Whitmarsh: Hamilton ‘underestimated Button’

2011 F1 season

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2011

Hamilton and Button battle for position in Hungary

Martin Whitmarsh says Lewis Hamilton underestimated the threat posed by Jenson Button.

Button joined the team last year and this season became the first of Hamilton’s team mates to beat him in the championship standings in F1.

Asked by the official F1 website if Hamilton underestimated Button, the McLaren team principal said: “Possibly. He probably did, yes.

“Let?óÔé¼Ôäós be open about it. Lewis, throughout his career, has destroyed every team mate that?óÔé¼Ôäós come his way.

“Bear in mind that in many ways he virtually destroyed Fernando Alonso when Fernando was a two-time world champion and Lewis was a rookie. He did the same with Nico Rosberg in karting frankly – and every other team mate on his way into Formula 1.

“He was disarmed by Jenson at the beginning and he probably thought that he was a nice guy, but he?óÔé¼Ôäód beat him. And he was probably surprised. Jenson on the other hand is of course also keen to beat his team mate but he would never do it in an underhand manner.

“For both drivers it?óÔé¼Ôäós true that there are no politics involved and both want to contribute equally to the team. Of course when you join a team as a driver and know that I have known Lewis since he was 11 you might question whether you would be treated equally.

“But all the talk about who is the number one driver in the team is media-made, as McLaren have always been a team that let their drivers race. That is our spirit and we remain true to it.”

Whitmarsh added: “for Lewis, by his own extraordinary standards, it?óÔé¼Ôäós been a disappointing year. Lewis expects more from himself and the world expects more from Lewis, so this season has been very challenging for him. There?óÔé¼Ôäós been a lot going on in his life.”

He said Button’s style leads people to underestimate him: “Jenson on the other hand is a person that is easily underestimated.

“You could ask whether he really is a fighter and whether he has the hunger, because he has such superb manner. Sometimes that might be a worry before you know him better, but I have to say that I know him a lot better now.

“You only have to stand back to see how hard he?óÔé¼Ôäós raced and how hard he pushed in Canada for his incredible win. It was raw determination.

“He has his battles with Lewis and wants to beat Lewis and that?óÔé¼Ôäós as we want it to be. I think we have a very good dynamic in the team because I know that teams can often talk about tranquillity and relationships in a team and put some spin on it, but I think that anyone who witnesses our drivers sees that there is genuine respect there.

“Even in the heat of the moment like in Canada where Lewis could have been easy meat for the media he showed extraordinary maturity and the way it was handled spoke volumes about the relationship in the team and especially between the two guys.”

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188 comments on Whitmarsh: Hamilton ‘underestimated Button’

  1. That was some crazy-talk. Hamilton “destroyed” Alonso? I don’t have an Alonso poster in my locker but that is an absurd statement. “Won on count-back” does not equal “destroyed.” I’m sure Rosberg appreciated the gratuitous slam too, espeically as it is based on their karting history from the 90s.

    Of course, the main aim of this crazy jag, by first stating that Hamilton was invincible before Button came along, and that Hamilton underestimated him, is to suggest that Jenson Button is the greatest of all time. That’s not the case.

    And to paraphrase an insightful though unfortunately type-faced comment above, now that the season is over, Whitmarsh needs to direct his pep-talks to Paddy Lowe. Because the drivers took six wins from RBR mainly by grit, not by a stellar car. Enough is enough from the fizzy drinks lot. RBR will continue to mow down McLaren’s records and stature in the sport unless they put a good car on the track, at the beginning of the season.

    • That was some crazy-talk. Hamilton “destroyed” Alonso? I don’t have an Alonso poster in my locker but that is an absurd statement. “Won on count-back” does not equal “destroyed.” I’m sure Rosberg appreciated the gratuitous slam too, espeically as it is based on their karting history from the 90s.

      Well you’re right about Alonso. He did actually have to fight his own team to accomplish what he did that year.

      Also, i think when it comes to observation on Rosberg, it may just be a hint about negotiations. May be Rosberg’s representatives contacted McLaren and Whitmarsh is potentially negotiating, who knows? What we do know is Rosberg must be itching to get his hands on a winning car to prove his salt’s worth.

