McLaren: Button leads Hamilton home again

2011 Italian GP team review

Jenson Button brought home the best result for McLaren for the third race in a row.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 2 3
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’22.725 (-0.052) 1’22.777
Race position 4 2
Laps 53/53 53/53
Pit stops 2 2

McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):

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
Lewis Hamilton 120.534 142.512 139.432 91.376 90.548 91.605 89.834 89.581 89.576 89.53 89.465 90.024 90.323 89.1 90.043 90.948 89.428 92.664 106.703 88.95 88.362 88.679 88.682 88.998 89 88.328 87.79 88.762 87.711 87.638 87.63 87.746 88.464 91.404 105.781 87.505 87.738 87.906 87.106 86.941 86.903 87 86.756 86.891 87.088 87.168 87.29 86.655 86.615 86.867 86.969 86.187 86.853
Jenson Button 122.823 142.958 137.74 92.47 91.846 90.353 89.833 89.741 89.497 89.04 89.064 89.418 89.912 89.182 89.789 89.684 92.075 105.66 88.628 88.466 88.194 88.354 88.166 87.941 87.689 87.63 87.942 87.6 88.242 87.999 87.54 87.716 91.634 104.973 88 87.758 87.602 87.538 87.274 86.993 86.939 87.063 87.462 86.937 87.181 87.115 86.98 87.034 86.956 86.855 86.771 86.207 87.298

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, McLaren, Monza, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, McLaren, Monza, 2011

Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 22.083s
Pit stop 2 Medium 21.876s

Hamilton was fastest on Friday and could have made it through Q2 using only medium tyres. But he elected to play it safe and do a run on softs to ensure his pssage to Q3.

He shared the front row with Sebastian Vettel but said he could not have beaten the Red Bull driver, whose efforts he heaped praise on: “Sebastian was mega quick today.

“It looked like we would be quite competitive throughout the weekend but today in that last lap, that was untouchable for me.”

Hamilton’s performance in the race was decidedly conservative. He fell behind the flying Fernando Alonso at the start, then lost another place when the safety car came in.

He was busy warming his tyres up and keeping an eye on Michael Schumacher when Alonso bolted towards Parabolica. “They caught me napping,” he admitted afterwards.

Schumacher passed the McLaren easily on the run to the Rettifilio. Hamilton, running with comparatively low top speed in order to remain competitive with Sebastian Vettel, was literally powerless to re-pass the Mercedes, which was clearly quicker in a straight line.

Hamilton got past at the Rettifilio on lap 13 but didn’t defend the outside line at the Curva Grande – perhaps a little wary following his crash in Spa – allowing Schumacher to re-take the position.

Three laps later he took a look at the inside of the Curva Grande but Schumacher stuck to his line, obliging Hamilton to back off, allowing Jenson Button through into fourth. Moment later Button swept around Schumacher at Ascari which must have left Hamilton fuming.

Schumacher came in at the end of the lap, denying Hamilton a chance to pit before him and gain the benefit of fresher tyres. With Button now the leading McLaren, he came in next, meaning Hamilton couldn’t respond for another lap.

When Hamilton finally made his first stop on lap 18 he fell back behind Schumacher once again.

Hamilton continued to throw all he had at the Mercedes, finally making it by on lap 27 as Schumacher had a poor run down to Ascari.

He began catching Alonso once both of them had switched to the medium tyres. From 8.3 seconds behind on lap 37, Hamilton began the 53rd and final tour one second behind the Ferrari.

Hamilton had ended his 2009 race at Monza in the barriers taking to make a pass on the last lap, but there was to be no repeat of that this time. He had his DRS open as they blasted from Lesmo 2 down to Ascari but it was too little, too late to get on the podium.

Having questioned whether Schumacher had made too many defensive moves on the team radio during the race, Hamilton offered no criticism of his driving afterwards:

“We were a little bit slow on the straight today, which meant it was hard to get past Michael, who was faster along the straight even when I had my DRS activated.

“I had to really fight Schumacher, but the fact that I finished ahead of him meant everything was okay. That?s racing.”

