Button plays it cautious and pays the price
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Button plays it cautious and pays the price
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Oct 2010   |  12:59 pm GMT  |  287 comments

I was fascinated by the way Jenson Button attacked the Japanese Grand Prix, with his strategy of running the hard tyre in qualifying and the first part of the race. It didn’t work for him and he has pretty much dropped out of contention for the title as a result.

Actually “attacked” is the wrong word, because if anything this strategy showed timidity – perhaps even a lack of confidence. For a championship contender up against some fierce competitors, with four races to go, it seemed an odd thing to do. Surely Jenson should have gone out there on the attack, looking to get a podium and maybe even have a go at the Red Bulls at the start.

Button: Cautious (Darren Heath)


It was there to be done but he chose not to take that route.

McLaren are a team who go to every race to win, that is their stated aim. But at the same time they often talk themselves down. If you look closely, they often do their predictions for a race based on their perceived weakness. Hamilton often defies this because he is so aggressive and such a competitor. Inevitably in pushing so hard, he sometimes makes mistakes.

Button is playing a percentage game and in my view, missing a trick.

In Japan McLaren were on the back foot anyway because – not for the the first time this year – the updates they had brought didn’t do what they’d hoped and so they took them off for qualifying. They did not believe they could beat the Red Bulls.

Nevertheless, the McLaren was fast enough to get the second row of the grid. You can see that from the Q2 times, where Button was faster than both Alonso and Kubica.

Hamilton is always a tenth or two faster than Button at Suzuka, but Button knew his team mate wouldn’t be a factor, as he had to take a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

If you analyse Button’s Q3 performance, he did a lap on the hard tyre that was only 2/10ths slower than Hamilton’s. The hard is at least that much slower than the soft, so he actually did a brilliant lap.

So it’s accurate to say – and McLaren accept this – that on soft tyres, Jenson would have qualified third. If he had done that, he should have had the chance to finish at least third. But he would also have had the chance to jump Webber at the start, as Kubica did, especially given Red Bull’s dodgy start record. Although the Red Bull was faster, he may have been able to frustrate Webber and hold second to claim 18 points. It’s unlikely, but Kubica managed to get ahead of Webber from P3 on the grid, so you never know. More likely he would have started and finished third.

Button plans strategy on the grid (Photo:McLaren)


But instead of going for it and challenging for third place, he took a more timid approach, reasoning that the hard tyre would give his car a more stable back end in the race – something that is very important to him.

And he had the idea that the soft tyre would grain quickly on a green track, after all that rain. So if you were McLaren you might reason that by taking the hard tyre, you would be able to run longer than your rivals and if they were force to pit early due to graining they might come out behind drivers like Liuzzi likes to start on the hard tyre and get held up. .

But no-one has made significant gains this season, starting in the top half of the grid on hard tyres. At best you end up where you would have been anyway on softs.

So there were too many ifs and buts to this strategy. At the end of the day, who did he think he was racing, by doing this? Alonso, Kubica..Hamilton? All people who would have been behind him anyway if he’d gone for it on softs.

Certainly going this route he was not fighting the Red Bulls nor Alonso, given that he had chosen a slower tyre and had given Alonso track position by giving up the vital few tenths the soft gives you in qualifying.

Once the race got underway, the drivers on soft pitted around lap 22-26 and Button took the lead. But his lap times inevitably were not strong enough to build a gap over the drivers who were now on new tyres. Button turned a series of ‘lame duck’ laps, in which Vettel, Webber, Alonso and Hamilton all gained on him. When he pitted on lap 35 Hamilton took his fourth place, having started the race in eighth place.

He questioned the decision to leave him out so long, but the maximum gap he ever held over Hamilton was at the start of that stint and was just 17 seconds, which wasn’t enough to pit and keep his position. There was a big gap behind Hamilton and Button was always going to slot into it, whenever he pitted.

Button got 4th place back when Hamilton hit gearbox trouble (Photo: McLaren)


It was only because Hamilton hit gearbox problems that Button got his fourth place back and essentially ended up where he started, (allowing for Kubica dropping out).

So that’s it really. Button went from being 25 points off the championship lead, to being 31 points off and pretty much out of it.

Had he attacked on softs, jumped Webber at the start and held it he would be just 22 behind and still in it. And if he hadn’t managed that, he would have had a great chance to finish third and would now be 28 behind.

