Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Nurburgring, 2011

Button edging Hamilton, Alonso thrashing Massa: team mates so far

2011 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Nurburgring, 2011
Hamilton hasn't beaten Button since the Nurburgring

With half-a-dozen races left in 2011, which drivers hold the upper hand in their team?

And which are glancing enviously at the other side of the garage?

Here’s how the team mates stack up with the end of the season in sight.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were quite closely matched in 2010 but that hasn’t been the case this year.

Webber started the year some way off Vettel’s pace. But as he has improved his performance on the new tyres the gap has reduced. When we compared the performances of team mates earlier this year Webber was often making an extra pit stop per race compared to Vettel – that is no longer the case.

But Webber is still lagging behind in some areas, particularly starts. He has made a net loss of 20 places on the first lap this year, the worst of any driver.

Telling stat: The two Red Bulls have been on the track together for 729 laps this year, and Vettel has been ahead for 661 of them.


Lewis Hamilton has never ended a championship behind his team mate in the standings.

But with six races to go Jenson Button holds a nine-point lead over his team mate. He has been the highest-placed McLaren driver in the last three races.

Will Button sustain his advantage and inflict Hamilton’s first defeat from a team mate over a full season in F1?

Hamilton has generally been the quicker of the two, and if he can cut out the mistakes that have plagued his season over the final half-dozen races he has a solid chance of coming out on top.

Telling stat: Hamilton is 10-3 up in qualifying but his advantage is a much slimmer 5-4 in races where both have finished.


Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Montreal, 2011
No contest at Ferrari

Ferrari continue to insist they will honour Felipe Massa’s contract for 2012.

Which is as clear an indication as we are likely to get that the team want nothing more than a seat-filler who will not destabilise Fernando Alonso.

This cost them second place in the constructors’ championship last year and may do the same again this year as Massa has consistently failed to get close to Alonso’s single-lap or stint performance.

Massa’s had some misfortune with slow pit stops but that alone does not explain the huge points gap between him and Alonso.

Telling stat: Alonso has more than double Massa’s points total with 172 to 82.


Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Barcelona, 2011
Schumacher is faring better in his second year back

Nico Rosberg still holds the upper hand at Mercedes, though not as decisively as he did last year.

Michael Schumacher had strong races in both Spa and Monza. Rosberg’s elimination from the latter at the first corner allowed Schumacher to close the gap between them to just four points, setting up an intriguing contest over the final races.

The next race will be a particularly telling indicator of Schumacher’s revival, as he had a tough race in Singapore last year.

Telling stat: Rosberg has reached Q3 in every race but Schumacher has missed out five times (once due to a wheel coming off).


Renault dropped Nick Heidfeld two races ago and it seems he wasn’t out-performing Vitaly Petrov by the margins they wanted him to.

In particular, Petrov out-qualified him eight times in eleven races. Heidfeld accumulated three points more than Petrov, but that clearly wasn’t enough for a driver who was expected to be a team leader.

Bruno Senna has been with the team for the past two races but it’s rather early in the day to draw comparisons between him and Petrov, especially as both have been involved in first-corner collisions.

Telling stat: Heidfeld finished ahead of Petrov in five of the seven races where both finished.


Williams have found much of their operation wanting this year and already have new engines and designers in place for 2012. Should they do the same with their drivers?

Pastor Maldonado has acquitted himself well in qualifying but tended to drop back in the races.

It seems as though Rubens Barrichello is not beating his team mate by the kind of margin someone with his experience should be. But in the FW33 Williams have produced their worst car in a long time – perhaps ever – which makes it difficult to judge.

Telling stat: Maldonado’s average starting position is slightly better than Barrichello’s, but Barrichello finishes two places ahead on average.

Force India

Paul di Resta, Force India, Monaco, 2011
Di Resta has spent more laps ahead of Sutil

Adrian Sutil is another driver who had a troubled start to the year but has clearly progressed as he’s become more familiar with the new tyres.

Having taken a battering from rookie team mate Paul di Resta in qualifying earlier on, Sutil has begun to restore the balance. He has brought the car home consistently as well.

