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?s be open about it. Lewis, throughout his career, has destroyed every team mate that?s 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?d 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?s 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?s 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?s 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?s 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?s 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. Chalky (@chalky) said on 17th November 2011, 9:36

    Well I guess Jenson can dig up this old news article and smile now.

  2. I’m not sure why we’re paying that much attention to the usual “boost-like” comments that every manager is supposed to say.
    “Lewis is great, he will beat anyone, etc, etc.” OK, we got, we know, let’s see.

    But, so far that hasn’t been the case with Button?

  3. Oliver said on 17th November 2011, 11:23

    No Mr. withmarsh, Hamilton underestimated you.

    Since Button joined Mclaren, Hamilton has got on very well with Button and doesn’t mind being beaten by him.
    What you, Mr. withmarsh has done, is focused on getting Button to finish ahead of Hamilton rather than focus on getting your drivers to finish ahead of Redbull.
    You have diluted every effort Hamilton has made by changing his race strategy to a ridiculous one mid race. You have giving Button the favourable pit stops even when he is not in contention for a podium position, and then used strategy to try get him ahead of Hamilton, whenever they were running close to each other.

    Your endless fascination with Button finishing ahead of Hamilton, instead of Button finishing ahead of Vettel, has cost you a driver’s title and a constructors title.
    You were lucky Ferrari had trouble getting heat into their tyres, and Mercedes, not being able to preserve theirs.

    First take a look at the numerous instances where your strategy has messed up Hamilton’s race or qualifying, then focus on what your team’s objective is. Because right now, your corporate objective is getting Button ahead of Hamilton rather than winning championships.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2011, 11:30

      Care to offer any proof for any of this?

      • jackbrabhamfan said on 17th November 2011, 12:23

        I will try to provide you with some proof……

        Lewis’s screwup (and I will grant you even the questionable ones, except when the stewards found the other party at fault)….
        Malaysia -Alonso incident and drive through
        Monaco- Massa and Maldonaldo
        Canada- Button Crash
        Hungary- Spin, deResta drive though
        Spa- Kobiyashi crash
        Singapore – Massa.
        India P1 yellow flag

        Now lets look at the team screw ups…..
        Malaysia, early tire first pitstop and change, very slow second pit stop which gave the 2nd place to Jenson and later the Alonso incident.
        Monaco….screwup in Q3 and Lewis’ final run spoilt by Perez crash
        Britain – screwup in Q3, and low fuel warning which cost a podium.
        Hungary- Wrong tire type of change while Jenson was put on the right tires within the next two laps.
        Singapore q3 fuelling issues.
        Japan- Q3 sending Lewis soon after Jenson with very little time to spare.
        In the race calling in Lewis on an erroneous slow tire puncture call.

        Jenson’s wins in Hungary and Japan came after Lewis was screwed with wrong tire calls.

        And qualified faster than Lewis when his final runs were aborted or disrupted in Monaco, Britain and Japan.

        This is not to say that Jenson is not a great driver. He is. And he was screwed by McLaren at least once in qualifying and twice during the race.

        So before MW starts reading Lewis’s thoughts, he should clean up his performance as he as the team leader has screwed Lewis more than Lewis has screwed him. Lewis has never said that he has underestimated Jenson and speaks always about him with affection and respect.

        And the dig about destroying Fernando seems like very cynical attempt to dig up old wounds just as Lewis and Fernando are becoming very complimentary of each other..

        And you ask proof of Oliver’s post supporting Lewis and critical of MW. To be fair, you then should ask proof from MW about Lewis’s underestimation of Jenson……

        • jackbrabhamfan said on 17th November 2011, 12:29

          And I emphasize the Q3 screwups…… because Horner gets Vettel to lap as the last driver on every Q3. And when Mclaren tries to do it, they screwup……..

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2011, 12:43

          And where exactly is your proof in that litany of circumstance?

          The lengths you’ve gone to try to pin blame on McLaren for the most innocent of mistakes is almost comical. Take Hungary for example – Button made his own decision not to come in for tyres, there was nothing stopping Hamilton from doing the same.

          Not only is there no evidence here that Whitmarsh has done anything wrong, there is nothing that proves anyone has done anything even slightly dodgy. You’re letting your imagination run away with you and turn the odd blunder here and there into some heinous conspiracy.

          A few pit wall gaffes proves nothing more than that mistakes happen. Red Bull and Ferrari dropped the ball last weekend, it’ll be someone else next weekend.

          • I agree with you on this particular point, but i have to say that your will to defend Withmarsh and Button is something amazing.

          • *Whitmarsh

          • jackbrabhamfan said on 17th November 2011, 13:49

            Oliver said…”First take a look at the numerous instances where your strategy has messed up Hamilton’s race or qualifying, then focus on what your team’s objective is…”

            And you ask for proof of the messed up strategy….

