McLaren: Button’s pit mistakes almost cost Hamilton

2011 Chinese GP team review

Hamilton won for McLaren in Shanghai despite being compromised by his team mate.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 3 2
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’34.463 (+0.042) 1’34.421
Race position 1 4
Laps 56/56 56/56
Pit stops 3 3

McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2011drivercolours.csv
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
Lewis Hamilton 107.286 104.641 104.767 104.155 104.023 104.168 103.928 104.307 104.357 104.762 105.029 105.047 105.697 107.762 112.046 121.036 103.416 102.881 103.062 102.83 102.799 102.928 103.164 102.713 106.843 118.153 101.694 101.601 101.441 100.736 100.732 101.627 101.02 101.592 101.668 101.252 101.079 105.573 117.724 102.132 101.488 102.03 101.034 101.85 100.899 100.957 100.923 100.415 100.939 102.05 102.867 102.289 101.427 102.027 102.218 103.142
Jenson Button 105.908 104.859 104.884 104.013 103.955 104.037 104.032 104.162 104.53 104.719 105.118 105.341 105.974 110.89 124.61 103.959 103.816 103.254 102.612 102.983 102.79 102.779 102.818 106.504 118.125 102.468 101.536 101.59 102.342 101.532 101.409 101.23 101.209 101.396 102.381 103.251 106.777 118.159 100.623 101.192 101.376 101.245 101.709 101.519 102.384 102.505 101.736 101.934 101.829 101.611 101.508 102.191 102.366 102.877 103.58 104.089
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011

Lewis Hamilton

Following his problems in Malaysia, where a flat-spotted set of tyres in qualifying compromised his race, Hamilton gambled on only running once in Q3. This allowed him to save a set of fresh, soft tyres for the race.

He followed Button past Sebastian Vettel at the start. However Button’s failure to come into the pits when he was first called on lap 13. He stayed out a lap longer, meaning Hamilton had to stay out a lap longer too.

But Hamilton was already struggling with tyre wear and was passed by Vettel and then Felipe Massa. This left him fifth, but now he was on the set of fresh soft tyres he’d saved.

In the next stint, free from having Massa in front of him, he caught Button and dived down the inside of his team mate at the first corner. The pass was successful, but it must have caused a collective intake of breath among those on the pit wall.

Hamilton said: “I knew that I had a pit stop coming up, so I was able to push quite hard in those last few laps and I was very, very good on the brakes into turn 14, very close on the way up to turn 16 and I was able to get a real good tow from him out of the last corner.

“I?m not sure whether he expected me to go on the inside there into turn one but, fortunately, he left me enough space and I was able to capitalise on that and he put up a fair fight but there was nowhere really for him to go, because I was fully up alongside him.”

Hamilton started his final stint seven laps later than leader Vettel. But he still had to pass Nico Rosberg and Massa.

He spent a couple of laps duelling with Rosberg and complained about his driving at one point, telling his team: “Rosberg’s driving is dangerous. He just moved drastically in front of me.”

Hamilton eventually made it past as Rosberg was struggling to save fuel. Two laps later he drafted past Massa on the straight.

With 12 laps to go, Vettel was less than five second up the road, and over a second per lap slower. He defended his place carefully at the hairpin, but Hamilton dived for the inside at turn seven and took the lead with five laps to go.

That sealed his 15th and surely his most memorable Grand Prix victory.

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Button out-qualified Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second and converted second place into the lead within seconds of the race starting.

However he missed a call to pit on lap 13 and when he did come in he pulled into the Red Bull pit by mistake. They waved him through but he lost a position to Vettel, who pitted at the same time.

Hamilton passed him at the end of his second stint, leaving him in a battle with Massa and Rosberg.

Button passed the pair of them, but he couldn’t prevent Mark Webber from taking third place off him just two laps from home.

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

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90 comments on McLaren: Button’s pit mistakes almost cost Hamilton

  1. Eggry (@eggry) said on 18th April 2011, 18:40

    Smarter guys defeat faster guys.

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 18th April 2011, 19:07

      I think the real difference between Jenson and Lewis was highlighted in the last 15 laps of this race. One was cruising, coasting, and managing tyres without a worry in the world, and the other was racing to win.

      • Todfod (@todfod) said on 18th April 2011, 19:17

        Sorry.. didn’t mean to reply to your post. It was supposed to be a separate post.

      • It is a myth that Button is better on his tyres than Lewis. All the data points to very similar tyre wear from them both.