But with Nico H???lkenberg waiting in the wings and Force India not taking a decision on their driver line-up until December, how this battle is resolved could decide who gets a drive in 2012.

Telling stat: Di Resta leads 8-5 in qualifying but Sutil has more points.


Sergio Perez continues to go from strength to strength and has out-qualified Kamui Kobayashi for the last four races in a row.

But as the competition in the midfield intensifies both are finding it increasingly difficult to bring home points.

Telling stat: Kobayashi scored 25 points in the first seven races but only two since then.

Toro Rosso

Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, Monza, 2011
Alguersuari has scored points from 18th four times

Like Sutil and Webber, Jaime Alguersuari has been on an upward trajectory this year as he has found his way with the new tyres.

In Alguersuari’s case, this has meant concentrating on race set-up at the expense of qualifying performance. As a result, he’s started 18th and gone on to finish in the points on four occasions this year.

He and Sebastien Buemi have repeatedly swapped places in the drivers’ championship. One of them needs to cement an advantage to ward off the threat from Red Bull Development Drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Telling stat: Buemi has made a net gain of 22 places on the first lap of races in 2011, more than any other driver.


Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, Monza, 2011
Kovalainen holds sway at Lotus

Jarno Trulli’s struggles with his power steering this year have been well-documented. He’s only beaten Heikki Kovalainen twice in qualifying this year and has been half a second off his team mate on average.

However he has retained his place at the team for next year.

Telling stat: Kovalainen has retired from more races due to mechanical failure than any other driver.


Vitantonio Liuzzi was never troubled by Naran Karthikeyan during their brief association. Daniel Ricciardo has shown promise and is eager to out-strip this former Red Bull Development Driver.

Telling stat: Karthikeyan is the only driver to have started more than one race in 2011 yet never out-qualified his team mate.


The experienced Timo Glock has Jerome D’Ambrosio comfortably handled

Telling stat: Glock’s average margin of 0.611s over d’Ambrosio in qualifying is the largest of all the active team partnerships in 2011.

Which drivers have particularly impressed you this year? And who do you think should be doing better against their team mates? Have your say in the comments.

2011 F1 season

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Images ?? McLaren, Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Daimler, Force India F1 Team, Red Bull/Getty images, Team Lotus

131 comments on “Button edging Hamilton, Alonso thrashing Massa: team mates so far”

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  1. Lewis Hamilton is capable of outstanding performances but he doesn’t strategise while he’s driving. Too often it is all or nothing. Alonso and Button have spare capacity which allows them to think ahead while they drive.

    Webber is having a really bad season. I don’t know what’s happened to him. Is it just the tyres?

    1. Not tyres, I still insist it’s bad starts…

      1. Pretty dreadful, aren’t they? The best opportunity of the whole race to get some serious over-taking done and he fluffs it more often than not.

    2. I think it illogical to believe the driver, who is so busy at the controls, is the one to make the decisions. The race engineer and support team are all mainly involved.

      I remember well, several cases where the team told Lewis to go for it and the result weren’t pretty. The team is to blame in many cases where the pit stop timing, duration, tyre and overall strategy failed. Then it’s left to Lewis to, by all means, salvage a better outcome.

      The team is, in my opinion, there to aid the driver not cause him additional issues. Both Lewis and Button have suffered this but Lewis much more often. Mostly because he leads Button and priority is given to the lead driver.

      The following(behind) driver gets a better look at the strategy and often react to the lead driver’s mistakes. That may explain Button doing better. The drivers are great, car is great also, but a bit of a late start and team strategy and reaction are lacking most times.

  2. Lewis is ok, he will end up in front of Button eventually this year. Jenson is accomplishing Lewis…Lewis is in the learning process these days believe it or not…
    I am happy about Schumacher getting his stuff together…

    1. Me too, regarding Schumacher. He’s had a good couple of races recently. Fingers crossed for a podium before the end of the season!

  3. Lewis has been extremely unlucky in some races like Malaysia(tyre issues at the end), Spa(crashed less than 50% his mistake), Cananda(crashed less than 50% his mistake), Britain(fuel issues), Monaco(unlucky qualifying ruined the race), Hungry(wrong tyres ruined his race), Monza(MSC too fast on straights and blocking).

