McLaren: Relief for Hamilton after return to winning ways

2011 Abu Dhabi GP team review

Lewis Hamilton was back on form as he scored his third win of 2011.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 2 3
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’38.622 (-0.009) 1’38.631
Race position 1 3
Laps 55/55 55/55
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 54 55
Lewis Hamilton 110.984 107.726 107.134 106.964 106.549 106.511 106.431 106.321 105.989 106.017 106.075 106.007 106.329 106.236 106.516 108.071 123.27 104.921 105.166 105.533 105.2 105.903 105.46 105.332 105.629 105.209 104.809 104.759 104.652 104.511 104.469 104.96 104.784 105.319 104.857 104.723 105.138 104.47 105.296 106.618 124.556 104.298 103.925 103.982 104.451 104.067 104.276 104.362 103.681 103.939 103.461 103.938 103.637 103.512 104.953
Jenson Button 114.263 108.705 108.114 107.202 106.872 106.819 106.391 106.474 106.528 106.585 106.394 107.033 107.071 107.18 108.49 108.402 125.313 106.121 105.993 105.655 105.731 105.559 105.613 105.538 105.794 105.597 105.746 105.264 105.51 105.589 104.703 104.873 104.929 105.082 105.53 106.689 126.242 104.783 105.571 104.679 104.639 106.007 104.499 104.21 104.517 104.129 104.323 104.933 103.892 103.408 103.154 103.665 103.506 103.463 104.795

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, McLaren, Abu Dhabi, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, McLaren, Abu Dhabi, 2011

Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 19.439s
Pit stop 2 Medium 19.35s

Hamilton looked set to take pole position after topping the second and third practice sessions and being comfortably quickest in Q2. But as the track cooled in Q3 Hamilton, like several other drivers, found himself unable to replicate his best time.

His Q2 time was quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s pole position lap. Nonetheless he lined up on the front row of the grid for the third year in a row at Abu Dhabi.

He was therefore perfectly placed to inherit the lead when Vettel spun off in front of him at the second corner with a puncture. Hamilton admitted he had initially been worried about avoiding the Red Bull: “I didn?t know which way it was going to go, so I was just trying to avoid that.

“I saw immediately that something had happened to his tyre, and that?s why he was going sideways. I was just making sure that I didn?t collect him as he potentially [could come] across the track.”

From then on the only threat to Hamilton’s third of the season came from behind as Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari stayed within range.

It could have been close at the start of the final stint as Alonso ran longer than Hamilton, but the McLaren driver stayed ahead and pulled away once both drivers were on the harder tyres.

It may have been less spectacular than his wins in China and Germany this year. But after an often troubled season, with numerous collisions and penalties, it seemed a weight had been lifted from Hamilton’s shoulders after this win.

“I definitely think that this weekend I’ve been clearer in my mind and I?ve had less weighing on me, less thoughts and issues or whatever problems that I’ve got,” he said.

“I was just able to drive clearly. I think my qualifying has always been generally good and my practice has always been pretty good but obviously in the last race I had that mistake which was… I was just not thinking straight and this weekend I was able to think straight.

“I don?t know if that?s because I had some great support here or what, but it?s been a positive feeling all weekend. I felt like I was on it all weekend so I just feel very fortunate to have come out and finish and had the car last and not get into any trouble.”

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 20.908s
Pit stop 2 Medium 20.301s

Button enjoyed the cooler track conditions late in Q3 which provoked a transition towards understeer in his car which suited his driving style. Though he was beaten by Hamilton for the 13th time this year in qualifying, the gap was a wafer-thin nine-thousandths of a second.

Alonso passed him on the first lap and he shortly came under pressure from Mark Webber as well. The Red Bull driver passed him in the first DRS zone at one point, but Button re-passed him in the next.

Button then managed to pull away – his race engineer congratulated him on getting out of range of Webber’s DRS attacks.

But on lap 12 his KERS stopped working and the Red Bull began to catch him again. Webber launched another attack on lap 15, this time in the second DRS zone, and got through – but again Button was ready to re-pass and took him at turn 14.

Button spent much of the rest of the race grappling with his KERS. Button said the team were eventually able to get it working again: “My engineer came over the radio and told me they?d found a way to make it work again ?ǣ but it meant pushing lots of buttons on the steering wheel every couple of laps because it only returned intermittently.