        • David BR said on 18th April 2011, 19:47

          + 1 but only because we got to see their red faces! If we’d seen the look on Jenson’s face when he realized where he was parked…

        • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 19th April 2011, 8:05

          I think up until 2010 Button was better on his tyres than Hamilton. But I think Hamilton has been able to use Button’s data and work with his own engineers to adapt his driving style to take on some of Button’s “smooth” style.

          I definitely think Lewis has gotten more out of this pairing than Jenson, but I still also think it’s the strongest on the grid.

          • kenny5 said on 19th April 2011, 11:50

            The notion that button is easy on his tyres is a myth. We saw him last year wearing out his tyres quicker than anyone. He even has a knack for inflicting severe damage to his tyres behind a safety car!!

        • i guess you’ve forgotten malaysia already… it’s ironic that hamilton’s weakness (well, one of them) with tyres is what led to his strategy in qualifying, which ultimately won him the race. let’s not get all excited about how awesome he is regarding tyre wear. turkey will be the real test.

      • BBT (@bbt) said on 18th April 2011, 20:06

        That makes no sense.
        Buttons tyres were in a worse state in the final stint.

        • Todfod (@todfod) said on 19th April 2011, 8:19

          They both were on a new set of hards.. so dont believe every lame excuse that comes out of Jenson’s mouth. ‘Balance’,’Grip’ and now ‘Tyres’ have been included in his arsenal of excuses for why he is just not quick enough.

      • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 19th April 2011, 8:03

        Really? Were you not watching the race? I thought Button was trying to stay in front of Webber for much of his final stint…

      • Phil said on 20th April 2011, 22:20

        No, one was on better tyres than the other !

  2. snowman said on 18th April 2011, 18:42

    Button pulling into the Red Bull’s pit one of funniest things seen in Formula 1

  3. Scudderite (@scudderite) said on 18th April 2011, 19:19

    Does anyone know why/how Button didn’t come in for the pit stop when he should have?

    • Gold Leaf said on 18th April 2011, 20:05

      Claims of a communication error, that he didn’t get the message to pit. Always a communication error involved when Button tries a stunt to put Hamilton in trouble it seems.

      Yes, McLaren have a habit of leaving their calls (too) late, but when he has Hamilton right behind, and both drivers rapidly approaching the looming Pirelli cliff, he stays out an extra lap and pushes Hamilton under a Ferrari bus.

      Benefit of the doubt the first two times … if it happens again though, questions will surely need to be asked.

      • Conspiracy Alert! Conspiracy Alert!

        • Gold Leaf said on 18th April 2011, 20:37

          A conspiracy involves multiple parties. My post makes no mention of collusion between multiple parties.

          Therefore your reply is without merit and is best ignored.

          Pro Tip: Read what others have written, not what you imagine them to have written.

      • DeVante said on 19th April 2011, 11:23

        I do agree. We have to mention that Hamilton’s pit is always longer…

  4. Actually, Button’s mistake partly prompted the three stop strategy.

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/90873

    McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh revealed that Jenson Button’s mistake during his first stop – when the Briton stopped in Red Bull’s pit slot – was most costly than initially thought.

    Whitmarsh also said Button should have stopped a lap earlier, something that cost him and Hamilton valuable time.

    “It cost Jenson position and it cost him time,” said Whitmarsh. “Within the stop itself it cost over two seconds and it cost a position, the fact that he stopped a lap later than he should have done as well cost him time, and it cost Lewis time and it cost Lewis track position as well, in that last lap was when Massa got by and he should have stopped by then.

    “It was pretty calamitous, simple way of looking at it, we were first and second and we were whatever fifth and sixth [actually seventh] after the first stops, so at that point we knew we had to do something different. That partly prompted the view that we had to change strategy. In the end, that would be the right way to go.”

    Had they stayed on a two-stopper………

    • David BR said on 18th April 2011, 19:42

      True. I can remember being puzzled during the race that Massa has been allowed to get past Lewis – it could have only been sudden tyre wear from the McLaren that would have let him overtake (!) Seems like it was a marginal call, 2 or 3 stops, and even now Horner thinks 2 stops could have worked (presumably had Vettel stayed out a bit longer on his second stint).

    • Oliver said on 18th April 2011, 19:55

      His mistake was irrelevant to their 3 stop strategy. Whenever the drivers pit, the team examine the tyres and adopt their strategy accordingly. The lap Button stopped was the one Hamilton should have and already Hamilton was struggling with his tyres as Button was diving to the pit. Button’s tyres also had began to show a massive drop in performance on his previous lap.