    That is 7 bad races out of 13, more than 50% bad races. No wonder Ham said 2011 feels like his worst year even though 2009 Mclaren MP4-24 was worse but still it would be shocking to me if Buttons finish the year ahead of Hamilton. Best of Luck to both Mclaren drivers.

    1. Luck is how you make it. Tyre issues are down to Lewis driving too hard and not thinking about the entire race. Unlucky in qualifying, that’s down to the driver deciding what risks to take. He chose to come out as late as possible to take advantage of the improving grip – it didn’t work out as some incidents didn’t allow him the opportunity to do his fastest lap. Fuel issue – again he outdrove what his car was configured for. Poor tyre choice in Hungary, it was also Lewis’ decision to stay or go against the team’s strategy, Jenson opted against the team’s strategy as he took a calculated risk to stay on the slicks. It seems this year Lewis is not clearly understanding how his car should be driven. Looking at the Schumi years at Ferrari, he drove within the car’s limits and extended himself when he needed to – like prior and post scheduled pit stops. Lewis needs to keep a claim head and read his car (and tyres) better. Jenson is reading the car’s capability a bit better at the moment and manages to extract the performance when he needs to – pity with his starts though. In changing conditions he is making Lewis look very average. In dry conditions, Lewis is able to wring ever last bit of performance out of his car in several laps but doesn’t have the ability to pace himself throughout the race. Lewis does make it exciting to watch, however, in more times than not this year the excitement he brings sometimes does not bring him the results he is looking for.

  4. themagicofspeed (@)
    19th September 2011, 22:40

    It is so sad to say this, but Massa seems to be on a downward spiral from which he will never recover.

    From 2006-2009 i was a real fan of Massa, and i was devastated after his accident. He was often a match for Raikkonen and in 2008 consistenty beat him. With hindsight, ’08 was the peak of his career. After losing the championship at the last minute of the world championship, i think it broke his heart and his motivation took a serious knock. I cried for several hours after that race. I think what happened there knocked the spirit out of him, and he performed noticeably worse in 2009 as a result. Then came his accident, and that further reduced his spirit and, i think, made him listen to fear.

    It says a lot that since 2008 he hasnt won a single race, and has been going steadily downhill. 5 podiums in 2010, 1 in 2009. This year – none. No pole positions since 2008.
    Felipe isnt a Ferrari standard driver anymore. Perhaps he would be better in Mercedes, or Williams. I like him, so i wouldnt want him to suffer the stresses of driving for Renault…

    1. In 2009, the Ferrari 660 was very uncompetitive compared to the Brawn and Red Bull. Massa’s performances were pretty good and he had strung together some good points finishes before Hungary (22 to Raikkonen’s 10 and Hamilton’s 9).

      1. By 2009 Kimi was more interested in the ice creams in the team fridge than racing. But nevertheless he still came away with a win at Spa once he’d had enough ice creams to keep him ice cold!!! LoL.

    2. Problem is that Massa had already reduced to being the number 2 driver at the first race – Melbourne, 2011. While managing to block Button into a frustration and causing Button to take a short cut, he then let Alonso through – knowing that Button will get a penalty and thus allowing his team mate to ‘leap frog’ the McLaren. He wasn’t thinking about trying to keep ahead of his team mate – like all competitive drivers do.

      1. massa did not let alonso by at melbourne.

        if you actually watch the replay, massa lost speed coming out the previous corner by running wide & this gave alonso a run.
        massa they defended the inside of the next corner to prevent alonso passing him but this gave alonso a better run off the corner & the inside line into the next.

        1. I would be interested in seeing the replay as I was watching the race on TV and live at my mate’s apartment situated at the end of Queen’s Rd. It seemed that Massa was slower after Button’s illegal overtake – which eluded me to thinking that Massa was slowing down to allow Alonso catch up. But nevertheless he did very little to mitigate Alonso’s charge considering both Button and Massa were several seconds ahead of Alonso during their exchange. I can understand the argument for Massa not to challenge Alonso so stringently compared to Button, but he could have made less errors that allowed Alonso to catch up and pass him. And the fact that he didn’t defend his position with the same vigor as he did with Button.