      I wouldn’t read too much between the lines. Button is indeed doing an exceptional job and any manager would be foolish to not acknowledge the same. I think Whitmarsh is merely stating the obvious and nothing more when it comes to Button. Yes, i know Whitmarsh is also involved in Liegate, and Spygate, but come on, every manager does such stuff when negotiating contracts. Lewis’s contract may have been discussed and Whitmarsh is maybe just negotiating hard.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 16th November 2011, 22:23

      I think the MP4-26 is an underrated car. One win (i.e. Alonso’s in the Ferrari) may be by “grit”, but 3 for each driver? They’ve got a damn good car, that has been the fastest on some weekends.

      • celeste (@celeste) said on 16th November 2011, 23:41

        More than Mclaren not having a competitive car I think some of the times the fight wasnt stronger for Vettel came from the fact that Mclaren have made errors. i.e. Silverstone, Monza…

  2. sid_prasher (@) said on 16th November 2011, 19:36

    I don’t understand what he is trying to prove/explain with these comments – maybe it is just to divert attention from himself over the failure to win a championship since he took over…

  3. I dont know if he underestimated Button, but the points show they are evenly matched.

    In 2010
    Hamilton: 240 – Button: 214
    Hamilton: 3 DNF (2 crash 1 mechanical) – Button: 2 DNF (1 crash 1 mechanical)

    Now before anyone starts hailing or bashing any driver, we should try to remember those DNFs.

    Hamilton:
    Hungary – Gearbox,
    Italy – Broken front-rignt suspension after a very optimistic attack on Massa (Lap 1)
    Singapore – Broken left-rear suspension after a collision with Webber (after an overtake)

    Button:
    Monaco – Cooling cover left on sidepot, caused overheating (not sure abaut it)
    Belgium – Collision with Vettel

    The gap was only 26, and of course anyone could say that Hamilton had one more DNF, but had one more by his own mistake. (Monza was his fault, he coud have waited one or two corner, in Singapore it was Webber who put him out of the race)
    While Button has not been out of the race by his own mistake for more than 3 years. (Belgium was the name giving event to Vettel aka Crash Kid. where he put Button out of the race)

    This year is not so different, so in my opinion they are evenly matched.

    • You left out Suzuka 2010. Hamilton lost 3rd gear and a position to Button as a result.

      Agree with conclusion.

    • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 17th November 2011, 14:04

      You also left out Spain: Hamilton’s wheel breaks down 2 laps from the end, lying second. Finally, Button’s mechanical DNF came while lying around 10th in Monaco; he was hardly going to score many points there. I think in 2010, Button had a couple of good races, but generally Hamilton had him covered.

      • Sorry, you are right, but the point is, Boutton was not eaten alive last year, as Hamilton neither this year. So they are evenly matched. You cant say that either of them is constantly better than the other.

        The biggest difference between them, is Jenson is constant, he does not have extraordinary races, while Lewis has, but also he can screw his races big time.

  4. Aced (@) said on 16th November 2011, 20:48

    Oh, come on! Hamilton underestimated Button? EVERYONE underestimated Button. They still do.

    It took one of JBs best years to beat Lewis’ worst year. Yep, that argument is so awesome I don’t think I could stand that awesomeness anymore. And here’s why.

    Let’s see.

    JBs KERS let him down in 2 races, that’s Valencia and Abu Dhabi.

    He had 2 mechanical DNFs, that’s Silverstone and Nurburgring.

    He was put on bad strategies in 3 of the first 4 races. That’s Malaysia, where he only inherited 2nd place down to luck due to other drivers mistakes. China, his teammate won the race while he was on a different strategy. Turkey, one stop less which obviously didn’t work for him like the other strategy did for his teammate.

    He was put on a bad strategy in Monaco.

    He qualified 13th in Spa due to a “misunderstanding”.

    And that’s just some “stuff” that wasn’t his fault. JB might’ve had an “almost perfect” second part of the season, but obviously he didn’t have the perfect season even though he didn’t put a foot wrong himself(maybe except Australia). Hamilton’s failure are his own mistakes which obviously are part of the driver.

