle here is pretty much the same. Button received a penalty which was not only disproportionate to the offense but could have been avoided if the stewards acted decisively and told Button to give the place back in the time before Massa pitted.

      I know Button should have given the place back, but its really not good for racing to see him get punished as heavily as he did when decisive action from the stewards could have avoided it.

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 28th March 2011, 21:02

        I would think the punishment is more about his refusal to yield the position than the offence in the first place.

        • F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 28th March 2011, 21:11

          agreed. also, as we’ve seen a few times now, charlie whiting and the fia are not in a position to hear arguments on this. they would have said “you should give the place back” as they did last year, but none of the decision making is theirs.

      • For once Ads I’m going to disagree with you :P Alonso was told in plenty of time at Silverstone but Ferrari stupidly chose to ignore it. I don’t know if Button was told straight away but it should have been fairly obvious after Silverstone 2010. I don’t think it was disproportionate; Button got an advantage so had to give it back or got the only punishment available that’s often used and that’s a drive through. He shouldn’t have been allowed to have just have carried on and neither should have Alonso although I was hugely frustrated at Silverstone 2010 at the time I admit.

        • TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 28th March 2011, 21:44

          Fact was Button didn’t need to be told, it was common sense to let Massa back past.

          Everyone knows by now if you cut the corner and overtake, you give the place back. It baffles me that Button and McLaren could have been so stupid.

          • John H said on 28th March 2011, 21:53

            I have to agree with TommyB89. Jenson only has himself to blame anyway because he wasn’t actually in front.

            It initially like he went off the track to prevent Alonso getting him if he had had to back off… but the fact he didn’t then let Massa past baffled me.

            The benefits do not outweigh the risks. Forget talking to Charlie, he should have known what to do.

          • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 28th March 2011, 22:57

            Button convinced himself that he was leading before the corner though, so once he’d decided that it was likely hard for him to accept that he’d gained an unfair advantage.

          • fordsrule (@fordsrule) said on 29th March 2011, 8:13

            They weren’t being stupid, Button said he was in front so they were asking about that, Charlie said wait and we will get back to you, then just gave them the penalty.

        • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 28th March 2011, 22:57

          Well clearly I’m in a minority of one on this, but still I think it is disproportionate to send a driver to the back of the field when for gaining an advantage going off track during an overtake. Of course he should have given the place back, but these things are rarely clear cut and I’m sure Button believed that he didn’t have to give the place back. Its not that he refused to give the place back rather he didn’t think he was obliged to.

          If there was clear and rapid way for race control or the stewards to order a driver to immediately give up the place it would solve the problem. If the driver still ignored an order to let the other car back past then give him a drive through. But it can’t be right that the first clarification Button got that he’d gained an unfair advantage was when he was clobbered with a drive through.

          charlie whiting and the fia are not in a position to hear arguments on this

          Surely there could be a way for the stewards to look at the replay and give the order to a driver within a lap

          • David BR said on 29th March 2011, 1:55

            I think there should be an agreement between the teams and FIA/race control that goes as follows: if an incident occurs and the team that thinks its driver may have caused an infringement in overtaking is unsure whether it will be scrutinized or penalized, but can do seomthing about it (give the place back), the team can ask for a snap decision from race control within 1 lap (say). The onus would be on the decision being made as soon as possible, within a few corners ideally. However this decision (by one person, pref. Whiting) is binding – it cannot be appealed during or after the race, or changed by the stewards, or appealed by other teams. In other cases, normal steward inquiries apply.

            I’m really thinking of the Spa 2008 incident between Hamilton and Raikonnen when Hamilton let Kimi past him – briefly. McLaren asked for Whiting’s opinion and got a kind of answer from him quickly (‘think it’s okay’) that was later overturned. A quick ‘yes, that can stick’ or ‘no give it back and wait a corner’ would have been far better. Some people will always grumble or complain but as in football these refereeing decisions kind of average out over time.

  2. It’s quite plain to see where Button lost most time, and to see where Hamilton had his ‘off’.

  3. Eggry (@eggry) said on 28th March 2011, 19:47

    I think they’re best balanced duo in the grid. You know Massa and Webber are more than better driver but their team mates overshadow them. But even Hamilton has edge on qualifying pace, Button catch up in the race fairy. Well, if both of them outpace Webber, constructor’s championship would be Mclaren’s. But driver’s title is different problem.

    I cannot understand why pit-wall didnt’t say pull back or Button himself didn’t. They’re very familiar with short-cut issue, but it seems like they never learn from it!

    • John H said on 28th March 2011, 21:55

      Indeed. Someone should have reminded Whitmarsh of Spa 2008.

      • McLarenFanJamm (@mclarenfanjamm) said on 29th March 2011, 10:45

        Except in that instance they gave the place back and were still awarded with a penalty…

        • SparkyJ23 (@sparkyj23) said on 29th March 2011, 11:57

          THIS – Why the hell would McLaren give the place back without being sure there would be no further penalty? That is why they asked CW i suppose.