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Jenson Button, McLaren, Monza, 2011

Jenson Button, McLaren, Monza, 2011

Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 21.66s
Pit stop 2 Medium 22.095s

Button tested new, low-drag parts in FP1 but discarded some of them in the afternoon session.

He said he was happier with the car on Saturday but aborted his final run in Q3, certain it was not going to be better than his initial effort: “I didn?t get a great first sector and I just carried that all the way through the lap so I was a tenth-and-a-half down.

“I knew through the last corner, the previous lap was perfect through there, so I looked down at the speed and just pulled into the pits knowing that I was a tenth-and-a-half off my best.”

A problem with his clutch caused a poor start in which he lost places to both Ferraris and Michael Schumacher. At the restart, Mark Webber passed him as well.

Webber’s collision with Massa left Button clear to attack Schumacher and Hamilton. This he did very successfully on lap 16, passing the pair of them within four corners.

During his second stint Button drew closer to Alonso, then began to drop back as the Ferrari had its usual strong end to a stint. But once they switched to the medium tyres Button was on the attack.

Alonso struggled to get traction out of the Rettifilio chicane on lap 35 and Button pounced, diving up the inside at the Curva Grande to take second place and his third podium finish in a row.

“On the whole, the team?s done a great job this weekend,” said Button, “but it?s the little problems that are frustrating.

“If you have one of those, then you?re not going to beat Red Bull and Sebastian. Hopefully, we?ll have no problems at the next race because if we can get everything together then we can challenge for a win.”

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

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111 comments on McLaren: Button leads Hamilton home again

  1. Hamilton needed a good solid result for his confidence, and he got that. I think Schumacher knew that Hamilton wouldn’t try anything silly and that encouraged him. Now Lewis has racked up a finish I expect to see him back to his old self in Singapore.

    I’ve been more and more impressed with Button this year. I don’t understand how he managed to pass Schumacher so quickly, it was so easy. I’d guess that Schumacher half let him past so that he could concentrate on Hamilton.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 12th September 2011, 17:01

      You mean, Spa/Canada 2010 -spec Lewis, or old as in… Spa 2011 spec Lewis?

    • Mr draw said on 12th September 2011, 17:01

      Higher top speed?

    • If you look at the replay Schumi has his whole car over the inside kerb when Button passes him.

      I think Schumi realised his tyres were too shot to bother continue fighting, and the move was a banzai (he may not have realised it was Button and not an uber-frustrated Lewis), so he opted to stay out of the way.

      Also as noted Jens had an excellent run out of Lesmo 2 on him, most likely due to his tyres retaining grip having not bothered to fight to pass for several laps.

    • Agree with you on Hamilton, as for Button passing Schu, according to Brawn he had just been on the radio there and Schu missed a gear change!

    • “I’ve been more and more impressed with Button this year. I don’t understand how he managed to pass Schumacher so quickly, it was so easy.”

      That an easy one, Button had a higher top speed (than Hamilton) and Schumacher had lost a bit of pace with the battle with Hamilton, he knew Hamilton was no longer there and got caught napping.

      • dkfektor said on 13th September 2011, 18:54

        also button was braver to try to outbrake shumi in that turn. he later said it was one of his bravest overtaking attempts, he did it perfect giveing “a cars margin and a bit” on the apex and forcing schumacher to cut over the curb as he would have thought button was going to turn in on him and crash. button made a perfect move, he could easily have outbraked himself but did it perfect.

        • Yes, I noticed Schumacher also dived over the inside curb to avoid the crash. I.e., what say Webber didn’t do in Singapore last year. It was a Hamilton-like move by Button, i.e., a little bit genius and little bit mad. Good on him.

  2. Icthyes said on 12th September 2011, 17:00

    I think what happened with McLaren was that they were all set up to race Vettel but ended up racing Schumacher early on and then proceeded to stick to a Plan A that quickly showed itself to be ineffective. By the time they won that race there was time only to race Alonso. That’s assuming they had an answer for Vettel anyway.