    They said he can’t overtake. He pulled some of the bravest/best moves of the year, without DRS. That’s Spa and Massa in Silverstone.

    They said he can’t win in the dry. He won one of the hardest races in the calendar. If there’s a few races that actually require real driving skill, one of them is Suzuka. And what are they left with? Oh, but he’s not as good as Lewis!

    I’m not criticizing Lewis, he’s a worthy world champ and one of the best drivers in F1, if not the best. But Jenson Button is no worse. He’s had a hell of a tough career, 11 years in F1 and he still has what it takes. Hell of a racer in my opinion.

    • Aced (@) said on 16th November 2011, 21:06

      Oh and despite everyone’s advice not to, he went and joined McLaren and became Lewis Hamiltons teammate.

      Everyone thought he would get destroyed. Everyone wondered. So, yeah, I bet Hamilton underestimated him just as everyone else did. But he proved the world wrong. I’m sorry but the man’s got balls!

    • Nigelb said on 16th November 2011, 23:23

      “what are they left with?”
      That Jenson can rarely match Lewis on qualifying pace.

      Having said that, I greatly admire both drivers – they just have different strengths. Can’t wait to see them racing each other in a championship worthy car.

  5. I think button is the best thing that could have happened to hamilton

    I also think hamilton is the best thing that has happened to button

    each has something to show the other ; what button learned last year has shown up this year , if it wasn’t for 2 failures he would be even further ahead of hamilton

    hopefully what hamilton has learned from button this year will show in his performances next year

    button is a grade A driver , but hamilton has the potential to be A+ , comes along only once in a generation ; doesn’t matter if whitmarsh hates him …..hamilton’s is McLaren’s future and they will hang on to him as long as they can ,I suspect his entire career

  6. gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 16th November 2011, 22:19

    In the meantime, while our beloved British neighbours passionately argue to know which one of their world champions in best, we French people are so happy : there will be a frenchman in F1 next year. The team ? Virgin/Marussia.

    Hooray…

  7. judo chop (@judo-chop) said on 16th November 2011, 22:20

    “Asked if Hamilton underestimated Button, the McLaren team principal said: “Possibly. He probably did, yes””

    Why speculate in such a way, considering Hamilton’s never said anything of the sort and is not hard to find if his team boss wants to know the truth of the matter? How does McLaren or either of their drivers benefit from Whitmarsh’s pointless attempt at mind-reading?

    “he virtually destroyed Fernando Alonso”

    If Hamilton “destroyed” Alonso – on count back – in 07 then how would Whitmarsh describe the difference between Button and Hamilton last year?

    Hamilton’s never, even when trouncing him previously, said a bad word about Button or played up the difference in performance but now Button’s out performed him his own team boss jumps on the anti-Hamilton bandwagon. Whitmarsh is well out of order and needs a good slap from Ron.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 16th November 2011, 22:34

      He jumps on the anti-Hamilton bandwagon by pointing out his good past performance against Alonso and Rosberg?

    • gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 16th November 2011, 22:45

      Point 1: he answered a question.
      Point 2: “destroyed” is not only a points tally problem. It is also in the mind. FA was a 2-times World Champion, and a rookie scored as heavily as he did. That must be disturbing. What MW means with “in some ways” is morale destruction i think.

      Now when has LH tounced JB ? Not last year anyway.

      I don’t think MW jumped on the anti LH bandwagon neither. How is saying he probably underestimated JB being anti LH ? Everyone has the right to underestimate JB and every one did !

      Furthermore, why always saying “LH has his worst season” ???
      Assuming a 4th place in Sao Paolo he’ll finish with 1 pt less than last year. A podium and he did better, with at least one more win. So please people, stop with that childish “JB has had his best season while LH has had his worst” !

      • Worst in terms of performance, mistakes… Jenson had his best season and Lewis it’s worst. That’s a fact. If that will influence how you grade a driver, it’s up to you, but you can’t fight with facts.