Eddie Irvine criticises Button for just driving around all season to get a result and not being adventurous or aggressive enough. I have huge respect for Jenson, for his ability to think through races, and he showed some adventure earlier this year.

I’m not having a go at him here. Merely saying that it would have been great if he’d really gone for it in Japan.

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  1. Daniel says:

    And what i don’t like about jenson, he tends to criticize the team when strategy doesn’t go as planned but take all the glory when it does. He should know in mclaren ” THEY WIN TOGETHER AND LOSE TOGETHER” what’s the point to question the strategy when it was his own idea in the first place?
    Jenson is a great driver, no doubt about it, but his approach only serves to bring valuable points. He won’t win a driver’s championship at least he has the best car (i.e last year)with his style. What suprise me most, lewis with 4 DNFs still has more points than jenson when he’s the most consistant. He should think about it.

    1. Jonathan says:

      so which part of the quote below blames the team?
      “I thought the others would struggle on the options at the start of the race, they didn’t,” Button told the BBC. “I wasn’t really able to push Fernando (Alonso), and I had Lewis right behind me.
      Seems to be accepting the blame to me.

      1. Andy says:

        But, he questioned the late timing of his pit stop, saying he didn’t understand why the team pitted him so late as he was losing time lap after lap and the option tyres would have given him better lap times than the rest.

      2. Jonathan says:

        Exactly he questioned it and said “We need to look at the data but to stay out when everyone else pitted was probably the wrong thing. Maybe you should cover the people that you are racing and we didn’t do that.
        “At the end of the race when we did put the option on it was great. The car had a lot of grip and I was very fast. We weren’t quick enough to beat the Red Bulls and the Ferrari, possibly not.
        “Just got to look at the data and see why we stayed out for so long, I think it was 40 laps. It was quite a tough race on such old tyres. I don’t mean we would have finished any further up but I think it is just useful information for the future.”
        Sorry to just cut and paste but these are his exact comments and at no point does he blame the team as he uses “we” throughout.

      3. CH1UNDA says:

        Isn’t it time we stopped questioning the drivers and started looking at McLaren management and specifically Whitmarsh critically to understand why the team seems to be curving out the image of perennial underachiever? The two drivers have won championships as proof of their worth – actually of the three key people in McLaren ie Lewis, Button and Whitmarsh, only the Team Principal has not won a championship.

        IMHO its important for the team to look at this closely as leaving things as they are may well mean, from a strategic point at least, that the team could be in for a long spell in the cold.

      4. Andy says:

        They may be his exact words, but you lose something when just reading them off the page. When he said it, it came across as him questioning the team’s decision for him to pit so late. He’s no fool and is not going to say something directly against the team to the press, but you could quite clearly tell that not only was it not his decision but one he didn’t agree with.

      5. Eric says:

        And Lewis hasn’t publicly questioned the team strategy this season???

      6. devilsadvocate says:

        Im not so sure, Button just seems to be critical of everyone/ everything when he has a bad day. Criticising drivers when they overtake him (not talking about Vettel), its the classic “Im not really sure why he tried that there” or the “Im not really sure why we made X strategy call when it was obvious we shouldnt have” or my personal favorite “well we did pretty well today considering the other cars arent really legal”

        Just general sour grapes when things dont go his way, nothing directly at the team.

    2. monjimike says:

      Please send link because I haven’t seen that anywhere.

    3. Hugh says:

      Daniel
      You conviently forget that Button has had a few retirements to with at least two being no fault of his. Where did he blame the team?

    4. Uppili says:

      But Jenson has had two DNF’s two which were not of his making (Monaco & Spa), both places where he was in position to score good points.

      1. Manuel says:

        And Lewis had 2 DNFs which were not his fault either (barcelona & hungary). I think Daniel has a point there.

      2. SuperOsnola says:

        Barcelona was, in part, his fault. Lewis is probably the driver who less cares about his tyres and that cost him the DNF at Barcelona. It hasn’t much to see with the team…

  2. Manuel says:

    I think if you mix Button and Hamilton, you will have Alonso. Both mclaren drivers need to learn a bit from each other to be a complete driver. It’s too late now for them but if they do learn from each other,they both will be very strong for next year.

    1. JF says:

      I agree with comment. Both Button and Hamilton are very strong in certain (even most) areas but neither is a complete driver package. Complete racers seem to be once a generation, Alonso from Schumacher from Senna/Prost (another split package perhaps). Hamilton may rise to it, but I suspect Button will not.

