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

McLaren: Relief for Hamilton after return to winning ways

2011 Abu Dhabi GP team reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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):

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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