Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 2012

Hamilton vs Button: Four races left, five points in it

2012 F1 seasonPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 2012The Korean Grand Prix was a disaster for McLaren. The team came away with a single point, their worst result since the beginning of the partnership between Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in 2010.

Afterwards Hamilton admitted he is “too far away now” in the championship. With Button even further behind, the best the pair can hope for now is to lift McLaren back in front of Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.

There is also the matter of personal pride at stake. With Hamilton off to Mercedes at the end of the season, the final races will decide which of Britain’s world champions gets bragging rights over the other from their time together at McLaren.

Hamilton beat Button in the championship in 2010 but the tables were turned last year – the first time Hamilton had ever been beaten by a team mate in F1.

When Button joined McLaren at the end of 2009 he had just clinched the world championship with Brawn. Even so many expected him to have a difficult time at the team where Hamilton had previously come out on top against two-times world champion Fernando Alonso.

But the points show the pair have been very evenly-matched. McLaren have not failed to score in a single race since the Button-Hamilton partnership was formed at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix.

In their 54 races together Button and Hamilton have racked up 1,235 points between them. Hamilton is ahead by just five points – but will he still be when the partnership ends in four races’ time?

Lewis Hamilton vs Jenson Button: 2010-2012

Here’s how many points the pair have scored in the 54 races from the beginning of 2010 up to last weekend’s Korean Grand Prix:

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
Lewis Hamilton 15 23 31 49 49 59 84 109 127 145 157 157 182 182 182 192 210 222 240 258 262 287 299 317 325 325 337 349 374 386 386 398 408 418 436 442 467 467 482 497 512 516 520 530 555 555 559 559 584 584 609 609 619 620
Jenson Button 6 31 35 60 70 70 88 106 121 133 143 147 147 165 177 189 189 199 214 222 240 252 260 275 290 315 323 323 323 348 363 381 399 424 436 454 469 484 509 509 527 527 529 529 529 533 534 552 560 585 585 603 615 615

Technical failures

Lewis Hamilton


2010 Hungarian Grand Prix – Gearbox (was 4th)
2011 Brazilian Grand Prix – Gearbox (was 6th)
2012 German Grand Prix – Damage (was 16th)
2012 Singapore Grand Prix – Gearbox (was 1st)


2010 Japanese Grand Prix – Gearbox (five places)
2012 Chinese Grand Prix – Gearbox (five places)

NB. Hamilton had wheel failure during the 2010 Spanish Grand Prix while running second with two laps to go, but was classified 14th

Jenson Button


2010 Monaco Grand Prix – Overheating (was 11th)
2011 British Grand Prix – Wheel (was 2nd)
2011 German Grand Prix – Hydraulics (was 8th)
2012 Italian Grand Prix – Fuel pump (was 2nd)


2012 Japanese Grand Prix – Gearbox (five places)

Over to you

Which McLaren driver has impressed you most since the beginning of 2010? And who do you think will come out on top?

Have your say in the comments.

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171 comments on “Hamilton vs Button: Four races left, five points in it”

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  1. What I think a lot of people don’t really appreciate is that there is far more to being a racing driver than just being quick around a lap of a track. This is what people talk about when they say that the likes of Alonso are ‘complete’ drivers – they have the raw pace over a single lap, but they also have that harder to define quality of being able to keep up consistency even when things aren’t going well. It’s those odd few extra points picked up on ‘bad days at the office’ that really make all the difference. This is the area where Button is very good. He’s a very solid performer and while on the very best days he’s generally the slower of the two drivers, I’d say that on a bad day it’s Jenson who is able to better maximise the performance while often Hamilton starts to unravel slightly.

    I’d put this down to Button having spent so many years in very poor cars. During those bad years he’ll have learned essential skills in helping keep himself motivated even when the rewards for pushing may seem quite insignificant in the scheme of things. By contrast, Hamilton has spent virtually his whole career driving top quality machinery, all the way back to his karting days, and so has never really picked up these skills. He’s never had to. But it’s one thing he should definitely try to add to his bag of tricks because it would make him a much more comprehensive driver and give him a far better chance of winning multiple championships in the future. Maybe this is part of his motivation in going into a slightly underperforming team.