  8. Whitmarsh’s comments are uncalled for and very unprofessional of him. Even if Hamilton underestimated Button (he hasn’t said that in public), there is no need to say that. This is the second negative comment about Hamilton in the last couple of weeks and that just gives the impression of an attempt to big up Button. He could have answered the question in a more professional way.

    He needs to focus on his own ability of leading the team to produce a car worthy of winning championships and stop the little digs at Hamilton.

    Maybe Hamilton is frustrated by the team’s inability to deliver championship winning cars and not Buttons points. Afterall if you compare the two drivers, of the 18 races so far, Hamilton has scored points head of Button 9 times and vice versa. On qualifying, Hamilton has qualified ahead of Button 12 times and Button qualified ahead of Hamilton 6 times. Hamilton beat Button last year and Button is set to beat Hamilton this year. It’s not the end of the world. The team should focus on delivering a good car and leave the driving to the drivers!

  9. vishy (@vishy) said on 17th November 2011, 0:31

    MW has said the same thing twice in the past few months and both times Lewis has denied it and very forcefully too. Shouldn’t he refrain from any more comments on this or tone it down a little, knowing it will only annoy Lewis more? Or is that what his intention is?

  10. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 17th November 2011, 1:38

    I don’t know about Martin but I agree that Button even many here,many thought & still think that his 09 WC isn’t a deserving one,but I think he proved this season what he is really capable of, some of his drive (Canada,Spa,Monza,Monaco) were surely amazing,something which I thought I will not see from him.One of the biggest difference has been stability within the team, performance & personal life,everywhere Button has been ahead of Hamilton,I hope HAM finds his momentum soon.

  11. bearforce1 (@bearforce1) said on 17th November 2011, 1:48

    I know it’s not bang on topic. Lewis pre-race interview with Jake and his comments about Jensen having it together and his comment critical of his father.

    These comments really made me uncomfortable. I found the comments disturbing and I felt not a little embarrassed for Lewis. He just sounded weak and had a poor me attitude. It also highlighted for me the fact that Lewis isn’t back in the groove and doesn’t seem have worked out what has gone wrong this year. He is still pointing fingers at everything and everyone else. Also whining about not having things like Jensen, a girlfriend, supportive father.

    If this is his state of mind and all that he has learned for this years problems, then he is just the same if not worse than the beginning of the year.

    A lot of comments on this thread state Lewis is back after his race win both driving and mentally. I found it to be the exact opposite. I am not a fan of Lewis but listening to him in that interview I felt sorry for him and thought this poor young man is messed up.

  12. JackBrabhamfan said on 17th November 2011, 3:57

    Two words! Sam Michael! Ron Dennis made has made Sam director of racing and he is going to be in charge of race operations. In his first race in an unofficial capacity, Mclarens pit stops were the fastest, only the second time this year. Lewis was smiling and won the race.

    MW can feel his power slipping away. I will not be too surprised if he is kicked upstairs and Sam is made Team principal.

  13. Bruce McLaren (@bruce-mclaren) said on 17th November 2011, 8:21

    The only reason Button beats Hamilton this season is not because Button is a brilliant driver, but because Hamilton have made a lot of mess for himself.

    There is no doubt who of those two drivers who’s the faster one.

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2011, 8:40

    Having read all the comments so far it seems a lot of people are looking at Whitmarsh’s remark about Hamilton “virtually destroying” Alonso, pointing at the 2007 points tally and questioning his judgement.

    I think that’s because Whitmarsh isn’t referring to the points that year. Remember he’s been at McLaren so long he’s part of the furniture. He saw the Alonso chapter from day one.

    McLaren spent more time anticipating Alonso’s arrival than he actually spent driving for them. And we know that as early as March 2007 Alonso was talking to Flavio Briatore about going back to Renault. Whatever Alonso didn’t like about sharing a team with Hamilton, he felt it from day one.

    Alonso was supposed to be a major, long-term signing for the team – instead he was out in less than 12 months. When Whitmarsh says Hamilton “virtually destroyed” Alonso, I’m sure it’s this he’s talking about.

