2011 Japanese GP team review
Button said it “means a lot” to win at a track where Red Bull have been strong.
|Lewis Hamilton||Jenson Button|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q3)||1’30.617 (+0.142)||1’30.475|
McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
|Pit stop 1||Soft 21.091s|
|Pit stop 2||Soft 22.821s|
|Pit stop 3||Medium 21.292s|
Hamilton was not on his team mate’s pace during practice but showed good form early in qualifying and was on provisional pole position after the first laps in Q3.
Then came the controversial incident at the chicane involving Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber, because of which Hamilton failed to get his final lap in. This is the second time in as many races his qualify effort has been compromised.
Afterwards he said he had been to blame for leaving the pits too late after a wing change, but team principal Martin Whitmarsh said Hamilton was being too hard on himself by assuming responsibility.
Hamilton took second off Button at the start but hit trouble when he lost tyre pressure in his right-rear on lap seven.
He ran wide at Spoon, losing a place to Button, and also fell behind Fernando Alonso through his pit stop.
But even after changing tyres it was clear he didn’t have the pace of his team mate. Halfway through his second stint he was leading a three-car train including Felipe Massa and Mark Webber.
When Massa tried to take fourth place off him on lap 21 Hamilton ran into the side of the Ferrari. “I don’t really know what happened with Felipe,” he said afterwards.
“The car’s mirrors vibrate at high speed, so I couldn’t see him pulling alongside me. I want to apologise for our cars touching, but fortunately nothing happened to either of us. There was no bad intention towards Felipe.”
He came straight into the pits for his second stop and lost another two places, this time to Massa and Webber.
During the race Hamilton told the team, “I’ve got massive understeer. My wing must be bust.”
At the time he was told “everything looks OK” but Whitmarsh said after the race: “We weren’t immediately aware that Lewis appeared to suffer a slow puncture to the right-rear in the first stint. That created a growing pressure differential across the rear axle, and potentially led us to add too much front wing to compensate for the lack of balance at the rear.
“In hindsight, that may have led to Lewis fighting to find a satisfactory balance for the next two stints.”
It was during the two middle stints that Hamilton lost the most ground. In his final stint, on medium tyres, he began to make progress.
He got back ahead of Massa in the DRS zone on lap 38. Three laps later he made a vital pass on Nico Rosberg at the same place which saved him from losing a place to Michael Schumacher, who was about to make his pit stop.
However he was unable to make any inroads on the leading quartet and finished fifth. He described his race as “shocking”.
Update: McLaren originally believe Hamilton suffered a puncture at the end of his first stint, but that turned out not to be the case. See here for more information: Hamilton did not have a puncture at Suzuka
|Pit stop 1||Soft 21.094s|
|Pit stop 2||Soft 20.713s|
|Pit stop 3||Medium 20.998s|
Button was fastest in all three practice sessions as McLaren showed strong pace using their new Suzuka-spec rear wing.
But he missed out on pole position to Sebastian Vettel by less than a hundredth of a second – a distance of 63cm around a lap of Suzuka, according to McLaren.
He made a quick start and tried to get down the inside of Vettel at the first corner, but had to back off and was passed by Hamilton.
By lap eight Hamilton’s puncture had promoted him to second and he was able to reduce Vettel’s advantage while keeping an eye on his tyres. “Tyre wear was massive,” he said afterwards.
“It was a very exciting race and it wasn’t just down to being quick over one lap. You really had to think through the race.”
He continued to cut into Vettel’s lead through the second stint and, after pitting two laps later than the Red Bull driver, held the lead after his stop.
At the end of the safety car period Button bided his time before making a break for it, keeping Vettel at bay. But he came under pressure towards the end of the race as Fernando Alonso, now in second, began to catch him.
Button admitted he was taken by surprise how quickly Alonso caught him, partly because he hadn’t seen his pit board showing the gap on one lap. Button set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour, and crossed the line a second ahead of the Ferrari.
He didn’t drive a slowing-down lap having cut it very fine on his fuel load. However the FIA were able to extract a sample from his car.
He said: “I was looking after tyres, also looking after a bit of fuel, so it wasn’t the easiest few laps. The last five laps weren’t the most enjoyable, I must admit, but we got it home.”
Button added he was especially pleased to have beaten Red Bull at a circuit where they have been strong in recent years:
“The car has been great around here. The Red Bulls are always so strong on these fast circuits, especially with the change of direction, so for us to win here really does mean a lot for us, as we have been fighting this for two years now.”
2011 Japanese Grand Prix
- Rate the race result: 2011 Japanese GP
- Kobayashi greets the fans, Vettel does doughnuts: Suzuka videos
- Hamilton did not have a puncture at Suzuka
- 2011 Japanese Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Vote for your Japanese Grand Prix driver of the weekend
- Red Bull: Conservative approach delivers Vettel’s title
- McLaren: Button pleased to win on ‘Red Bull track’
- Ferrari: Alonso edges Vettel for second
- Mercedes: Schumacher closes on Rosberg’s tally
- Renault: Petrov makes progress, Senna slips back
Image © McLaren