“So I’d arrive at a corner and not know whether I had any engine braking because I had no warning. So selecting the right spot at which to brake was tough.”

Despite that he pressed on, pulled away from Massa and was not troubled by Webber’s attempt to jump ahead of the McLaren by running a three-stop strategy.

He finished third and in doing so guaranteed he will finish ahead of Hamilton in the world championship.

Afterwards Martin Whitmarsh heaped praise on both drivers, calling Hamilton’s efforts “utterly faultless” and hailing Button’s “absolutely storming” drive in challenging circumstances.

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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33 comments on McLaren: Relief for Hamilton after return to winning ways

  1. JCost (@jcost) said on 14th November 2011, 15:53

    Hamilton needs a run of good results. A podium in Brazil would be good to finish the season.

    Looking back at what this season has been, I’m afraid he fails to keep himself on the high. I wish him the best, because F1 needs him strong.

  2. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 14th November 2011, 16:10

    yah of course winning days… puncture day for the best driver only… that’s the only reason why he could win

    • Andy G (@toothpickbandit) said on 14th November 2011, 16:18

      It appears you have some sort of device to look into alternate realities and tell us that without the puncture Vettel would have definitely won.

      Even so, a puncture is part of racing and a win is a win. Hamilton was in the best position to take advantage and boy did he. A mechanical failure on another’s part shouldn’t take away from a flawless drive. Vettel-esque if you will.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 14th November 2011, 16:34

      I’m not so sure Vettel had the best race car.

      Like Andy G says, if you have developed a ‘many worlds’ portal please let the world know – would certainly be worth something.

  3. Whitmarsh is more upbeat than a preschool teacher. It’s almost over the top.

    It’s good to get the third win. Looking back on the season—I’m jumping the gun OK—it is curious how much drama and handwringing Hamilton has generated for himself. Even now after winning, it is like, more violins.

    The facts are, due to a lot of unforced error, he is behind his teammate in points. But he has won 3 races, just as many, and has totally dominated Button in qualifying. He has even been 8 times on the front row, a shocking stat when you consider that a different team broke the poles record this year.

    By comparison, look at the second driver in the WCC cars: Webber once again slow on Saturday and not good enough on Sunday. He hasn’t won a single race. And as for Massa driving a car that has been 10 times on the podium, total disaster. So what’s eating those guys? What terrible dramas or driving issues have ruined their seasons? Whatever it is, they are not dwelling on it. And whatever it is, they are demonstrably not as capable as Hamilton in overcoming them. See Abu Dhabi results.

    If you look at the record, it may be the case that Hamilton caused much of his own distraction by focusing so intently on his own mistakes and moping about it, aided obviously by a a press shining a spotlight in his face at all times.

    Part of being on the pedestal is just ignoring the racket and getting on with it; just shucking the past and going forward. That is the real lesson to learn. Grit and resilience; and how to become stone-deaf to praise and criticism when necessary.

    As for Button, typical drive to land on the podium after qualifying behind Hamilton, being a touch too slow in the early phases, and managing a car problem.

  4. The yes,yes,yes yes thing and that finger was getting on my naves so its better for a change, that was a typical cool drive from Hamilton .;;;;;;

  5. Despite the bad results Hamilton has had, he has the same number of wins as Button who’s had a perfect season, and one second place less than him. This also thanks to Vettel who’s dominated the season.

    • vho (@) said on 14th November 2011, 23:11

      Can’t agree that Jenson’s had the perfect season – more like a better 2nd half of the season than Lewis. Remember they were on equal points – 109 – after the British GP. Lewis then went on to win in Germany – which is roughly the half-way mark – and by the end of Hungary Lewis was still leading 146 to 134. The problem is that Lewis has gotten caught up in several incidents with “Mobile Chicane Massa” and has paid dearly for it. Interestingly, Lewis’ DNFs didn’t come from Massa though.

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 15th November 2011, 6:33

        “Mobile Chicane Massa”

        LMAO.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th November 2011, 7:01

        To me it always felt like Button had a bit of a slump after losing the lead through his pitstop blunder in China. In Monaco he was good, but that was mainly because Hamilton botched that weekend.
        Then Button started to get the upper hand only in Canada and in the races after that.