    • Erm, Alonso did win 2 WDC’s with Renault. At the time, that is ’07, Ron was prepping team for arrival of Lewis, news of which was in media since ’05. Infact they brought forward the arrival of Lewis into F1 by a year. Who knows what was in the contract of Alonso. May be he indeed was to be number 1 at Macca and he didn’t like the situation he found instead, which was the team solidly behind Lewis. Another reason could have been spygate, where he may have feared a ban for McLaren and was just having a backup ready, just in case… The thing is, no one knows what Alonso came up against, but Alonso. Alonso is the same guy who went at Schumacher at 130R and i’m certain that every man can break given the push, but Alonso would have seen/ experienced something to result in what you quoted.

    • Architrion (@architrion) said on 17th November 2011, 10:34

      Maybe McLaren had something to do on the subjetc. Hamilton virtually destroyed Alonso, and as Dennis said, McLaren raced him.

    • vishy (@vishy) said on 17th November 2011, 15:48

      Don’t agree with you on that one Keith.

      MW said
      “Bear in mind that in many ways he virtually destroyed Fernando Alonso when Fernando was a two-time world champion and Lewis was a rookie. He did the same with Nico Rosberg in karting frankly – and every other team mate on his way into Formula 1.”

      He clearly means that Hamilton dominated Alonso and drove much better than him.

      It might appear that Hamilton dominated Alonso and that is mainly because of the reputation they came into that year, Alonso a 2 time champion and Hamilton a rookie. If Alonso was given a year to get used to the car then we would have seen the true difference between them. Unfortunately we did not.

      I think MW is trying to highlight the above to state how strong Button is. For whatever reason, i am not saying it is because he favours Button but Martin seems to feel the need to impress upon people how good Button’s year has been. Maybe because most people still don’t give credit to Button for this year.

      Personally i feel Button and Hamilton have been evenly matched because they have different strengths. Hamilton is struggling with tyres this year, he still has not got it right. Maybe because he likes a loose rear end and that destroys the Pirelli’s much faster. In the end they have been evenly matched. I expected more from Hamilton and still do, only time will tell us if he will wake up.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2011, 16:30

        If Alonso was given a year to get used to the car then we would have seen the true difference between them.

        I don’t buy that. It’s not as if Hamilton had much of a head start on him. And Alonso had five years of F1 experience to draw on.

  15. Why does Whitmarsh feel he needs to say these things ?
    You don’t hear Horner talking down Webber during interviews and you don’t hear Domenicali talking down Massa but both have been very much destroyed by their respective team mates.
    It’s obvious to anyone on the outside that Button is he’s golden boy.
    The only thing Hamilton underestimates on a regular bases is at what point Massa will turn in on him !!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2011, 9:43

      Why does Whitmarsh feel he needs to say these things ?

      He’s a significant figure in F1, which means journalists ask him questions, which he then answers.

      I’d rather he did that than duck every question, which a lot of people in his situation tend to do.

      Does it really make a difference to Hamilton or Button? I seriously doubt it.

      • vishy (@vishy) said on 17th November 2011, 15:50

        But it does matter, he is the team principle and everything he says matters.

        He has to say what he feels and which he is. Good for us.

      • Keith,
        There are many important people in this world who have questions fired at them on a daily bases, most of them are able to answer those questions without bringing their own personal feelings into the equation and in a way that doesn’t offend anyone.
        Simply saying ‘he’s important and was asked the question’ is not an excuse.
        Of course it makes a difference to a driver if he’s team principle is saying he cracked under pressure from his team mate and he underestimated him.

      • @Keith Collantine i have to disagree with you on this one. Yes, its good for Whitmarsh not to duck questions but there is a difference between answering questions based on facts and answers based on assumption without consideration to the issues it creates.
        “Does it really make a difference to Hamilton or Button? I seriously doubt it.”

        Ofcourse it does! Did Hamilton tell Whitmarsh he underestimated Button? This stamement about understimation is a tad childish and puts Hamilton in a bad light considering the fact that Hamilton has said that he respects Button and welcome the challenge he brings.

        I’m sure another team boss would have said a simple know or doesn’t think so and that would have been the end of it.

        I see no benefit in the given by Whitmarsh and i suggest he focus on his role as the team boss and deliver a championship winning car, which is his primary role!

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