Jenson Button, McLaren, Suzuka, 2011

McLaren: Button pleased to win on ‘Red Bull track’

2011 Japanese GP team reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Button said it “means a lot” to win at a track where Red Bull have been strong.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 3 2
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’30.617 (+0.142) 1’30.475
Race position 5 1
Laps 53/53 53/53
Pit stops 3 3

McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
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 101.597 100.289 100.096 100.086 100.175 100.899 101.955 107.004 118.449 100.258 100.628 99.846 99.919 100.441 100.162 99.695 100.118 100.176 100.504 100.66 104.927 119.069 99.151 114.349 126.971 145.337 152.229 100.464 98.248 98.029 98.167 98.445 98.868 99.01 101.317 115.931 98.579 98.456 99.792 99.335 97.981 98.506 98.554 98.528 98.17 98.393 98.527 98.297 97.645 98.036 98.198 98.34 98.889
Jenson Button 102.7 101.27 100.575 100.37 100.264 100.07 100.707 102.198 101.2 102.704 117.106 99.187 99.669 99.613 99.43 99.093 99.536 99.66 99.846 101.587 114.973 98.498 98.852 107.02 143.826 147.881 153.862 97.576 97.527 97.519 97.814 98.14 98.175 98.318 98.65 100.78 114.533 97.317 96.984 97.01 98.786 97.295 97.869 98.616 97.82 98.111 98.269 97.999 97.41 97.303 96.574 96.568 98.767

Lewis Hamilton

Start tyre Soft
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

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Jenson Button, McLaren, Suzuka, 2011
Jenson Button, McLaren, Suzuka, 2011
Start tyre Soft
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.”

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

2011 Japanese Grand Prix

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