    1. I feel that there’s a lot of truth in that @mazdachris, though with a few caveats. Hamilton’s showing in the last few races, almost comically tragic in some ways (and in a way for much of the season, with the pit stop etc. problems), was impressive, and was quite clearly getting everything out of a misbehaving car/situation (though he initially seemed to react moody and erratic before getting his act together and making the most of it); while Button wasn’t able to get much out of the car after the first races and until the Germany update. But Button is much better able to be patient, and that certainly is learned through (self-inflicted) years in disappointing cars. Let’s see what Hamilton learns at Mercedes :p

    2. I don’t think Jenson is actually that good on bad days at the office. He is more resilient than Lewis in the sense that he wouldn’t have let his personal life interfere with his racing, I believe, but in my opinion he is nowhere near Alonso or Vettel in terms of picking up points on difficult days. First of all, you have to be a decisive overtaker to quickly make your way through traffic in case you’ve fallen back, and I’ve seen Jenson getting stuck too often too quickly (most recently in Hungary this year, where on newer tyres he couldn’t get by Bruno Senna). Second, if ‘the day is bad’ because of an unbalanced car, then Jenson cannot do much with it.

      Last year was the absolute high of Jenson’s career, together with the first half of 2009. In the second part of 2011, his car was always to his liking, and overtaking was easier than ever before with KERS, (too much) DRS, and huge performance differences between old and new tyres (much more than this year, I feel). This meant that any ‘hesitancy’ in overtaking was overcome by being able to overtake intelligently, and he could work his way through the field as in Spa 2011.

      1. @adrianmorse – Not sure if 2011 was the absolute high of Jenson – well, think it WAS relative high though :P. But it sounds true that Jenson got a lot of benefit to his like with new things and rule changes as well as tyre changes to Pirelli, all of which also benefited RB and Vettel to dominate.

        1. And adding one more, also not sure if Jenson is even ‘good’, not ‘that good’, on bad days. My take is he’s been mediocre unless everything is perfect to him – that may be the reason we hear so many times about grip and balance, leaving the tyre preserving ability as his key competence.

  2. Fernando Cruz
    18th October 2012, 14:07

    Hamilton should have much more points than Button, but he lost a lot with mistakes and also suffered more mechanical failures and bad strategy from his team. Furthermore Button is very intelligent, like a Prost, and that also meant he challenged Hamilton much more than we could expect.

  3. Very insightful article, Button has proven himself to be a strong driver.

    Would be great to complement this with comparison of points lost due to non-driver factors (pit stop errors, failure, strategy blunders) between the two, and indeed the whole grid.

    Id put a lot of money on Hamilton being unluckiest driver over 3 years by a distance. Pretty crazy that the best driver in one of best cars can be off the pace despite only making one significant error all season that I can recall.

    1. *off the pace in the championship I meant…

    2. Though we do have to remember @switchbacker that operational errors (though mostly slow pitstops and weird strategy, some missed wheels featured too last year didn’t they?) were the reason McLaren got Sam Michael – not everyone’s choice, but they did need to fix those. And I think the mistakes were in previous years more clear on Buttons car (Monaco side-pod blocked, silverstone wheel left off …).

      Hamilton more often suffered from odd, or unrealistic, strategies, which points to a problem between him and the team in sorting that out. Button has at times “lucked around” those, or been too slow to show up the problem (though Hungary …).

  4. Both Button and Hamilton had been let down by McLaren’s unreliability in equal measure it has to be said. We all know McLaren has no problems producing a fast car (even though it might not be the class of the field in a particular season; it’s enough to pose a serious threat at the front end and score wins).

    In the last 10 years, it has problems producing a fast AND reliable car though. A team of McLaren’s resources with only 1 driver’s and 0 constructor’s title in the last 10 years needs to do some soul-searching over the dismal title drought. I think that’s why Lewis got fed up (and likewise Kimi earlier on) with always having a title challenge undermined by unreliability. Jenson will feel the same if the trend carries on in 2013.

    Lewis has had his tantrums and might strike some fans as immature but you can’t argue against his raw pace and natural talent and over the course of 3 years, he was definitely the faster of the 2 drivers at McLaren.

    It will be interesting to see the Lewis vs Nico battle. Is Nico up there with there with Lewis in terms of raw speed? As for Jenson vs Sergio, not sure how to call on that. It could go the same way as David vs Kimi in 2002 where David was outranked in qualifying but scored heavily compared to his new inexperience team-mate.

    1. The greatest weakness that Button has perhaps is that if the car is not set up to his liking, he completely falls off the cliff as we saw in Canada this year when he was lapped by Hamilton. Whereas the likes of Raikkonen, Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel can drive around the same problem and still deliver a competitive finish.