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 18th April 2011, 23:43

      This whole two-stop vs three-stop difference is hugely overrated anyway. Button and Rosberg were on 3 stops and they hardly made any gains from it. Button went from P1 to P4 with that strategy.

  5. Oliver said on 18th April 2011, 19:22

    I’ve been thinking about Button’s mistake in the pits. And I think it could have been an easy one to make. I say this because in the last race, Mclaren pit crew used black overalls. And haven been distracted by looking at his steering, the moment he raised his head and saw those dark clothing, he just assumed it was his team.

    But it was funny still especially the way the Redbull pit crew pointed forward and told him to scat. :-)

  6. d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2011, 19:29

    Its always refreshing to look at the charts for the Mclaren boys, the first couple of stints there is nothing in it between them whatsoever.

    • Oliver said on 18th April 2011, 19:48

      They were running nose to tail.

      • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2011, 20:31

        Button had clear air and couldn’t pull a lead, but Hamilton couldnt overtake with DRS (he wasn’t even in the zone for most of the first stint) or KERS. They were that close on pace. It’s what I love about Mclaren. Of course at the end, there’s hard-charging Hamilton smelling blood in the water. But I thought it could be either boy’s race until that last stint.

        • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 18th April 2011, 23:45

          DRS doesn’t allow cars to simply drive past each other. There still needs to be a significant difference in speed for an overtake to work.

          There is no way that Hamilton is going to gamble on a crash or damaging his tyres when he’s only a few tenths faster.

  7. Oliver said on 18th April 2011, 19:43

    Back to the actual race itself. I expected Button would have tried to push hard in the early part of the race, using Hamilton as a buffer between himself and Vettel.
    The fact that he had clear air in front of him meant he could do a steady pace without hurting his tyres, unlike Hamilton who would have to compromise his tyres while trying to not lose position to Vettel, while
    still not being able to get ahead of Button.

    When people talk about Button’s ability to manage his tyres, I say that is all well and good. But these tyres they use currently don’t have any predictable formula for management. I saw Button having several small lock ups and micro flat spotting all while running on his own. What one may infer from this is that the tyres ablate too easily. Even minor lockups from other drivers, result in the generation of incredible amounts of tyre smoke.
    I bet the requirement to produce tyres of this nature is resulting batches of tyres unable to be made to the same level of precision as would have been possible if made of much more durable compounds/materials.
    So today you may be a hero for saving your tyres, tomorrow you will be left scratching your head at your inability to get the tyres to go even the expected distance.

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 18th April 2011, 20:16

      So today you may be a hero for saving your tyres, tomorrow you will be left scratching your head at your inability to get the tyres to go even the expected distance.

      Spot on, which is why I’m against the C4&p tyres. I’ve NOT got a problem with the drop off in performance (thats good for racing) but they have to be consistent between sets.

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 18th April 2011, 23:46

      I expected Button would have tried to push hard in the early part of the race, using Hamilton as a buffer between himself and Vettel.

      He probably did, but he simply wasn’t faster than Hamilton and Vettel

  8. With regard to tyre management. Is it not significant that McLaren went to three stops instead of staying with the original two-stop strategy?

    Autosport:

    “There was an awful lot going on,” Prew told AUTOSPORT. “And a great deal was changing through the race, depending on tyre choice and how the different cars used their tyres and how the drivers used the tyres as well.

    “We were working out how the tyres were going to behave, and how long they were going to last, once we’d established that, once the drivers were giving us feedback about tyre performance, that dictated very much our strategy, and that’s when we adopted the three-stop.

    “We went into the race truly not knowing what we were going to do. If the tyres had kept going, then the two-stop might well have been the fastest strategy. But for us we made the decision that it wasn’t, and we adopted the three-stop.”

    He added: “Overall we went into it with a clear two-stop intention, which I think a lot of people did. We adapted to three stops just in time, because we could see tyre degradation was going to be significant, we didn’t think we could safely do two stops, just looking at what other cars were doing.”

    The two-stopper would have been a disaster, for both drivers.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th April 2011, 20:27

      Maybe if Button hadn’t made that mistake though, they could have both stayed ahead of Vettel. That’s at least what Horner was saying he thought would have happened if Vettel had had the same strategy as the McLaren’s.

      • But how long would they have waited to pit again if they had stayed ahead of Vettel?