        Not a perfect season for either of them, although McLaren certainly has the best pair of drivers.

        • vho (@) said on 15th November 2011, 15:13

          Lewis out scored Jenson 49 to 8 points in the 3 races after Canada. It was only at Hungary that Jenson started taking points back from Lewis.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th November 2011, 15:37

            Yeah, true @vho! See how memory plays tricks with us.

            But the Idea of what I felt – Button having been a bit off since china and getting back on it later – still fits, just his recovery (or car pace?) is far more recent.

          • vho (@) said on 15th November 2011, 15:55

            After Hungary Lewis DNFed Spa, got stuck behind Schumi at Monza, collided with Mobile Chicane in Singapore and Suzuka (and poor tyre management). He did better in Korea but then tangled with Mobile again in India.

            BTW, I can’t rely on memory or doing sums in my head either – that’s why I’ve pumped the results into a spreadsheet that calculates the differences

  6. Jake (@jleigh) said on 14th November 2011, 22:37

    Keith, was just wondering if you still don’t see any favour from Martin Whitmarsh to JB? He always seems to turn any question about Lewis into a compliment for Jenson. I could understand it, being his “project”, but it’s not particularly professional.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th November 2011, 7:03

      @jleigh, I do not see much to go for “favourism” towards Button. Withmarsh always seems to want to say something positive about the second driver after the praising the first.

    • tharris19 (@tharris19) said on 15th November 2011, 14:22

      While I think your point is valid, I don’t think it is a distraction on the team. We can see it in the reporting and listening to Whitmarsh but you don’t here any grumbling from the drivers or the team about it.
      Lewis take on some of the thing he ( Whitmarsh ) has been saying lately is he perplexed; take for instance Whitmarsh’s quote about the competition between Lewis and Jenson in the upcoming Brazil race,

      I can’t for the life of see why he would say that

      . He also called a quote from Whitmarsh that he was being pressured by Jenson’s success as rubbish.
      He has successfully neutralize any psychological move by Whitmarsh by challenging his words without challenging the man. Whether intentional or not, the responses have excellent .

  7. Oliver said on 15th November 2011, 14:57

    He is more relieved Mclaren didn’t find a way to throw his race away. I suspect they would have attempted it if Button had more pace.

    Even if Button had finished in last position, Withmarsh would have found a way to praise his effort at doing differential calculus just to keep his car on track. The nature of the circuit meant there were only few areas KERS could be deployed. In my opinion he didn’t suffer much from the loss of it.

    Brundle went on about carrying the extra dead weight of KERS. Forgetting that not using it would have meant carrying a spare wheel and tyre and probably also a tool box as ballast to meet the minimum weight.

    • vho (@) said on 15th November 2011, 15:23

      Yes I agree that having or not having KERS wouldn’t mean much to the weight, but I would also argue that by having KERS it is dead weight that can’t be placed specifically to favor the balance of the car unlike ballast. But I think what is key is that without KERS there is lost engine braking that can assist with braking performance. Where you have the situation of inconsistent KERS it leaves doubt in a driver’s mind whether they have the full braking capability all the time. Let’s not forget why F1 out performs other racing categories on road tracks – superior braking performance. It’s one of the major reasons why Indy cars can’t get close to F1 on a road track – as Indy cars still use steel discs.

      • Erm, what about aerodynamics?

        • vho (@) said on 17th November 2011, 2:00

          @Sri Aero compared to Indy cars? I wouldn’t say there would be a great deal of difference, but in saying that, Indy cars easily hit higher top speeds than F1 – and on that note I would probably favour Indy car’s aero package. I read somewhere a while ago that F1 regulates in having a flat undertray, but Indy cars can use tunnels – whereby the effect it creates sucks the cars to the road – hence Indy cars having a greater “aero” package.
          We might see all the fancy wings in F1 and the plain ones in Indy, but it’s under the car that’s generating all the downforce – just look at Red Bull when they first came out with the blown diffuser, and no one could spot it for several races. Now this article I read, was back a while ago when F1 was still using V10s – so things have likely to change.