      I like Button as a driver and you can count on him to deliver some top-drawer glorious moments that have fans on the edge of their seats like Canada last year. The walloping he gave an out-of-sorts Lewis last year was i feel, a more majestic effort than even his 2009 season in comparison. He will retire in future with a F1 career to be proud of. He is however close but maybe just not close enough to be part of the stratosphere that the likes of Alonso reside in. If you put Button in the F2012, he won’t disgrace the car and he would definitely outpace Massa but he probably won’t wring as much out of the car as Alonso – which is what the super-elite drivers will do.

      Put it this way, if a poll were to be done now on which current drivers would squeeze in into a revised list of all-time top 20 F1 drivers, Jenson’s name probably won’t figure in the discussion as prominently as super-elite drivers like Alonso, Vettel, Raikkonen and of coz, MSC.

  5. And when did Hamilton beat Alonso?, when was this again?5 second place vs 3 second place, not realy beating someone…
    Button had just as many mistakes on his side of the garage (like 2010, Monaco engine cover, silverstone, tyre change, etc)
    so, after 54 races, we can say they pretty much neck and neck, even though Button lacks the ultimate pace, but he is still pretty good, and consistency is VERY important in F1. If it weren’t for the mysterious 2012 mid season slump of Button, he would be ahead, but maybe we can say the same last year about Hamilton’s mid season (massa run-ins).

    1. Fernando Cruz
      18th October 2012, 14:54

      The mysterious 2012 mid season slump of Button is no longer a mystery: he simply took a lot of time to cope with the best way to warm his tyres in a single lap, given the very short performance window of this year’s tyres. It happened the same to Bruno Senna, a driver with a similarly smooth driving style. In some races they also had problems, particularly in Canada, where they didn’t manage to conserve their tyres to be competitive and Button finished a lap behind his winning team mate.
      Button’s luck is that he has the full support of a top team and much more experience than Senna, who still has the problem of losing FP1 almost everywhere.

      The real mystery is why were they both competitive enough until Bahrein, when they started suffering more in comparison with their team mates.

      1. Completely agree with all of this!! Most punters watching on television have NO CLUE about how much the tyres effect different driving styles, and how it varies from circuit to circuit. Button reminds me of prost, when the car is good, and too his liking, (which isnt very often) he is unbeatable(canada 11, australia 12,spa 12, the first 6 races of 09)
        And considering how much time Bruno has lost this year to Bottas(who maybe quick on one lap by himself, but his lower formula racecraft was awful) and how well Bruno has raced in comparison to Pastor, it is a no-brainer that Williams should keep him next year. He is clearly very talented(despite what a lot of the normal poster think on this site) but hasnt been given a fair crack at the whip

  6. Sean N (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    18th October 2012, 14:49

    The Hamilton v Button comparison reminds me of another McLaren pairing that varied in their comparative success in the same way. When Raikkonen and Montoya were paired, generally if the car was good Raikkonen was faster. When the car was not so good is was Montoya.
    They also remind me another famous McLaren paring, that of Senna and Prost. Whilst their comparative performance was also governed by the cars handling, albeit to a lesser degree the main similarity is that Senna wore his heart on his sleeve like Hamiltion and Prost was much more political and savy like Button.
    If Hamilton and Button had continued as teams mates beyond this season and learned each others relative strengths, then both they and McLaren would have reaped the benefits.

  7. Button certainly has done a good move with leaving Brawn and going for McLaren. He did impress and build on the success from winning. But I think Hamilton did more damage to his own campaigns by panicking and losing his way than by not learning what made Button win over him last year.

  8. Hamilton would be far ahead if wasn’t by his problems. In that, you can count mechanical failures, accidents, and other things. The points total don’t say a lot for me, at least on this case. Hamilton is undoubtedly a better driver, and i’m sure Mclaren will miss him. And I’m not saying but isn’t a great driver (obviously he is) just that he is not in the top 3 driver list.

    Keith in 2010 on the Spanish grand prix Hamilton had a tyre failure when he was in second, 2 to laps to the end. He lost 18 points on that one, and fot those who loves numbers, that would had give him the title.

    1. @edmarques The 2010 Spanish Grand Prix is mentioned in the article.

    2. Haha now i saw it the note about the Spanish Grand Prix.

    3. You can say even more for Vettel though, guaranteed 25 gone in Korea, 25 in Australia, 13 in Bahrain and they’re just the ones that immediately spring to mind, there are probably more.

