First of all, are you saying it’s wrong to switch team-mates when both would still be mathematically in with a chance, or always wrong no matter what the situation? Since Horner, Whitmarsh, Hamilton, hundreds of f1fanatics and the vast majority of F1 opinion have never taken the latter opinion, I’ll assume you meant the former. If you did mean the latter, then you have your answer already: there would be no hypocrisy because he never held that position.
In the next race, Button could be mathematically out of the championship. In fact, he probably will be. The only way he can stay in contention but also be in a position to help Hamilton is if they’re the only championship contenders left in the race in a points-scoring position and Button would have to be running at least 2nd.
Let’s ignore the fact that none of this was true for Massa and Alonso in Hockenheim. Let’s ignore the fact that Button has two more rivals to beat than Raikkonen did, even if it’s proportionately the same points margin. If McLaren are 1-2 or 2-3 Hamilton and McLaren would probably not ask for Button to move over. Why? Because it would barely change what he would then have to do in Abu Dhabi. Whether the gap to Alonso would decrease to -4, 3, or 6, he still has to do the same thing: beat Alonso to the win. Okay, if he inherited a race win from Button (who even if we won would proportionately be little closer to Alonso than before and would have to rely on another disaster for the Spaniard) or second place it would make his chances easier and in the event of a non-Alonso win in Abu Dhabi the amount of points he would have to score to be champion would be lessened, but in terms of actual finishing position his job would not be very different at all, probably only having to finish one place higher in each case. Button should make the very same argument if he doesn’t want to be relegated to a supporting role.
But let’s say I’ve put too much faith in Hamilton and he would ask for Button to move over. The question then is do McLaren comply? Do they risk it all coming apart, do they risk then losing the championship entirely because Button won the next race but lost out on the championship because he gave up his place to Hamilton? Do they dare risk the WMSC finding a convenient difference from Hockenheim to disqualify them from the race or championship?
Let’s say they do. Let’s say the switch occurs when Button would still be mathematically in contention, they pay the $100,000 fine and everything stands. What happens then? We wait. We wait and see if it affects the championship. If it doesn’t cost Button the championship, you would have to say it’s right. Only the most idealistic purist would say team-mates shouldn’t switch even when one is out of the championship and there are very few of those. The furore over Hockenheim was a result of the fact that there were so many more unknowns. What if Massa would have gone on to win another 4 races and right now be sitting 13 points behind Mark Webber? We know that’s not the case now, but we didn’t then. Ferrari, as much as it pains me to say, have had their decision proven right (all I question is their being allowed to keep Alonso’s points for an illegal tactic). But now we also know a lot more about the Hamilton-Button situation than the Alonso-Massa situation. It is easier on our consciences to right off Button’s chances, even if a miracle happens in Brazil. We’ve already had one, what’s the betting on three in a row? What’s the betting Button will actually take advantage of either of them, given he didn’t in Korea?
Perhaps this is moral fudging. Perhaps you don’t believe me when I say I’d feel the same way if Alonso and Massa or Webber and Vettel were in the exact same situation. Maybe I’m deluding myself in thinking I would. So let’s come to the crux: what if Button loses a championship because he helped Hamilton? Answer: I’d not be happy about it. Obviously I’d be ecstatic if Hamilton (or Webber) won instead because they’re the other two I’ve supported for the championship (as well as Massa). But I’d be as unhappy about it as I would have been had Schumacher had won in 1997, as unhappy as I am about him winning in 2002 and 2004 by shafting Barrichello even when there was no other contest and I would hope for Hamilton to win a better championship in the future.
I’ve realised I haven’t answered your main question. Well, of course Hamilton would be happy for Button to help him of his own free will. Would he be sad if McLaren forced Button to kill off his championship for Hamilton? Of course not. But he and everyone else knows that Button’s only being asked to help because his chances are next to zero and would have to pull off probably the greatest recovery in F1 history. So in his mind, Button is already out of it. But just because it’s that way in his mind, it doesn’t make it true. So what if it came down to it? Seeing Button get right back into it as the cost of improving his own hopes still further would be entirely consistent with everything he’s said regarding Button this year.
But let’s say it happens and he wants/wills it to. Let’s say McLaren say “it’s up to you Lewis, would you feel comfortable with potentially costing Jenson the championship” and he says yes. Will he be able to say he won the “right way”? Only if Button wouldn’t have won after the final points are known. Just like Ferrari at Hockenheim, it would merely be making the correct decision but further back in time when the opportunity was available and hoping like hell it would be proved right (well not Ferrari because they wouldn’t admit it if it had turned out to be a mistake, but you get the point).
I’ll probably be called a hypocrite myself given my comments during the Hockenheim saga. So a man can’t learn, can’t be convinced of better arguments? After all, I’ve done my best here to minimise the difference between what happened with Ferrari and what might happen with McLaren. And if Alonso’s 7 points are illegal, wouldn’t Hamilton’s 7 or 3 also be illegal? Perhaps; two wrong’s don’t make a right. But it’s clear the rule-makers and rule-interpreters consider the former not to be, that it is wrong to make the order but fine to keep the points gained – in which case, why would it be any different for Hamilton. The only difference, I would contend, is that we know them to be that way now, but not before Hockenheim. McLaren would knowingly committing an offence that the authorities have changed their mind on; Ferrari didn’t. Whether that makes Ferrari worse is a different discussion; in any case, it invalidates the argument that any future team order would be against the rules.