          If Button gave the place back THEN got a drive through his race is even more wrecked – I thought watching it live he would just run down the road for 3 laps to try to minimise the penalty.

          His Inability to overtake the 6th fastest driver in F1 does not bode well for his season…

          • McLarenFanJamm said on 29th March 2011, 12:25

            IF button had given the place back and been behind Massa until Massa pitted there wouldn’t have been a penalty. Even allowing both Ferrari drivers past wouldn’t have hindered him and Alonso pitted a lap after the incident happened.

            Difference being that in Spa Lewis gave the place back but then immediately overtook Raikkonen (imo completely fair but clearly the FIA feel differently)

            The two situations are completely different though, which is what I was referring to.

            In regard to your last paragraph, I am sure Button will have a fine season, if he had just been slightly more patient in Aus he would have eventually passed Massa, either on the track or in the pit stops.

  4. S.J.M (@sjm) said on 28th March 2011, 19:47

    Hard to believe that was the MP4-26, looked like a different car in performance. in 2009 it took half a season to cure their car, this time it took a fortnight. Loosing Bahrain was the best thing that could have happened for the Woking-based boys & girls.

    • John H said on 28th March 2011, 21:56

      Ironic since they are part own by the Bahrain Royal Family.

    • Blog Raider said on 29th March 2011, 15:07

      I don’t think anybody really knew what kind of performance the Mac had up its sleeve, meaning it was probably never a dog, just never got to be tested for raw pace due to reliability….testing is testing anyone???

      • west (@west) said on 29th March 2011, 18:56

        mclaren are positive from the test in WT and plus CDF the performance is there its just get to know the car batter and setings they will be on top of their game no matter what this was from the top boss so funds are there to do whatever it takes this got to be mclarens year.

  5. Enigma (@enigma) said on 28th March 2011, 19:51

    Button would’ve finished the race on the podium, perhaps even 2nd. Very unusual to see him being that stupid, as he’s always been very smart at every decision on-track.

    • That sorta thing is a bit overrated I think. Every driver has had and will have his red mist/stupid moments on track…I mean, heck look at Rubens on Sunday. These guys aren’t robots.

      • S.J.M (@sjm) said on 28th March 2011, 20:17

        Button was clearly acting out of frustration more then anything, thats what I gathered from the radio feed prior to the illegal pass.

        • John H said on 28th March 2011, 21:58

          Indeed. Massa just looks reckless when he’s defending position of late – going to cause a massive shunt soon if we’re not careful.

          • How was it Massa’s fault that Button couldn’t pass? From what I saw -and I may have been mistaken as it was early- he didn’t weave but firmly held his line. First he gets criticised for letting drivers through now… :P

          • gDog (@gdog) said on 28th March 2011, 23:32

            He nearly also wiped Button out a couple of times by outbraking himself when he had the inside line in a desperate bid to keep the position. At least once forcing Button to take avoiding action and leave the track on the outside of the bend.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 29th March 2011, 8:45

            Excuse me? Massa was very solidly defending, nothing wrong with that. That battle was one of the highlights of the race!

          • Hare said on 29th March 2011, 19:14

            @Steph, no one told Massa Button was faster than him…

            ( oooooo cynical!!! :D )

      • Enigma (@enigma) said on 29th March 2011, 8:43

        Nope, these guys aren’t robots, but Button always seemed to be very calm and smart on track. Not sure what happened on sunday.

  6. Hope the myth about Hammy being a ‘tire-chewer’ gets absolutely blasted to smithereens this year. Its annoying to keep hearing that, when the data shows that his and Button’s driving styles are not that much different.

    • Considering that one rookie driver did the whole race on one stop, I don’t really think that tyre wear was a particularly big problem for most drivers in the race. Some obviously got it seriously wrong (Webber), but it’s probably more of a car thing than a driver thing at the moment.

    • lewymp4 (@lewymp4) said on 29th March 2011, 17:25

      Right on the money Sam…….Lewis was the last to stop between, Vettel, Alonso and Webber for the first series of pitstops.

  7. djdaveyp85 (@djdaveyp87) said on 28th March 2011, 19:58

    One thing I’m happy about from the first race is that the MP4-26 seems to be good on its tyres, at least better than red bull and ferrari, this might help them at later races.

    • Not as good as the Sauber though, which did a faster race lap than Hamilton did and only stopped once!

      • Jake said on 28th March 2011, 20:20

        you really are doing your best to put Hamilton and Mclaren down. Might be linked to the joy you seemed to take out of their winter testing form (did eddie share any of his pie?).