      1. Yes, he had problems in another race at least.

  9. Considering the fact that Button came to the Hamilton’s team in 2010 it is quite a good score of his abilities.
    He had to learn so many things about the team and adjust his driving to Hamilton’s liking.
    For me he has been better of the two. Maybe Hamilton has the edge in quali but Sunday’s matter the most. Also when Button gets the setup right, he is quite remarkable in quali as well.

  10. a lot of blabla going on, it’s very simple, who would you hire if you had an F1 team? For me , Hamilton.

    1. Lol! Then I would forget these two and hire Kimi for sure! Just as fast, super consistent, zero diva-BS and much funnier interviews! :-)

      1. Mate stop kidding, he can’t even beat grosjean on pure speed….

        1. Yes he can.

  11. I feel the current set of rules has slightly favoured Button’s strengths over the last 3 years, and has closed things up a bit. Hamilton struggled with the tyres in early 2010 whilst it suited button, and drs has taken the skill out of overtaking and reduced the penalty for a bad qualifying.

    1. I totally agree, if we had the 2008-spec rules hamilton would do the same to button that he did to kovalainen…its just a shame now that F1 is all about mamanging the car and not driving it fast!!

      1. I rate button much higher than Kovalainen so not entirely sure about that but the margin would be greater. Since mclaren have rarely had the pace to be on the front row these last 3 years Button’s lack of qualifying pace would have been a much bigger problem w/o DRS. Kobayashi has also suffered from the DRS as one of his main and unique strengths was overtaking, which is less important these days.

  12. From the comments I’ve read so far there seems to be a general consensus that Lewis is the quickest of the two, but is not a “complete” driver, not consistent etc.

    However, I think this is because a lot of people are a little too stuck on the second 3/4 s of the 2011 season. If you look at 2010 and 2012 I can only think of 1 driving error from Lewis which was his move on Massa in Monza. That’s pretty impressive consistency if you ask me, in fact it’s probably less than any other driver (I may have forgotten 1 or 2, but that probably means they weren’t particularly significant). Ok, he’s made the odd wrong call on strategy (china 2010) or set-up (spa 2012) but in terms of consistent drivers, I’d say in 2010 and 2012 he’s been even better than Alonso.

  13. Please somebody reminds me the number of victories they had in these McLaren years (I mean don’t include Jenson’s Brawn or that one-hit-wonder Button had with Honda)

    1. William Brierty
      18th October 2012, 18:31

      Hamilton – 9 wins, 7 poles, so far…
      Button – 7 wins, 1 pole, so far…
      Hamilton/Button era – 16 wins, 8 poles, so far…


      Vettel in same period – 20 wins, 29 poles

      1. But … RB a significantly better car for at 75% of the time.

        1. But, Mclaren have usually been > Ferrari, yet Alonso has equal wins to Hamilton (and more than Button).

          Alonso and Vettel have the best results for their cars over the last 3 years IMO.

          1. But, Ferrari and Red Bull are considerably more competent … We could go on and on, but my point is that merely looking at numbers in a specific way doesn’t tell the whole story.

  14. I think neither driver has been anywhere consistent enough to be honest!

  15. What about where Hamilton was given the 24 place penalty in this years Spanish GP?

  16. William Brierty
    18th October 2012, 18:24

    This is perhaps one of the greatest pub debate topics ever, but unfortunately it is a short debate. I think we all foresaw Hamilton having the upper hand back in 2010, but happily, its been much closer than we initially imagined. However, saying that, I think it is also valid to say most of the time Button has beaten Hamilton, Hamilton has had some kind of hiccup that weekend, whether it be setup, technical issues, a mistake or that lack of focus that sometimes mists around Hamilton. In a fair qualifying, Hamilton’s ballistic one-lap pace has Button beaten by 2/10th normally, and although it is closer in the race, Hamilton can generally keep Button under control.

    1. I also think Button’s dips in form have been a lot more ‘clear cut’, and kept in the space of a few races, like earlier this year. Hamilton tends to be more win, retire, win, crash etc…Not that either is a good thing, to be honest!

  17. At the end of the day why are you all making excuses Lewis this Lewis that ,he could of this or won that .The plain fact is that so far he is only 5 points in front of Jenson. We could go the other way and say well Kamui took out Jenson , he had a hydraulics fault .Get over it people , the difference is 5 points

    1. Just looking at pure numbers is a fools game, and people usually only do it to hide or promote other agenda’s.

      1. Well…
        I’d say that after 54 races the luck factor doesn’t really make a difference.
        10 races ? OK
        But 3 years ? It cancels itself out of the equation. Really.