      1. hesus says:

        yep, you can always teach quick driver to think twice, but you can’t teach slow driver to go any faster:)

      2. frosty says:

        very, very true.

      3. CH1UNDA says:

        Alonso? Not sure that is the kind of driver either Button or Lewis look upto – let’s keep the role models realistic :))

    2. El shish says:

      Let’s not go overboard here – it’s funny how a few races changes people’s perceptions. Let’s skip back to Valencia and Alonso’s inability to focus on anything other than what Hamilton was doing and Spa, where he bummed the car on a near straight section of the track with nobody around him. He’s as prone to brain fade moments as Hamilton, Webber or Vettel. True, he hasn’t shown it in the last few races, which is, after all the business end of the season, but he goes into each race knowing he has the support of a whole team and has one competitor less out on the track – anybody really believe that doesn’t make a difference. If Alonso doesn’t finish ahead of both the mclarens, he will have underperformed the car and the team.

      1. SuperOsnola says:

        “If Alonso doesn’t finish ahead of both the mclarens, he will have underperformed the car and the team.”
        ¿Really? Italy don’t seem to think like that…
        The diference between Lewis’ errors and Fernando’s ones is the moment where they were commited (Fernando was 7th and Lewis was 3rd/4th and3rd). Fernando knows when can he risk, Lewis doesn’t.

    3. Vic says:

      Hamilton basically beat Alonso in his rookie year, I agree that Alonso is more experienced but i think Hamilton has more potential, he just says stuff that seems childish now and again which put me off him but anyway he is slowly growing up, (alonso being childish is a completely new subject so i’ll leave that out!).

      We forget that these boys came into the sport as kids.

      Vic

      1. SuperOsnola says:

        McLaren an MaFIA beat (if having the same points can be called like this) Fernando, not Lewis.

        “We didn’t expect Kimi, we were racing Fernando”
        -Ron Dennis, 2007.

      2. Vic says:

        I’ll agree to disagree, i know they had the same number of points but i do believe that Hamilton overall had the greater amount of better podium finishes, hence winner by default.

        Alonso put himself in that position by being childish, plus if you don’t race your team mate then who do you race. Bottom line is if Alonso was that much better he would have beat hamilton, as at the end of the day they had the same car.

        Vic

      3. SuperOsnola says:

        McLaren put Alonso in that position by only supporting Hamilton. After having more extra laps, not beeing penalised at Japan (while Fernando in hungay became the only driver in history that has been penalised without braking the rules), and beeing the one who had first the new pieces on the car I consider that year as a great victory. McLaren had an incredible car and the best pair of drivers that we have seen since Senna and Prost era with Honda, but they lost the WDC and the WCC and people continues supporting all what the team did in 2007…

  3. RickeeBoy says:

    I actually disagree with you James – I think he thought as a lot of others thought the softs would grain and therefore he was hoping his strategy was correct …. The soft’s lasted and therefore Jenson lost out – and possibly overall lost one place to Fernando – but he had to try something – I actually I think his gamble was worth it.

    1. Stevie P says:

      Me too RickeeBoy, I think it was worth it too. JB’s two wins this season have come from tyre gambles. He had nothing to lose and hedging his bets on the soft tyres graining heavily on the washed track, was a logical\clever ploy. Vettel stayed out so long in Monza and made up places as a consequence; Kamui K in Valenica did well too by trying something different.

      Belgium was a big downer for Button, Vettel clobbering him and then continuing, leaving JB on the side lines (only the second time he’s not finished in the points this season – Webber is the only driver to have a better record than this I believe) when big points were up for grabs – it would have kept him closer to the leaders and also reduced their scores.

      I’m still totally puzzled why Button let Hamilton have corner one in Singapore? He was ahead of Alonso into turn one in Japan too. [Which sets me up for replies of the "he's no good" type]. I freely admit he’s not the best “hustler” of a car, but he is a bloody good driver.

      The two McLaren boys really need someone else (ie, Bob Kubica) to get into mix and take some points away from Red Bull and Alonso and I can’t see that happening. 1 from 3 now, I feel.

      1. Adam Jackson says:

        The Singapore issue into turn 1 puzzles me too. On Sunday I think he went for Webber around the outside but Mark closed the door and allowed Alonso through, similar in some ways to Germany when Vettel caught him out, if anything his starts are too good!!