        As I’ve said above, Hamilton isn’t going to set a good lap time if his cars damaged when the cars light. And it’s far more important that they have better tyre wear over the teams they are competing with and this is the case

        • Actually, I would be pleased as punch if either Button or Hamilton won the championship in a McLaren.

          What McLaren mustn’t do is read too much into what happened in OZ, because the tyres held up better than was expected, which may not always be the case. And then you’ll see teams like maybe Sauber putting in unexpected performances and perhaps some of the top teams will suffer. One Swallow does not make a summer.

          • bosyber said on 28th March 2011, 21:04

            It could be that Perez choice of starting on the hards was what allowed him to be on a 1stopper. None of the top 10 are likely to mimic that though. It might inspire others behind them to try it at times though.

          • tharris19 said on 29th March 2011, 2:52

            Team McLaren has a habit of messing up a wet dream. Drivers, engineers, team managers, all, have made drastic mistakes over the past three years that makes one wonder about their intellect and common sense.

  8. James said on 28th March 2011, 20:11

    If you just look at Lewis’ laptimes, it’s really interesting to see having new tyres, the tyres warming up and coming in before dropping off over the stints.

    I’m assuming that the big blip is the off and the little blipsis traffic (yes I know, the giant blips are pit stops). Quite incredible really.

    Not too dissimilar to Vettel’s, aside from outright laptimes and Seb’s times seemed to be consistently flat for a stint.

  9. Jenson would not have been in the position he was had Hamilton not seriously c@cked up the start. It’s clear he chose to slipstream Lewis to the first corner hopefully to edge out Webber. Instead he was left floundering around looking for the next best option whilst the faster starters behind jumped all over him. I think it’s a shame Massa has lost his mojo – he was a force the year Lewis won the championship – now when someone attacks he’s 100% defensive.

    • Gwenouille said on 28th March 2011, 20:34

      I agree with that: Ham’s slow getaway has been decisive in Button’s misfortune at the start. I think he should have been more patient and should have stuck just behind Hamilton at turn 1, instead he just opened a huge door to Petrov. Poor decision.

  10. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 28th March 2011, 20:59

    I agree with many on this, McLaren should have told Button to yield immediately when safe to do so. The excuse that the FIA did not get back to them in time is rather naive.

    Great result for Hamilton and he seemed genuinely thrilled with it, that rate of development from McLaren is something to be feared.

    Button had a bit of a disaster but Massa did an impeccable job of keeping him at bay. Enough to force him to break the rules. The pressure starts already!

    • RandomChimp (@randomchimp) said on 28th March 2011, 23:59

      The excuse that the FIA did not get back to them in time is rather naive.

      Though I agree with that, Whitmarsh said that the stewards stated they would get back to McLaren about the incedent after they asked for advice, and instead they went straight to officially investigate then hand out a penalty.

  11. Forget drivers of the Aus GP the real achievers were the Mclaren designers and the guys in the garage getting the car seriously competitive in such a limited amount of time with no testing. All of the people who said Lewis should leave Mclaren should pause for thought but he’d be walking away from a seriously talented group who can turn a slow car into a challenger in a heart beat.

    • MacademiaNut said on 28th March 2011, 22:26

      Agreed. But do we really know that they were not sandbagging – and that everyone (including the drivers) were taking us for a ride?

      • BBT (@bbt) said on 29th March 2011, 8:57

        Yes we do know that they weren’t sandbagging. You don’t stick a whole new floor and exhaust system on less than two week before the first race if you already have performance.
        Oh and reliability.
        Ask Brundle, James Allen, or anyone that actually saw the car in testing, failing that find a video of testing, I was shocked about how visible the problems were.
        You can’t over look the reliability either they genuinely could do enough laps…

  12. Elliot Horwood (@elliothorwoodf1) said on 28th March 2011, 23:05

    Buttons 2nd Pitstop was 2 seconds slower than his drive through penalty. that pitstop was actually incredably fast!

  13. Sam said on 29th March 2011, 0:48

    Looks very promising for McLaren, the U shaped side pods worked, and that’s the key thing; their radical design will still have lots of optimisation left in it, and hence it should be easy to unluck more time, where as Red Bull are probably very close to the peak of their design, seeing as it’s a heavily optimised version of last years car.

  14. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 29th March 2011, 4:05

    They made a very big step forward.I will say that the penalty Button received was justify.Good race for Hamilton,if he had a good car till the end he may have had challenged Vettel for the top spot.

  15. Oliver said on 29th March 2011, 4:59

    How many time have Mclaren been told not to ask thd stewards anything. I also wonder why they haven’t learned from all their previous assocations with Whithing. Whenever they ask him a question he delays, they gdt a penalty.
    In my honest opinion they have no excuse. And I’m surprised Button was using words to distort a video evidence.
    To even attempt to blame Ferrari for anything is beyond me.
    Withmarsh is just great at making excuses and explaining irrelevant things.

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