Jenson Button, McLaren, Barcelona, 2011

Button confused by Red Bull’s performance

2011 Monaco Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Jenson Button, McLaren, Barcelona, 2011
Jenson Button, McLaren, Barcelona, 2011

Jenson Button says he doesn’t expect McLaren to pose a challenge to Red Bull in qualifying in the near future.

Speaking during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in he said: “No, not really! , I don’t think any of us know.

“We think they have a lot more downforce than us, but then we don’t understand why they don’t have that pace in the race. It’s a tough one.

“Maybe their car is not so good on tyres, they degrade quicker, maybe, on their car, I don’t know. But in a few of the races this year we’ve been able to race them. But in qualifying we’ve been a long way off.

“So I don’t know. If you look at the difference in pace in qualifying you’d say the difference in lap time is probably about 30 points of downforce. You’re not going to do that for problem six, seven races. So it’s a difficult one in qualifying. I can’t see us, in the near future, beating them in qualifying. Unless it’s a very unusual circumstance – maybe like Monaco.”


He does not expect many drivers in Q3 to try to get an advantage by qualifying on more durable soft tyres instead of super-softs, because he expects the lap time difference to be quite large:

“I’d be surprised in qualifying because the super-soft is a second quicker, probably more. So I don’t think they’ll be many people, maybe people who just get into Q3 – they won’t do a run or they might do a run on the soft tyre. I don’t know.

“But the thing is there’s a lot of testing to do before qualifying and really understand the tyres and which strategy direction we’re going to take.”

Asked whether his driving style would be an advantage during the next three races where softer tyres will predominantly be used, Button said:

“I hope so. The strategy in Turkey didn’t work out, I think everybody initially planned on doing three stops and they went to a four because they damaged their tyres. Sometimes looking after your tyres is a bad thing because you don’t luck into a better strategy.

“But in Barcelona the three-stop and looking after tyres was key and it made a big different to my result after such a bad start.

“With softer tyres here, there’s a reason why they’re softer: it’s because the circuit can take it. But obviously the strategy is very up in the air at the moment and we won’t really know what we’re doing until we get into the race and understand the tyres a bit more. Because people are really changing their strategies over the race distance. I think most cars were look at three stops in Barcelona but ended up on a four.

“So it’s changing all the time and looking after your tyres is important but there’s also areas in the race where you have to push the tyres very, very hard to make a difference. So it’s a difficult balance and we’re still learning.”

He noted that even at Monaco, overtaking would be possible if a driver got into trouble with his tyres:

“In ’09 we started with a soft tyre and I remember Sebastian Vettel was also on the soft and he damaged the rear tyres very quickly. And two cars overtook him: Massa and Rosberg were able to overtake him into Tabac. So there’s a possibility for overtaking.”

Button added that the tyre data gather so far this year would not be useful at the unusual Monte-Carlo circuit:

“All of that information isn’t going to make any difference here. It’s a completely new circuit and very different in the way the tyres will work.

“There’s no high-speed corners and less degradation because of that. But, obviously, we have the super-soft tyres and we don’t really know how that’s going to work yet.”

‘We need to put Sebastian under pressure’

Button won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2009 but he does not expect that to give him an advantage over Vettel, who has not won this race before:

“I think experience always helps around Monaco. But Sebastian’s been around for a couple of years now and he’s been very quick around Monaco. Mark [Webber] did beat him in qualifying and he also had better race pace than Sebastian but I don’t think it’s a bad circuit for Sebastian. I think he’ll be competitive.

“But you might see Mark challenging him more than previous races which is exactly what we need, to put Sebastian under a bit of pressure.

“We never know what’s going to happen when he’s under pressure. Hopefully he’ll make some mistakes.”

Schumacher’s comeback

Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Barcelona, 2011
Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Barcelona, 2011

Button was also asked about Michael Schumacher and said he thinks the Mercedes driver is finding his comeback a challenge because the standard of competitive has improved since he first retired:

“It’s a very different situation for Michael. While he was at Ferrari, while I was racing in Formula 1, he had a very competitive car. He knew almost every race he went into he had a chance of winning.

“That’s very different to the situation now. For me, over the last 12 years I’ve raced the sport has got more and more competitive in terms of drivers and teams that can fight it out at the front.

“So I think it’s a lot tougher now for a driver who’s spent three years out of the sport to come back.

“I don’t know if Michael is as good as he was when he was in his twenties. I personally think it’s just more competitive, he’s got a very competitive team mate in Nico [Rosberg] and I think he’s doing a pretty good job but he’s not setting the world alight because he’s racing against some very, very talented drivers.”

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31 comments on “Button confused by Red Bull’s performance”

  1. I hope either Hamilton, Button or Webber can challenge and possibly win this grand prix. It’s never nice to see a drive dominate in front whilst the others battle over second place. It did seem much closer in Spain though between Vettel and Hamilton (on race pace) so I’ve got my fingers crossed.

    1. Agree with you Dan8 and with JB on the concept of somebody putting some pressure on SV. One would think it should be MW as he has the same car, but so far it is LH that is second in the points standings, but for sure the grid could use a DNF from SV to tighten things up. Was wondering if the reason JB is observing Red Bulls quali to be so strong whereas race pace is less so might be that SV doesn’t have to kill the car to stay ahead, and may be playing conservative for the sake of reliability, able to crank it up if needed on Sundays.

      1. Makes sense.

        1. If that was the case he would have kept a gap to Hamilton in Spain and not risked being overtaken. That was his real pace in Spain I think.

          1. To me Hamilton seems to be the prime candidate.

    2. The Sri Lankan
      26th May 2011, 3:25

      I just Hope vettel crashes out at st devote. i like the guy but damm…im not keen to see another Michael shumacher like era in F1.