    2. Gubstar says:

      I agree, due to the track conditions, all the rain etc, surely he was right to take a gamble thinking that the soft tyre would destroy itself considering how green the track was. Thats motor racing though, some you win, some you lose. To accuse Jenson of not attacking enough I think is poor show. But I guess its easy for us to have an opinion from our armchairs though! It was only 10 months ago that everyone was saying he was stupid to go to Mclaren, and that Lewis would wipe the floor with him…….but its not quite worked out like that though has it. The F1 circus has such short memories.

      1. Have to add my agreement with those above, James. Your efforts are appreciated, don’t get me wrong, but your approach seems a bit more than appropriate to the outsider, anyway. If it had worked out better for J.B., then the view on ‘Monday Morning’ would have termed his drive/strategy “brilliant” and you would have written a much different article. Thanks again for all you do.

      2. James Allen says:

        Sure, but it always seemed likely it would work out as it did.

      3. Dave Deacon says:

        JB took a calculated risk. Not so timid. He must have weighed up the possibles and viewed his performance relative to the other drivers, eg Alonso. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  4. Peter says:

    lame accusations as Mclaren wasnt on RBRs or Ferrari pace so his 4th place is best what he could achieve anyway. He didnt lose anything by going with hard tyre strategy.

    1. James Allen says:

      How come he was faster than Ferrari in Q2 then? It’s not an accusation, merely a thought.

      1. **Paul** says:

        I’m a long term JB fan but I agree with James on this one. McLaren had the pace to beat the Ferrari here. They actually got a huge slice of luck early on with Kubica’s wheel falling off and Rosberg(?) making a start so bad I thought he’d stalled it (this explains his early pitstop I think!). That allowed them to 4th and 5th on track after the 2nd corner (so although Hamilton did go from 8th to 4th at one point it was largely done in the first corner).

        Jenson has had an odd approach a couple of times this season to the start of races. Singapore and Japan really didn’t do his stock any good IMO. At Singapore there is no way Hamilton should have passed him, none. It wasn’t a ‘billiant’ overtake it was a lack of balls from Jenson IMO. He should have taken Hamilton to the edge of the track, squeeze him, team mate or not, that doesn’t matter, think back to Turkey where Hamilton had no worries about bouncing off Buttons car to re-pass him after the RBR incident…. So I’m left questioning JBs commitment on that front.

        What I won’t question is his pace though, he’s easily proved himself this season after talk of his team mate destroying him. It’s not really happened, and kudos to JB for that because he’s walked into Lewis’s team, I can proudly say I thought it’d be close unlike many.

        I just find myself slightly disappointed with Jensons performances at the start of the last two races, yes a DNF is bad bad news, but he could and should have made at least an extra place up at the start of each of the last 2 GPs. I fear his quest for consistency is costing him a real run at the title, whilst his team-mates rather more hot-headed nature of going for gaps that don’t exist is costing him as well.

        I expect FA to win the title this year, he seems to have a good balance between risk and reward.

      2. Luke A says:

        James, I agree completely, sometimes people say “oh Ferrari is / was faster than McLaren”, without truely looking into the details.

        McLaren should have, could have, actually had 3rd and 4th or even 2nd and 4th at Suzuka.

        If Hamilton would have started 3rd (without the gearbox penalty or problem in race) then there is no reason why he couldn’t have finished at least 3rd, or even possibly 2nd.

        Before Hamilton got his gearbox issue in the race he was the fastest on the track, he definitely lost quite a bit of time behind Jenson and therefore would have been right on Alonso’s tail if he hadn’t of had the gearbox issue (the gap to Alonso was as little as about 2 seconds at one point).

        In parallel, Button’s lap, on hard tyres in quali, as you said, was pretty remarkable. Not only was it only 2 tenths behind Hamilton on the softs, but also, he did it on the first lap of a 3 lap run. If he’d of just gone for a 1 lap run then he’d of probably been ahead of Hamilton on the hards and if he put on the softs and did the same lap, he would have been close to Webber.

        Thus, there is no reason, as you rightly say, that McLaren were actually capable of finishing 2nd or 3rd if all things went well.

        A question I have for you is why you think McLaren have lost their race pace advantage from earlier in the season. Ferarri always seem to go faster in the race, but prior to Hockenheim, McLaren always made a huge leap forward in race pace, but almost seem to go backwards in race pace more recently.