    • I think the only time the team/ car let down the driver this year, was in the case of Button and is two DNF’s. Well, as long as we’re speaking about Macca that is. Hamilton on the other hand, had made mistakes of his own, some of which ended as poor results or even DNF’s.

      For a long time, F1 hasn’t had this many competitive drivers. There are usually 3-4 drivers who are able to keep the pace up. If you look back. Schumacher and Hakkinen were in their own class. Then Schumacher and Raikkonen. Then there was a time you had Schumacher, Raikkonen and Alonso. Then simply Raikkonen and Alonso. Then Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Button. Now Vettel and Rosberg have also established themselves as top drivers. Today on the grid you have about 7-8 top of the line drivers. Honestly, Hamilton needs results, or else his much vaunted seat at Macca might soon be up for grabs. A season or two may be Macca would tolerate, but then they might ponder a change in drivers. Honestly, if anything team Macca had been by and large team Lewis since ’07 to end of ’10. Only this year, Button has been delivering more results, more consistently, and perhaps things are more even back in the garage, about which i still have my doubts. However, till the beginning of the year, a lot of people around the world (excluding Britishers) would have opined that Macca was indeed backing Lewis. Before someone starts about driver equality, well you only have to look back at days of Hakkinen and DC.

      • Jake (@jleigh) said on 15th November 2011, 23:05

        a bit early to say his seats gonna be up for grabs isn’t it. Lets not forget he has been arguably the best driver in every year since he’s been in F1 up until this year. And in the worst year of his career, he has 3 brilliant wins (don’t bet against him making it 4) and has been comprehensively quicker than his team mate who has driven brilliantly; better than in his championship year!

        • Erm, i’d still say Raikkonen was better than Hamilton in ’07. Alonso was probably better than both of them, but he had other issues to deal with. Honestly in ’08 you could hardly call Lewis the best, given that he did have a faster car (and a clear number 2 driver), but still couldn’t wrap the title till the last corner. In ’09 i would like to point to Button as being on top of his game. Button did have a great car, but still had to do the job and did it well in time, and not on the last corner of the last race of the year. In 2010 and this year, Seb has been on song. Then again, Lewis is indeed one of the top drivers on the grid, but as i pointed out, the number of really good drivers on the grid is unusally high this year. I didn’t say McLaren would be itching to get rid of Lewis. However, for any team it would only make sense to consider options if there are any. Then again, that option has to make sense in every way, be it racing (the weekend job), technical aptitude, or fit for sponsors and other such.

          Lewis has always had a reasonably competitive car, if not the fastest, but i wonder how good he really is. Afterall, he never has had to struggle with a car much. Alonso, Button, Vettel, all have come into F1 through lower rung teams, and established themselves. Lewis, with the sort of equipment he has had, hasn’t been the most consistent over 5 years. His tendency to make silly mistakes hasn’t gone anywhere. Plus, Lewis also comes up with gems like the quote on the eve of the Abu Dhabi GP: “I’m going to go in hard and it is upto Vettel to decide…” There are a lot of considerations for hiring a driver. I can’t say that i know what a team principal goes through.

          What a lot of people don’t know about me is that i cheered Lewis’s early wins in ’07. I also cheered when Alonso was having difficulties. I know, not very sporting of me, but hell. Then i learned about how team Macca is team Lewis, and i was rooting for Alonso. Then i learned about stolen Ferrari documents and i was rooting for Kimi to be honest. Anyways, i’m anything but biased against Lewis. I merely relish the fact that F1 after a long time, has a lot of top level drivers. I’ve never thought of Lewis as top 3 to be honest, but now i’m more cetain than ever. My top 3 today are Alonso, Button, Vettel (not necessaily in that order).

          p.s: it is 3am… please pardon any spelling/ grammatical errors.

          • It is funny how Vettel is the same guy who won at Monza in a STR and we all hailed him for that. Now, he is doing what he is, and we are calling the phenomenon a lot of things, and most of them not good. It is a real shame that we do not appreciate what we have.

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 16th November 2011, 7:59

    A Vettel-esque win from Hamilton. He was on it all weekend so congratulations to him. I was hoping he might battle with Alonso on the last stint but the F150 just couldn’t get the tyres going.

    Well done to Button for managing a less than desirable KERS.

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