            I give you examples…..

            …. and you claim that I am accusing MW of some heinous conspiracy….

            No Keith, I am not. I am accusing him of something worse….. Incompetence! Did you read the part when I said Jenson was affected too?

            You say…”Take Hungary for example – Button made his own decision not to come in for tyres, there was nothing stopping Hamilton from doing the same”. Now you blame Lewis for following pit instructions?

            “A few pit wall gaffes proves nothing more than that mistakes happen”. Of course they do…… But this is more than a few…. Which directly or indirectly led to a lot of Lewis’s incidents…(Malaysia, Monaco, Spa, Hungary, Singapore and Japan)

            You are extraordinarily supporting and forgiving of MW. Admirable trait indeed. I only wish you were as consistent across the board!

            An article on Lewis highlighting all his faults and psychological issues would seem more balanced if they include the team induced issues as well.

            And you haven’t responded comments about trying to bringing old and presumably forgotten issues between Alonso and Lewis, especially when they have been getting very complimentary to each other…..

            And what proof does MW have that Lewis underestimated Lewis? A little skepticism on that claim would be in order, don’t you think?

          • Oliver said on 17th November 2011, 13:59

            How many times has Hamilton’s race engineer not been on the same page with the team, leading Withmarsh to clarify that they were under the wrong impression.
            Pit stops are another area where the team can influence the finishing order or potential of their drivers. I have seen Mclaren use it to Button’s favour many times. Even in Japan Hamilton was kept on faded tyres for too long further pushing him back, just so Button’s pit window was kept open.
            And this constant asking for proof is just not the way because the proof is in Withmarsh’s head, we are left to interprete his actions and comments to deduce what we already know and some tacitly choose to ignore.
            Withmarsh saying “I’ve known Lewis for many years” is not the same as ” I’ve always wanted Lewis in this team” or “I’ve always liked Lewis”.
            Witmarsh has done more to destroy Hamiltons image with his stupid comments and false declaration of support.
            Instead of pointing out where Massa did wrong like in Monaco, he will say, ” we don’t want him to change his style”. What does that mean? Isn’t it admitting his driver is to blame?

            Since Withmarsh became boss, Hamilton’s performance has been on the decline, he has suffered more race strategy blunders, which is different from pit service blunders. More effort has been made getting Button from say 6th to 3rd, than getting Hamilton from 3rd to 2nd or even 2nd to 1st. The reverse more often is the case.
            And if there is that slight chance they can get Button ahead, he will make sure it happens.
            We saw that in Hungary, before the rains came. Hamilton was already doomed to 2nd position at best.

            Withmarsh doesn’t have to like Hamilton, he is under no obligation to. The comments he made post Turkish GP 2010 has come to pass.
            It is better he keeps quiet than pretend. He ends up not looking very smart.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2011, 14:15

            SimS – It’s not so much to ask that if people are going to make allegations like this they should be able to back them up, regardless who they’re aimed at.

            Oliver –

            this constant asking for proof is just not the way because the proof is in Withmarsh’s head

            No, the suspicion is in your head, and the proof is absent because there isn’t any.

          • Even in Japan Hamilton was kept on faded tyres for too long further pushing him back, just so Button’s pit window was kept open.

            Have you ever tought abuot that, if Hamilton made a pitstop, then his new tyres would have gone off before the end of the race, so they chose this option because he lost less time(2-3sec/lap), than he would have lost with another stop.(23-24sec).

          • Oliver said on 17th November 2011, 15:29

            Keith, you are not an authority on Martin Withmarsh. The fact there is no suspicion in your head does not make that a fact. It only means you do not see one or refuse to see on.

            I am happy to have you believe there isn’t. So don’t, with the wave of a hand, dismiss the suspicions of people who read more meaning into events, than what is obvious to the naked eye.

            The facts remain that Withmarsh was the one who wanted to end Mclaren’s sponsorship of Hamilton prior to his F1 debut.
            Withmarsh was also the one who said Mclaren let go of the wrong driver, after Alonso left.
            He is the first team principal that I know of, who came up witha tirade at the puzzlement of his driver about the pitwall miscommunication. Rather tan calmly reassuring the driver, he went on the offensive.
            He is the first to blame his driver for even team errors. Only to come out a few days later with PR hogwash.

            I don’t dislike Withmarsh, but he is not lending himself to credibility in my opinion. Your own opinion is yours, it is free.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th November 2011, 16:27

            So don’t, with the wave of a hand, dismiss the suspicions of people who read more meaning into events, than what is obvious to the naked eye.

            No, I’ll do the exact opposite and continue to point out that you are merely writing reams and reams of hysterical supposition and conjecture with no hard facts to back up your point of view.