  2. I hope anyone besides Vettel wins the race. I am getting sick of watching him on the top step.

    1. Icemangrins
      25th May 2011, 19:49

      It’s not just sick of watching him win.. sick of watching his index finger. As JB said, it is annoying

      1. US Williams Fan
        25th May 2011, 22:14

        I agree – would not mind seeing Webber win, just tired of seeing Vettel win.

        Sounds weird to me…. but throwing my support for McLaren to win the constructors and either JB or Lewis to win the drivers championships.

  3. I don’t expect much out of Jenson in Monaco, other than him trying something different in race strategy, but I have high hopes for Webber, Hamilton and Alonso. This is a circuit where they could definitely put Seb under some serious pressure. Lets hope the Ferraris and the Mclarens are on top of their game.

  4. I thought this redbull qually vs race had been put to bed ages ago. The redbull runs a more aggressive rear wing which retards top speed but increases downforce. In qually you can drs your rear wing anywhere so your going to get more from it than in the race where drs is only available in one place.

    Or am I missing something…?

    1. That was what I was thinking as well

    2. martin bell
      25th May 2011, 19:13

      I’ve read elsewhere that they run in the race with less off throttle fuel burning than they do in qualifying. The theory goes that the extra fuel needed carries a significant weight penalty in race conditions.

      1. @Martin Bell – that’s right. I read on the BBC F1 site that the Red Bulls used 15% more fuel than anyone else in Australia, and they’re off throttle blown diffuser engine mapping. I think along with the rear wing mentioned above, that is what might be making the difference.

    3. They had this advantage, and a big qualifying-race pace difference, before DRS.

      I credit the idea in circulation that they have taken the “hot-blown” off-throttle thing to extremes. They can use it on Saturday, but on Sunday it uses too much fuel and gets too hot.

      Then again, this time last year everyone thought they had a special suspension to lower the rear of the car for qualifying. Now we’ve moved on to the next set of theories. Finally people will discover that Newey has a captured alien space craft he has reverse-engineered. Of that he is an alien himself.

  5. Its not the rear wing that makes them fast in quali, its the huge amount of down force from the diffuserthat they have allowing them to run with the wing open more of the time. RBs speeds even with the wing open are not the fastest by a long shoot but guess who can drive round the high speed corners with the wing open! Also its the super aggressive engine mapping and a car thats more optimised for this than the others that they can run for short periods in quali but not in the race as it heats up too much.
    I cant wait for the ban on open throttle even when the driver is not on the gas. Its a massive driver aid as its operating the engine outside of the drivers control to give more downforce.

    1. Is it though? I’m still not sure it should be banned, how’s it any different to one car having better aero than another, and getting downforce that way?

      I suspect the main reason is people want to see something to subdue the Bulls’ dominance, and for that reason I hope it does get banned. But as for being a ‘driver aid’, I’m not so sure (it’s not doing something the driver should do or actively aiding the driver, it’s a passive aid like aero and new tyres).

      1. The problem with the off-throttle blown diffuser is it could be counted as a movable aero device hence the move to limit it – because its too complicated to ban.

  6. There’s the chance that all drivers will be more evenly matched as driver skills here have a significant importance. McLaren are close to Red Bull and Ferrari could be as there are softer tyres than in Barcelona.

  7. Agree with him about Schumacher. Sounding very negative about everything else though!

    1. Schumacher dominated with a superior car just as Vettel has been, and to say drivers and teams are more competitive now than they were when Schumi was winning is completely inaccurate. Just ask those bringing up the rear every week. It’s the same now as it has been, there are a few strong teams every year that dominate while everyone else watches from the sidelines, and this year is no different. If you’re not in a Red Bull or a McLaren this year you’re not in the hunt.

  8. “That’s very different to the situation now. For me, over the last 12 years I’ve raced the sport has got more and more competitive in terms of drivers and teams that can fight it out at the front.”

    Only RedBull and McLaren are able to win races on the merit of pure speed. Ferrari are able to score a podium at best this season, the rest of the field are irrelevant in fighting for wins. And there’s generally 2-3 seconds between the pole sitter and the 10th driver.
    That’s as uncompetetive as ever.

    You age, your reflexes get slower, you get slower, simple as that. Schumi is 41 years old. Enough said.

    1. It is more competitive.
      Schumacher is older.
      Both are facts.

  9. For one, you can’t keep throwing endless amounts of fuel for your EBD. Eventually, your fuel will run out. Secondly,a carrying enough fuel to ensure your EBD is fed the duration of the race, will mean you have excess of kilos at the start of the race. You won’t get off the line.
    The downforce created may not be consistent, so you may have high tyre wear.

  10. So the drivers doing 4 stops and faster than you haved lucked it into strategy now JB, have they?

    1. I think you’ve misunderstood what he’s saying.

  11. re Redbull’s qualy pace v race pace. Redbull are deliberately running a conservative setting during race so that they dont look miles ahead of everyone. They would be able to stretch their legs (crank-it-up) anytime they want to and leave every1 in the dust.

    1. Sure. And their reason for that would be… ???

  12. pking. nonsense if not exactly unprecedented- see Brawn. if they were able to shoot into the distance then whys webber not been 1 , 2 ing vettel. and why did mclaren win a race?

  13. Sorry, but there is no way any team runs a conservative race to finish just .6 ahead of the opposition! Vettel was flat out.

  14. I think the point was about the drivers. Alonso can win in a car that isn’t necessarily the quickest as can lewis and frankly if you look at webber, so can vettel. And if you look at the next level, the buttons, webbers, rosbergs then its as deep as it is high.

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