  3. 5150 (@) said on 12th September 2011, 17:01

    Button is more complete (read better) driver, than Hamilton.

    • El Davo said on 12th September 2011, 17:08

      Which is why Hamilton beat him in the WDC last year? :S

      • Heidfeld beat Kubica in 2007 and 2009, would you say he is better than Kubica?

        Off the point, but still… you can’t judge on a single years standings.

        I think they are both very good drivers and in many respects, equal, though Hamilton is noticably better than Button at certain aspects of racing and vice versa.

        • El Davo said on 12th September 2011, 17:17

          My point exactly. Hamilton/Button must be one of the most capable and complimentary driver pairings ever… When it goes to plan.

          • Agreed, probably the best driver line up. How much further ahead would Button be without his retirements not of his own making. Irrespective of how this championship ends up its 1 – 1 in my book.

    • Ha ha good one, as a limou driver – maybe, racing driver – be serious.

    • lewymp4 (@lewymp4) said on 13th September 2011, 0:20

      His style of driving will hardly win a WDC.

      • lewymp4 (@lewymp4) said on 13th September 2011, 0:21

        another WDC

        • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 13th September 2011, 3:43

          I don’t know, as it has been pointed out, other than his two recent retirements Button has been on the podium a lot lately.

          He is more aggressive in his driving while still maintaining his smooth approach and it is reaping dividends.

          Since the cars changed massively in 09, he has been the 2nd best driver after Vettel.

          Vettel: 17 wins
          Button: 10
          Hamilton: 7
          Alonso: 6
          Webber: 6

          Vettel: 30 podiums
          Button: 23
          Hamilton: 18
          Alonso: 18
          Webber: 25

          • Mr draw said on 13th September 2011, 22:51

            Including 2009 isn’t fair if you want to compare Button to Hamilton.

          • And if McLaren had`nt left the bung in the sidepod in Monaco, and Vettel had`nt took him out in Spa, he would have beat LH in last years WDC. I hope he beats him this year.

          • You forgot not securing his wheel properly after a pit stop.

  4. schooner (@schooner) said on 12th September 2011, 17:10

    As clean and impressive as Vettel’s drive to the win was, I’d have to give Button the nod for star of the race. Pretty good stuff.

  5. “Button leads Hamilton home again”..so what?

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 12th September 2011, 17:15

      It’s just a title. Calm down.

    • What do you mean “so what”? It’s a heading. The fact is that Jenson Button beat Lewis Hamilton. As he did in Belgium and Hungary. Hence “again”.

    • It’s a fact.

    • So nothing… you clicked on it, read it, got intrigued, commented, even got some responses – mission accomplished, great job Keith!

    • Patrickl said on 12th September 2011, 23:29

      It’s the headline because it’s so odd. Hamilton is by far the better driver, but whatever he does this year it doesn’t work.

      When he goes for agressive then he gets rammed by a rookie and penalized as a result. When he tries to play it safe it doesn’t give him anything either.

      Whereas everything seems to just fall into place for Button. Button drove an utterly abysmal race in Canada. Betting on the weather as again, but this time it didn’t work. He even rammed his team mate into the wall and he doesn’t get a penalty because “he didn’t see him”. Yet 5 safety cars later and (ramming off yet another major opponent) and he’s in the better car for the last 15 laps to take the win.

      It does seem like Hamilton is suffering from the Raikkonen 2008 fever. What’s the point of giving it all in a car that’s not realisticly going to give you the win?

      • What are you on about abysmal race in Canada ??? I was watching the live timing, and it went unnoticed by Brundle and Coulthard, and yourself, but JB was consistently the fastest man out there all afternoon ! As I write this its coming back to me, he came through from the back how many times ??? Abysmal ? AMAZING !

    • soulmonkey said on 13th September 2011, 3:43

      Obviously, Keith chooses headlines and angles his writing voice in a manner that tries to incite that certain percentage of his audience. If you look at the voice of the report, though factual, it is definitely skewed. You can’t pay attention to this. You just have to read the assessment, take for what it is and look forward for the next outing. It’s just journalism.