            The amusing thing is you accuse others of spouting “PR hogwash”. Yet you are the one who has written a series of comments spinning, twisting and distorting every innocuous event to try to fit your view of the world.

            The facts speak for themselves. Or rather, in your case, the absence of them do.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th November 2011, 17:14

            Ehm, Oliver should we then understand that if you say this

            Keith, you are not an authority on Martin Withmarsh.

            to mean you are an expert on Withmarsh?

            When you say

            The fact there is no suspicion in your head does not make that a fact.

            , that is true.
            But it also does not mean that your suspicion is a fact either. If someone suspects something, he/she should be able to explain why. And from what you have written so far, yours is based on things that should rather be called a string of annoying incidents (which McLaren no doubt would like to avoid in the future – enter Sam Michael), and no prove at all of some sort of dislike from Withmarsh going so far as to hurt his own teams’ chances to win races, championships and get points.

            Instead of pointing out where Massa did wrong like in Monaco, he will say, ” we don’t want him to change his style”. What does that mean? Isn’t it admitting his driver is to blame?

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th November 2011, 17:17

            … sorry that last one fell out.
            Withmarsh was reacting to the BBC in their Forum and Massa but with others jumping on the bandwagon to say Hamilton should radically change his driving.
            Withmarsh therefore said, that he does not want Hamilton to do any such thing, just refocuss on driving at the front. I really cannot see anything wrong with that.

        • Malibu_GP said on 17th November 2011, 17:58


  4. maxthecat said on 17th November 2011, 12:13

    Nobody destroyed anyone, Alonso wanted all the support and No1 status and decided to use threats of revealing underhand tactics by McLaren to get it (allegedly). I actually applaud McLaren for not giving in to him and taking their punishment. We all remember the “i’ve brought 6 tenths to this team” comment” from Alonso, ever since then i’ve had zero respect for him.

  5. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 17th November 2011, 13:30

    Fair comment from Whitmarsh.

  6. celeste (@celeste) said on 17th November 2011, 16:58

    @oliver Withmarsh wanted to end Hamilton sponsorship? So did Helmut Marko with Vettel… and look where he is now…

  7. sid_prasher (@) said on 17th November 2011, 18:42

    I am not particularly a fan of Lewis – but he is ultra competitive and such people don’t have a habit of under-estimating others – not the least a reigning world champion. Comments like these are so subjective that they do nothing but cause irritation to all parties involved.

    • Well said sid_prasher,
      That’s exactly the point, Whitmarsh may think those things and he has every right not to like Hamilton but to air those thoughts to a hungry pack of journalists just because he’s asked to is not the normal behavior of a team principle.

      • dirgegirl (@dirgegirl) said on 17th November 2011, 21:19

        Au contraire. Team principals exhibit pretty varied behaviour; just like people, really.

        • jackbrabhamfan said on 17th November 2011, 21:29

          Not the great ones…… Ross Brawn, Ron Dennis, Christian Horner, Frank Williams, Flavio B or even Stefano D would never presume to psychoanalyze their drivers.

          Even a newbie like Malliya or or Tony F would talk about the most inexperienced driver, let alone a former world champion and 17 Grand Prix winner.

          As someone much smarter than me once said, ‘Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people”

          Which group do you think MW fits in?

          • dirgegirl (@dirgegirl) said on 17th November 2011, 23:27

            Well, since by commenting on this post I automatically fall into the “small mind” category, I’m not sure I’m qualified to pronounce. I don’t think I’d want to see Whitmarsh discuss ideas, though. Nor do I think he was psychoanalysing anyone.

  8. Do I understand that Keith is doubting whether Whitmarsh’s words matter to his drivers?

    I believe that these words do matter, and to Hamilton in particular.

    I imagine it’s pleasing to hear positivity from one’s team principal, but agree that Button is a mature, confident, settled adult who doesn’t need overly worry about other people’s talk, especially the media’s.

    Hamilton is different, though. And I would suggest that words matter very much to a less mature, less confident, altogether less emotionally stable driver when he’s going through a difficult time.

    Hamilton has been very open about his fragile emotional state and during a BBC1 interview this weekend tried explain how he believes his inability to cope with the negativity he feels from the media is one of the things that has adversely affected his driving.

    I would argue that these comments from Whitmarsh will undoubtly prompt journalists seeking reaction to the quote into exactly the kind of questionning Hamilton feels negative and must therefore conclude that Whitmarsh’s comments matter to Hamilton very much.

    Either way, I would like to say how sad I am to see anyone struggle with their well-being in this way and how I feel it’s also a shame for the sport that Hamilton’s talent is being impaired by his emotional coping ability.

    Let us all wish that this winter sees any driver who needs it receive as much support for their mental health as for their physical fitness.