  5. Button will be ahead of Hamilton,Massa will still struggle & the battle of the Mercedes driver will be the one to watch.

  6. I think Lewis needs to be beaten by Jenson this year in order for him to learn and develop into a better driver. He needs to be beaten so that it convinces him that he does need to change his approach to his racing and to learn how to take more calculated risks. He needs to learn that you don’t have to drive the wheels off the car because you can, but because when you need to. He needs to take a leaf out of Jenson’s book on how to drive in changing conditions. He’s always talking about how he wants to be like his idol – Senna; Senna was awesome in changing conditions/wet races. Jenson is showing he can drive like Prost and Senna when the conditions require it. The difference between the new Jenson and the Jenson of old is that he seems to be able to get the car closer to his liking during practice. In his WDC year he was struggling towards the end of the season with his setup, which allowed Ruben’s to catch up. It seems Jenson is complaining less this year with his setups, but knows where improvements could be made – that’s possibly due to McLaren being able to deliver a car to his liking.

  7. I feel Schumacher is really refinding his form, he is looking very strong in race pace of late.

  8. If Lewis continues to drive conservatively like in Monza, he will lose to Jenson. It all depends whether he wants to continue to be the crash kid of 2011 or just stay on the track. He’s got to find a balance between the two modes.

    1. Poor Lewis, he can’t win! He spent much of the race behind Schumacher, desperately trying to get past him. He was probably more conservative than usual, given his incidents with Kobayashi and Button earlier this year. Can’t blame the guy for trying to adapt!

  9. Nice summary so far, Keith.

    Making for some great discussion in the comments. It’s highlighted just how much we should be keeping an eye on the McLaren inter-team battle!

  10. Erm..the bottomline is:

    Jenson is only currently infront of Lewis thanks to Lewis being well off form recently. Lewis has had more frustrations than any other driver thanks to all this media keep jumping on his back week after week. On top of that he is constantly penalised and treated unfairly (I say unfairly cos the steward investigations are inconsistant when it comes to investigating other drivers for similar incidents).

    Jenson is only infront right now cos Lewis has allowed it. Lewis too can play the safe game in order to beat his team mate but Lewis has not been worried by jenson one bit.

    As for monza – this was a typical jenson race – He was very lucky as massa and webber fell out of his way – then thanks to michael and Lewis fighting each other, button slipped through without having to work much….and then the ferrari fell back to him with a poor performing tyre.

    Jenson is one of the jammiest and luckiest driver on the grid who tends to get his results handed to him on a plate – Canada was a farce thanks to the numerous safetycars and double DRS zones which allowed the field to remain bunched up and button to catch up when he was over half a lap down.

    Jenson should count himself very lucky right now that his team mate is not on form – Thats the only reason jenson is upfront for now – Could jenson be near Lewis if Lewis was just like jenson…driving at his best?
    -NO chance…button would be humiliated again.

    As jenson himself has said recently: “If Lewis is having a good day he will destroy you. But if Im having a good day and he is having a bad day then he can be beaten”.
    -See..even jenson himself knows that his only chance of getting better results than Lewis is to hope that Lewis has his races ruined.
    -To me thats not something to be so proud off – beating your team mate only when HE is off form!

    Lewis will come back and be on top…thats a definate and when it happens..it will be funny seeing all these button-loving media overhypers return back into their cupboards.

    1. Sour grapes.

  11. don’t know what’s wrong wid Massa dis year…but one thing is for sure if he is to stay at Scuderia den he’ll have to uplift his performance otherwise bye bye….really fed up wid dis guy at Ferrari…. >.<

  12. This year they also included a supplemental list of the 20 highest paid international athletes so we can really see who is banking the most cash in sports worldwide. Not surprisingly, for the second year in a row Floyd Mayweather tops the list with annual earnings of $90 million… http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/celebrity/the-highest-paid-athletes-in-the-world-2013/

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