    • Sheriff said on 13th September 2011, 9:18

      Another Hamilton bashing article Kieth? Give us a break!!

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th September 2011, 9:20

        I criticise drivers when I think they deserve criticism and I praise them when I think they deserve praise. If you disagree with me, by all means tell me why and I’m happy to have a conversation on the facts. But I’m not impressed by whingeing.

        • Sheriff said on 13th September 2011, 9:33

          It’s sarcasm mate! Ive read alot recently on you apparently “bashing Hamilton”.
          Jeez, that’s a big horse, now get off it..

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th September 2011, 9:41

            You can’t expect to write ‘sarcasm’ like that in an online form and not have it taken literally. If that wasn’t what you meant then fair enough, and my previous comment doesn’t apply. But next time make it obvious if you’re being sarcastic – this wasn’t even ambiguous.

          • soulmonkey said on 13th September 2011, 19:28

            Don’t stand down. This is an article written to incite opinion. Unfortunately, most of that opinion is in the form of bashing. Hamilton is doing things this season to get the raft of writers who find the need to take advantage of his popularity by highlighting his shortcomings over and over again. Soon this will be PlanetF1 all over again.

            Nevertheless, call a spade a spade. Don’t back away from that.

          • Sheriff said on 14th September 2011, 13:12

            *sigh*

      • bearforce1 said on 13th September 2011, 9:32

        Another Keith bashing. Give us a break!!

  6. kowalsky said on 12th September 2011, 17:24

    hamilton is a rare driver that is getting worse with experience. His best year without a doubt was 2007 when he beat alonso most of the time. At that point you coul feel that he was the most talented driver to arrive since ayrton senna. But nowadays he seems more like nigel mansell. A very fast driver with lots of talente but prone to making mistakes.
    Button is looking better against him that alonso did in 2007, but jenson is facing “mansell” while alonso had to face “ayrton”.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 12th September 2011, 17:26

      sums up my view of Hamilton this season really.

    • I totally agree with you. It’s hard to believe but Lewis as a rookie was like Mr. Consistency (apart from the last 2 races) and now after 5 seasons in F1 he’s become THE crash-kid. He reminds me more and more of Raikkonen in 2008.
      And don’t ever make analogies between Lewis and Senna. With all do respect to Hamilton but I think it’s an insult towards Senna to put Lewis at the same level with him, Ayrton was a much much better driver racer, I would think the best.

    • Very nice assessment @kowalsky

    • I think Lewis wants to go faster than his car is capable of.
      Give him the redbull and he’ll make very few mistakes like Vettel.
      Button is doing great and collecting great points, hats off to him!

      Hamilton’s best answer is a strong end of season and take the vice championship wich I’m sure he can.

    • Bernard (@bernard) said on 13th September 2011, 3:12

      Utter nonsense kowalsky, please list said mistakes – chronologically if you may – so we can compare objectively with other drivers and perhaps help to erase your delusions.

  7. RACERNORRISKI (@racernorriski) said on 12th September 2011, 17:28

    Also glad to see Button beat Lewis…. Nice guy vesus not nice guy. Also always cheering for Nico R…. R & R

  8. It’s so nice to see Button really on it this year. I’m rating him higher and higher as races go by.

    The way he races is superb. He’s mixed his smoothness with glimpses of aggression, like at Spa. When he needs to overtake, he does it and makes it work.

    Even more impressive he’s taking the most out of the Mclaren. And it’s been like this for a while now!

  9. Mild7nick (@mild7nick) said on 12th September 2011, 17:48

    Ok so answer me this, who would have the upper had out of the current Jenson Button who most agree is in the driving form of his career against a fully firing, head in the right place and content Lewis Hamilton (circa late 09, mid 2010)?

    No contest for me every time…

  10. panache said on 12th September 2011, 19:13

    I’m delighted to see Button driving so well this year and finally getting the recognition he deserves. On balance his overall performance this year is second only to Vettel in my opinion, closely followed by Alonso.