    Ps. I love the site and would like to thank Keith for all his sterling work and all my fellow fanatics for making this what it is. :-)

    • Malibu_GP said on 18th November 2011, 1:27

      @Anon…, It is precisely this sort of compassionate view that is missing in most of todays journalism. Unfortunately, many here and elsewhere feel much better about themselves by tearing down others. I say this not as a blind worshiper of Hamilton, but an accomplished individual that attempts to stay fear removed from negativity… And I live in L.A. and work in the Biz in Hollywood. By comparison these vultures are tame. The Guy shows vulnerability and it still doesn’t soften the hearts of his detractors. Many so called news organizations have more in common with tabloids than they may care to believe… And that is not a dig @ F1F which I consider credible, so please don’t delete My comment

  9. Bingi said on 18th November 2011, 7:14

    Whitmarsh is supposed to be neutral, but this is not the first time this year that he has had a dig at Lewis. It appears to me to be a subtle hint to Lewis to accept no 2 status at McLaren next season. Perhaps that’s why Lewis – who definitely understands this – called earlier remarks by Whitmarsh ‘rubbish’, a rather unusually strong way to disagree.
    Two things stand out for me:
    1. There have been many mistakes in the pits at McLaren this season, usually affecting Lewis, including poor qualifying calls by the team, etc.
    2. Whenever Ron Dennis has been at the race, none of these has happened – and Lewis has beaten Jenson.
    I think there is a bit of a war going on at McLaren, and Whitmarsh is in Button’s corner.

  10. Oliver said on 18th November 2011, 10:47

    That is exactly the point.
    It becomes puzzling some individuals, instead of saying they don’t really beleive that is true, come out with so much confidence in dismissing these suggestions, as if to say they are privy to Withmarsh’s thought process.
    No one implies Withmarsh will sabotage Hamilton’s car, only that he does have a preference for Button coming out ahead.
    His way of always praising Button for the most basic of achievements speaks for itself.

    Some of us said last year that Withmarsh is out to create his own legacy. He needs his own signing to be the one to lead Mclaren’s challenge.
    If Hamilton keeps out pacing Button, then the hands of Ron Dennis are still steering the ship.

  11. SennaPart2 said on 18th November 2011, 12:11

    I think there has been things going on in the team between Whitmarsh and Lewis and I believe one day the true story will come out. Yes, Lewis says he has had relationship and family problems to deal but I think it has not been good inside the team

  12. tharris19 (@tharris19) said on 18th November 2011, 15:01

    For the life of me I don’t why he said that

    Lewis’s response to being told that he was feeling pressure from Button by Whitmarsh. This came after the “rubbish” statement earlier.

    What does it all mean, who knows? However, when it’s printed for all to see people will perceive it to mean something is not right between Whitmarsh and Hamilton.

  13. The Limit said on 18th November 2011, 18:47

    Reading between the lines, I think Whitmarsh likes Jenson Button more as a person than he does Hamilton. Its true that Whitmarsh has known Lewis for years, but Hamilton was Ron Dennis’ find. It was Ron Dennis who aided Hamilton’s career from 1995 onwards, and who paired him with Fernando Alonso.
    Hamilton and Button are two very different personalities. Hamilton likes the limelight and all the kudos, Button appears far more reserved and likes to play everything down. The reason Alonso and Hamilton clashed in 2007 is that they both wanted the same thing, team domination, but Dennis chose his ‘boy wonder’ over the Spaniard and all hell broke loose. They are two men who have ‘too’ much in common, and that often ends in disaster.
    Button has managed to gel with the team in a way that Alonso was unable to do, and everytime Hamilton has screwed up this year, it has made Button all the more stronger. He hasn’t thrown any tantrums in public, even after a bad result, and he hasn’t made the mistakes. Only Maldonado has more penalties than Hamilton this year, and that speaks for itself.
    Its not just the fact that Button has beaten him that must rankle Lewis, but the fact that he isn’t the star of the team anymore, its epicentre. He lost that when Ron Dennis stood down in 2009.

  14. kenneth Ntulume said on 19th November 2011, 8:27

    With all due honesty, its hard not to see that Whitmarsh, consistently and continuously makes comments that are not exactly favorable for Lewis, on the other-hand he consistently talks up Button, whatever the case its logical to conclude that he favors Button over Lewis, unfortunately though for Mclaren, and the chances of them winning a championship
    I hope they see that beating a team mate is not Lewis’s preoccupation, but to win the championship, thats the kind of car he could need(and i hope Button too), so much so that the inter-team fight is for the championship not who comes a head, between the two, its mediocre that Whitmarsh has reduced the team to this!!!
    Again i agree as earlier posted, it would be a huge mistake, if Mclaren is built around Button rather than Lewis…….

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