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

2011 Chinese Grand Prix

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

  1. DaveW (@dmw) said on 18th April 2011, 22:10

    When you see that Hamilton even fell behind Massa before his stop, you can see how dreadful their position must have looked then. But this goes to show how mysterious the tires remain. As it was, even dropping behind Massa and Alonso, Hamilton was able to storm back to the front. Meanwhile, Button’s tires went poof in stint 4. There is nothing between these two in tire management, desipte the popular vapors about “smooth driving”. This leads also to a fair suspicion that the tires are unpredictable in terms of wear rate and from set to set.

  2. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 18th April 2011, 22:13

    Good weekend for McLaren aside from Button just missing the podium. Comedy from Button too!

    Hamilton was class. Really good. Thoroughly deserved win even though Vettel was suffering with tyres. That shouldn’t take anything away from Hamilton.

  3. MattHT (@mattht) said on 18th April 2011, 22:52

    A brilliant win. Button’s pit fail was comical, the reactions of some of the RBR mechanics (get the **** out!! style hand signals!) was funny. Hamilton was imperious, especially given he would have been panicking 2 minutes before the race started, he would have had to sort his head out fairly quickly. Great calls on choosing when to overtake both Button and Vettel as well.

  4. maxthecat said on 19th April 2011, 0:00

    I think Lewis and Jenson are the perfect team mates for McLaren and to a degree each other. Lewis is aggressive and Jenson is calm, as proved last year, sometimes a calm head will win you a race and sometimes aggression is needed. They seem to get on and Jenson is the type of person that will look to diffuse a situation rather than escalate it. Lewis doesn’t need a fast team mate to push him, he will push himself and Button is the perfect team mate to pick up the pieces when that ‘balls out’ style of Hamilton sends him to the wall.

  5. tmax (@tmax) said on 19th April 2011, 1:16

    It was so funny to see Jenson pull into the Red Bull pits. Even more because they are the most contrasting colors one the dark blue and other white/red. I guess he got carried away in the moment. But it was a lighter moment for once in the race. More fun to watch was Vettel waiting and Red Bull guys waving at button to move on. I am sure the Redbull and Mclaren pit crew both would have missed a heart beat when Jenson pulled into the wrong box. I was actually thinking this whole move of Jenson would play into Hamilton’s hands and he can gain opposition after his pit stop. Looks like the opposite happened as he started losing position on old tires.

  6. Mark said on 19th April 2011, 7:30

    Just from my own observation. Why is Mclaren using it’s tires more during its first stint than Red Bull and Ferrari? Mclaren can’t usually push hard on a heavy fuel load because maybe they have to look out for their tires more than Red Bull & Ferrari during the first stint. But after that, as the fuel load goes down, it seems they could manage their tires and be at par with these teams.It seems if Ferrari can unlock their qualifying pace, they could be a real threat on raceday. I might be wrong tho.

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 19th April 2011, 19:04

      Perhaps McLaren set up their car more for the end of the race?

      • Mark said on 20th April 2011, 7:59

        I think they really have more degradation compared to RBR and Ferrari. With the exception of Australia, Mclaren seem can’t push hard as RBR & Ferrari during its first stint. For China their original plan was for a two-stop strategy so they did set-up the car for a longer run (http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/90873). It’s just a bit puzzling why on a Full fuel load and usually on the first stint, they have more degradation but after that they could manage it almost at par to Ferrari and closer to RBR. Maybe Mclaren’s little bit of weakness is the first stint? Or trying to set-up the car to be faster on a single lap to try and snatch the front row on raceday? It’s just a bit of a concern if Ferrari all of sudden can qualify higher and then be more kinder to its tires on raceday.

  7. Ngwenya (@) said on 19th April 2011, 9:03

    Why didn’t they pit Lewis 1st, since Button had missed his opportunity?

    • Well to be fair to them we don’t know what was happening. If what they say is true and Jenson was having a comms issue then it may be that the only reason he knew to box was because it was on his pit board – they may not have wanted to risk having both cars come in at once or a tyre mix-up e.t.c. that can result in last minute tactical changes when there are communications issues.

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 19th April 2011, 19:11

      I had the same thought. But Hamilton was so close behind on lap 13 there was no way to recognize the situation and do the swtich in that time. Had they called Hamilton in for lap 14 instead of Button, it would have been no good, because Vettel, in a very cltuch move, passed Hamilton into turn 14 on that lap covering the possiblity of getting out of pitlane behind Hamilton if Hamilton also pitted. Button, stranded for another lap on those dead tires, would have been jumped by Vettel anyway.

      From McLaren’s point of view, even with the missed stop, everthing was fine after they saw Vettel go round again, because they then knew that they would stay ahead of Vettel (with a good pit stop). And win the race most likely. The double irony is that Button massively cocked up the stop, and Hamilton, really left for dead by that choice of the team, absorbed the loss of several seconds and still passed pass both of them later.

  8. OceanRacer (@oceanracer) said on 19th April 2011, 10:15

    A mistake there Keith.

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

    Hamilton passed Button at the end of his third stint not second.

  9. Younger Hamii(Formerly Younger Hamilton) said on 19th April 2011, 10:52

    *sighs* Echoes of Germany 2008,What do you think Guys

    • Much much better drive for Hamilton in this race and not such a bad clanger for McLaren either – it was a team mate mistake this time rather than a strategy error as such that cost Hamilton places. Also in 2008 his car was much superior to those in front of him (excepting his team mate but he wasn’t much of a challenge) and also the drivers were (and I don’t want to sound disrespectful) of a lower calibre than those he was fighting in China (excepting Massa).

      This was in a different league to Germany 2008

  10. leslexx said on 20th April 2011, 1:41

    I really don’t know why more is not being made of this. Button was planned to stop 1 lap before he did (according to team boss whitmarsch ) while Lewis was scheduled to stop on the the lap that Button eventually stopped. The strategy must have been known to both drivers before the race or somewhere along the line. So, Button ignoring his lap to stop and carrying on one extra – remember he was in front (in this Pirelli times) where even half a lap on the wrong tyre could mean P1 or P7. did Button intentionally try to sabotage Lewis race? If Lewis or Alonso or even Vettel has done this, wouldnt there be uproar now by the media? I’m not too sure about this nice guy image Mr Button that the media seem not interested in criticizing you know. In this Pirelli time, you can’t mess about with no one pitting time.

  11. TheVillainF1 (@thevillainf1) said on 20th April 2011, 10:34

    Very strange stuff by Button, first he ignores his team calling him to box, jeoprdising his strategy and that of his teammate, then the whole pitbox cockup, caught napping when Lewis passed him…..definately not 100% focused this race. If he had pitted on his designated lap, he’d have very likely kept Vettel behind him (at least for a while making him lose time), and Mclaren would have been in a good position for a 1-2. Very surprised by his poor performance.

  12. Phil said on 20th April 2011, 20:37

    Maybe after his girlfriend had “rocked up”, his mind was elsewhere…

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