    As for Hamilton, it’s increasingly becoming clear that his immense talent and blinding pace can’t sufficiently compensate for several increasingly obvious deficiencies in his driving.

    Whilst Vettel continues to improve on seemingly every facet of his driving, Hamilton if anything seems to be performing worse over time.

    I also can’t help but think that as the more experienced and articulate driver, Button is garnering increasing support behind the scenes at Mclaren to lead them down a development path which is geared towards his own feedback more than Hamilton’s as an “unofficial” team leader.

    It’s crunch time for Hamilton and he needs to step up his game before he finds himself without a leg to stand on.

    • Mild7nick (@mild7nick) said on 12th September 2011, 20:43

      Would disagree that Button has been second only to Vettel this year, Alonso is ahead of him in what has been for the season a far inferior car even to the Mclaren

      People are getting a little carried away with Jenson at the moment I feel, BBC’s fanatic coverage of helps like Itv did with Hamilton

      • Kyle (@hammerheadgb) said on 13th September 2011, 1:45

        The fact that Button is behind Alonso championship-wise is down to the two car-related retirements in Britain and Germany that simply weren’t his fault – costing at least 20 points. Alonso has suffered no such misfortune.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th September 2011, 4:10

          Apart from being rammed off the road by Jenson Button in Canada.

          • Mild7nick (@mild7nick) said on 13th September 2011, 8:03

            +1

            Woulda, shoulda, coulda

          • panache said on 13th September 2011, 20:20

            I wouldn’t say Alonso’s DNF in Canada was misfortune, nor was it out of his control as Button’s DNF’s have been.

            It’s interesting that you mention this incident as ultimately it was this which led me to rank Button above Alonso in terms of performance so far this season, albeit only just.

            Alonso took himself out of the race by trying to stick it around the outside heading into a tight chicane. This is essentially what Webber tried to do to Massa at Monza with a similar outcome.

            Had Alonso yielded he could have went on to win the race in Canada but instead it was Button, despite coming out of that collision badly himself.

    • All this stuff is being said about Hamilton now after his recent run of poor form and luck, yet its only a few races ago that he was utterly sublime in Germany and everyone was raving about him. I remember last year Vettel got an absolute bashing after crashing in Turkey, and again in Spa, then went on to win the championship and dominate this the following season.

      Form is a real thing that affects performers across all sports. Look at Wayne Rooney last season, he couldn’t buy a goal, his touch was appalling, he even admitted himself that he thought he’d lost it. Then look at him this season, two hatricks in two consecutive games. Was he not the same great player last season as the seasons before? Of course he was- he just wasn’t in form. Form is temporary, class is permanent and Hamilton is off form as much as Button is on form. And as soon as Hamilton is back in the groove again it wont take long for everyone to proclaim his brilliance once again.

      I think to an extent he is blighted by mis-perceptions about his great debut season. As mentioned somewhere above, some people talk about him beating Alonso “most of the time” which he didn’t. They tied on points and Alonso beat Hamilton several times throughout the year. Not to take anything away from him that year, but suggestions that he is getting worse over time are rubbish. Last year when he led the championship all that time he drove the best in his career, and he has produced some stunning drives this year as well. He has just lacked that consistency which served him so well in 07. I personally think that the change to slicks has not favoured him, i think he was able to handle the slippery grooved tyres better in relation to the other drivers.

      When all is said and done though, Alonso still labels him as the fastest driver in formula 1 and i think the opinion of a double world champ who has raced alongside him deserves to have his opinion taken very seriously. And moreover, F1 would be a far less exciting place without him.

    • panache said on 13th September 2011, 20:27

      Here’s an interesting article I found last night which is relevant to my speculation about Button garnering increasing support behind the scenes at Mclaren:

  11. Mclaren opted again for a higher downforce set-up like what they had at spa. Yes they are quick but in my observation they suffer massively on a heavy fuel load at the start. More downforce + full(heavy)fuel load they suffer with top speed in circuits like spa and monza.