        At the very moment you start to put an “if things had turned out differently, then…” in the mix, you start to loose objectivity.

        We can’t conclude much from these stats, apart from:
        LH is much much better over 1 lap, no doubt about it.
        Over the course of 3 seasons however, he hasn’t been able to “thrash” JB as he was expected to.

        1. Just saying luck equals itself out over 3 years without basing it on any facts is a very blinkered outlook. A simple look at the facts shows that Hamilton has had the lions share of the bad luck, especially this season.

          1. It’s not just the amount of failures either, whats important is how much each failure cost the respective driver.

            Hamiltons wheel failing while in 2nd place with 2 laps to go in Spain is not the same as Jenson retiring from 8th at the start in Monaco

        2. well said gwenouille

  18. I think overall Jenson Button has exceeded expectations since he went to McLaren two and a half years ago. It would be nice for Hamilton to go out ‘on a high’ but recent races pose a question. How will Button fare in 2013 when he is team leader at McLaren? How much will McLaren miss the performances of Lewis Hamilton as we saw recently in South Korea? That is what I find interesting.

  19. There seems to be some debate as to whether the bad luck has evened out over the past three years or not, so I thought I’d do a points-swing comparison between Hamilton and Button, of the incidents I remember. I include here also racing incidents where Hamilton and Button were not at fault.

    Barcelona: Hamilton lost 20 points to Button (minus 18 for HAM, plus 2 for BUT = 20)
    Monaco: Button retired with an overheating engine, but he wouldn’t have scored that day anyway (0)
    Hungary: Hamilton retired from fourth, Button finished 8 (14)
    Spa: Button gets taken out by Vettel while running 2nd, Hamilton already ahead (-18)
    Japan: Gearbox penalty for Hamilton (plus malfunction in the race); HAM qualified 3rd, so let’s say P3 for HAM, P5 for BUT (7)
    Overall in 2010, Hamilton lost 23 points to Button.

    Britain: Button’s wheel fell off after his final pit stop while behind HAM and MAS, but given his newer tyres, and Hamilton’s struggles with them, it’s reasonable to assume that Button would have caught both of them on newer tyres (-14)
    Germany: Button would have finished fourth without his hydraulics problems, possibly (-12)
    Brazil: Hamilton retired from 6th, though it is hard to tell how much his box problems affected him prior to that (8)
    Over 2011, Button lost 18 points to Hamilton

    China: Without his grid penalty, Hamilton would have stayed ahead of Button, so P2 and P3 reversed (if they would have caught Rosberg, Hamilton would have caught him first) (5)
    Bahrain: Button retired, Hamilton had two botched pit stops. Without problems, they would have finished 5 and 7, rather than 8 (0)
    Spain: Hamilton lost his pole position. Difficult to say what he could have done from pole, but a podium seems the least (15)
    Valencia: Hamilton was put out bu Maldonado, but where would he have finished? Let’s say 6 behind MAL, MSC, WEB (8 + 2 = 10)
    Germany: Hamilton’s puncture cost him a good points-scoring finish, let’s say P5 (10)
    Belgium: Hamilton taken out by Grosjean; he started 7th, so let’s say he finished there (6)
    Italy: Button retires from P2, (-18)
    Singapore: Hamilton retires from the lead (28)
    Japan: very difficult to say where both would have ended up without their problems, especially as Hamilton’s problems began on Saturday
    Korea: the same. Without any problems, Hamilton would probably have been ahead, though impossible to tell by how much.
    Over 2012: 56 points lost to Hamilton
    2010 – 2012: 61 points lost to Hamilton

    I hope I haven’t made any glaring oversights, I’m typing this in a hurry.

    1. Hamilton wouldn’t have even been fighting with MAL if mclaren hadn’t screwed his stop up (valencia 2012). I’d argue he was good for a win or podium before that

      1. You could start a whole website on the IF’s there’s been in F1 over the years. For example, IF a driver always started on pole, he’d be unlikely to be involved in overtaking accidents. Or another one, IF Hamilton had gone a bit wider at that corner in Valencia with Maldonado, he may have got a podium position, of IF he’d let Maldonado through, as Alonso would probably have done in that situation, he’d have scored some points instead of a DNF.

        1. I refuse to believe for a second that Alonso would ever just let another driver through when it was possible to defend from them (in Canada it wasn’t)

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