        They were expecting Vettel to only pit twice, which he did. When they fell behind Vettel they had no choice but to try something else because they would probably have fallen way behind him if they had stuck to two stops.

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 18th April 2011, 23:48

      Hamilton made his biggest gains in his last stint. He was about 10 seconds faster than all the other top 5 drivers.

      I don’t see why he wouldn’t have been able to make it past Vettel.

      Besides he had an extra set of fresh softs that would have helped him get close.

      Vettel just didn’t have the pace all through the race. He couldn’t even get any distance to Massa.

      • Peter said on 19th April 2011, 3:27

        Actually, Hamilton did
        15 laps on soft (used Q3)
        13 laps on soft (fresh)
        13 laps on soft (fresh)
        17 laps on hard (fresh, same or even worse
        lap time as prev. stint)

        Mclaren probably did not give Ham the
        perfect strategy.

        With fresh softs he could have stayed out
        longer on the 2nd and 3rd stint.

        The guys who won most (e.g. Webber)
        minimised the time on the slower hard.

        In Ham’s case, for example, he could have emerged 6 laps later on the hard, with
        around 0.6s better lap-time on each of the
        (now 11 laps) of his final stint.

        I’d guess he would have been 7s further
        up the road.

        • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 19th April 2011, 10:43

          I think they wanted to use the new tyres for performance rather than durability. I’m guessing Hamilton was told to max out each set, he would have been given delta times to meet.

          I read somewhere that the new softs went on in his 2nd stint. if you notice there is a much bigger jump in average lap time between his first and second stints than his second and third stints, so that fits my theory.

          • Oliver said on 19th April 2011, 16:39

            Fuel load can also play a part in that. We don’t even know which sets of softs he put on. The one he used in Q2 or the one he saved in Q3.

          • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 19th April 2011, 19:00

            Performance and durability is the same thing with these Pirelli’s.

            The tyres simply get slower every lap they are used. Obviously they also last a lap less every lap used :)

            So a tyre that’s done a lap is both slower and lasts shorter.

  9. Bernard (@bernard) said on 18th April 2011, 20:29

    McLaren did well getting Hamilton onto the grid at all, he was seconds away from starting at the back.

    I expected more from Button though, pit mistakes, struggling with tyres and seemingly lacking his usual awareness. Maybe his mind was elsewhere during the race.

  10. bosyber (@bosyber) said on 18th April 2011, 20:31

    So, Button making a surprise decision with the pitstop leads to a win for the team in China – only this time, it ends up not being him.

    You do have to wonder how much faster Hamilton could have been had he been able to pit a lap earlier; and also how much Vettel and Button would both have been out of the pits without it too; I guess Ham would still have gained more from that situation because he lost so much time that lap, but I guess it mainly made Nico’s race better, and possibly that of Massa, and Webber maybe.

  11. Mr draw said on 18th April 2011, 20:36

    In the first stint, the lap-times already went up after five laps. Yet they were driving another eight laps with those tyres. In the second stint, there were no signs of massive tyre-degradation, but both McLaren-drivers were only using these tyres for ten laps. It seems that McLaren could have improved the strategy by postponing the second pitstop.

    • Peter said on 19th April 2011, 3:33

      exactly.

      At least for Ham these were both fresh
      sets, and they stuck to their “13 lap rule book”

      Pushing these out would have gained
      better lap time on the final hard stint by starting the final stints on fresh
      hards on a lower fuel load.

      I estimated a 7 second gain by delaying
      both second and third stop a bit.

  12. Fixy (@fixy) said on 18th April 2011, 20:43

    Two laps later he drafted past Massa on the straight.

    It’s true, Massa lost positions, but I’m glad to see him fighting again, and to be overtaken by Lewis he first has to be in front of him, so I’m happy for Felipe.

  13. John H (@john-h) said on 18th April 2011, 20:48

    Did Button not pit on purpose to compromise Hamilton perhaps?

  14. joseph said on 18th April 2011, 20:50

    button staying out a lap longer was terrible for hamilton, I don’t know how much time he lost but it must have been alot to lose two positions.

    • Oliver said on 19th April 2011, 9:32

      Hamilton lost 5 positions and Button about 3 I think. Although part of this was Rosberg pitting earlier and jumping them all.

    • I guestimate from the graph above and before/after distances to Vettel that he lost approx. 3.74 seconds. That hurt a lot!

  15. alonsodz said on 18th April 2011, 21:56

    Button’s pit LOL
    hhhhhhhhhhh

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