    But in the middle of the race they seem to make it work since the fuel goes down which helps their top speed. Maybe they should tweak it a bit so they wouldn’t suffer at the start?

    Whitmarsh said mclaren was fastest http://en.espnf1.com/italy/motorsport/story/58813.html Yes they were fast, but to be fast at the last segment of the race is good but at some point it would be hard to catch the leader if he was able to pull a gap during the first half or 3/4 of the race?

  12. I don’t see whey (referring to comments) that we need such a vitriolic comparison of the two drivers. I am one of Button’s biggest fans, and I am more than happy to see his results of late being a genuine reflection of his ability and deserving of a decent drive. He overtook 3 WDC to put himself in P2. Not bad.

    I’m not a Hamilton fan, but I think he’s racier than Button, and yet I also believe Button is a great overtaker as has been proved in the last few races.

    For me Alonso and Hamilton are better racers but Button does not chase cars down like Lewis because he knows it isn’t always worth it. he knows if he looks after his tyres the car in front will fade and he will catch, it happens almost everyrace.

    Button took a Schumacher and Lewis that had ridden their tyres to death chomping at the bit to get the upper hand. This race, the HARE lost out. It happens.

    • gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 12th September 2011, 21:02

      Nice comment. I do agree and share your view.

    • David BR said on 12th September 2011, 23:33

      Maybe it works a bit like this: Hamilton’s high risk strategy works fine when McLaren have the most competitive car (or equal) and means he beats Button over the season -. When they’re a bit off the leading pace, it’s 50-50 whether risky or driving safe works best. When they’re a lot off, the advantage seems to tip in Button’s favour.

      That said, Hamilton’s big weakness seems to be a lack of concentration when things aren’t perfect. His Monza drive this year reminded me of Interlagos last year where he was really mediocre too (relatively of course!). But you can’t be a really great driver and let that happen. I kind of fear that discipline is beyond Hamilton, he just seems to get bored when he’s not with a chance of winning.

  13. Jenson’s hit a rich vein of form recently, which is great to see. He deserves the plaudits he’s been getting. But he needs to be careful what he wishes for in regard to being crowned McLaren team leader. That easy-going, affable style he’s trade-marked will go out the window if he’s unable to stay on top of Hamilton. A team leader who is consistently out-qualified by his number two will become a laughing stock.

    It was telling after the race how Jenson seemed almost more delighted with his performance than the winner was with the victory. It showed how much beating Hamilton means to him. Lewis, on the other hand, seems despondent with anything less than the win. I think that says a lot.

    Along with Jenson’s fine drives, the most interesting facet of this championship now is how Hamilton will deal with this crossroads in his career. Will he remain a mercurial driver, capable of occasional greatness? Or will he step up to challenge what is already looking like the start of ‘the Vettel era’?

  14. As a measure Jenson’s season… if Jenson and Lewis had a ‘him or me’ arguement who would get the ‘boot!’? I think Maclaren would rather have Jenson on board now

    • Mild7nick (@mild7nick) said on 13th September 2011, 8:07

      Rubbish!

      Jenson has 2-3 years at best whilst Lewis has 10 left at the top.

      Would you rather have a driver is happy to just beat his teammate or a driver who is only happy when he is winning?

      Jenson will never win another WDC again for one simple reason – He isnt fast enough to

  15. Stretch said on 12th September 2011, 22:54

    I think jenson is obviously doing a better job in races this year so is getting more of a backing off mclaren at the moment and maybe updates that they are bringing for the car are better for him than Hamilton and I think he’s getting a little frustrated by that at the moment

    Also he must be questioning his position within the team as mclaren are reportedly ready to offer a huge contract to button to stay for the rest of his career as a driver and then stay on as ambassador after driving would Lewis see this as mclaren favouring button over him ? I guess we need to wait until he gets offered a new contract to see if it’s better than buttons or not.

    I found it strange also that he needed encouraging on the radio to try and catch alonso one thing most people will agree on like him or not is that he always drives at 100% especially with alonso on front of him

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