        I think it might be to due with them introducing the blown diffuser and also possibly because they have been focusing more on single lap pace and possibly, slightly compromising race pace. I actually think they got better results when they had better race pace, as they are not really qualifying any better.

      3. James Allen says:

        It’s ebbed and flowed hasn’t it? Depends on circuits and car updates

      4. RickeeBoy says:

        I honestly don’t think we saw the true speed of the Bulls at Japan as they kept formation but didn’t have a real race and therefore to say Hamilton could have made 2nd is IMO just crazy – Lewis is very gifted and skilful driver but please remember what Lewis said after the 2nd or 3rd GP of this year ” The Red Bulls have amazing grip and it’s in a different league to the McLaren’s ” and in reality the McLaren lads have raced really well BUT the Red Bull’s have only just stopped trying to throw away the championship with their clearly superior car. I don’t think the McLaren suits Jenson’s driving skills – I think a Ferrari or RB would suit JB better – Lewis can use anything – even if its got square wheels!

      5. Nando says:

        The red bulls have been poor of the start lately, it was probably more than 50/50 that Hamilton would of been in 2nd by the first corner from 3rd on the grid.
        Then it would of been tricky for Red Bull to get back infront of Hamilton with a safe overtake near impossible once his front-wing starts misbehaving. Webber would of had to go one lap longer, the hard tyres were significantly quicker after the out-lap iirc, and put in a stellar lap.

      6. devilsadvocate says:

        exactly RickeeBoy, both Bull drivers pretty much admitted that they were jogging in order to save tires and cars while it appeared everyone else was going flat out to keep them within reach. Vettel opened up a gap really quick on the whole field and then pretty much kept it even with Webber till the flag. Not the same case as Alonso’s win in Singapore where he had Vettel all over his back like a rabid monkey and drove the whole race at 10/10ths. It would have been sweet but irresponsible if Redbull had just run the score up in Japan just to really twist the knife to all the flexiwing critics, although perhaps not wanting to call too much attention.

        I think they go into the last 3 with a definite Ace up their sleave

      7. Martin says:

        Hi Luke,

        I’ll offer a couple of thoughts.
        1. The overall downforce level of the McLaren has increased to be closer to the Red Bulls, (counterbalancing the Red Bulls F-duct straightline gains), and this loads the tyres more, increasing wear.
        2. The blown diffuser, while increasing downforce, may have shifted the aero balance and this is wearing the tyres more.
        3. McLaren has changed its suspension philosophy to be more like 2007-2009 where the tyres heat up quickly. This year’s car favoured tyre life (despite its hard suspension) in a similar way to the Ferraris in 2007-2009, to the deteriment of qualifying performance.

        I suspect there may be a mix of all three of these. In Singapore we saw a strong example of this. The hard springs hurt traction and this contributed to the tyre wear that caused the sliding.

  5. Brent McMaster says:

    Button looked timid in the run to turn 1, he seemed to hook up and get a good start, just didn’t claim his ground like the other 4 contenders do.

    1. Stevie P says:

      Japan: JB enters turn one (completely) in-front of Alonso, exits behind him. Singapore: approaches turn one in-front of Hamilton, concedes the corner to Lewis. There have been times when JB’s been forceful, but I feel he has a little bit too much respect for the other contenders.

      1. Jonathan says:

        Button was blocked by Webber which allowed Alonso to get back ahead; if he’d have gone across they would have both been out.

      2. Stevie P says:

        Yeah… I found a clip of the start (from the outside of turn one looking back across towards the “snake”) and you can see Webber move out wider (which he’s perfectly entitled to do) to take a later apex and Alonso move forward on a tighter inside line… close stuff. I still feel JB was showing a tad too much respect.

    2. iceman says:

      I suspect he thought Alonso was still partly alongside him going into turn 1, and stayed wide to avoid getting tagged. I bet he’ll be kicking himself if he’s watched a replay and seen how far ahead of Alonso he actually was at that point.
      Quite possibly Hamilton in the same position would have thought to hell with it, and taken the apex anyway; which of course is why Hamilton scored zero in Singapore.

  6. Jonathan says:

    On the other hand his driving style has left him just a handful of points shy of Lewis and he’s not made any mistakes of his own on the track which have led to retirement. McLaren need to deliver a stronger car next year if they stand any chance of winning championships again.

    1. David says:

      and that is the entire point… McLaren need to deliver a car that it more than just marginally competitive.

    2. ZR Leigh says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more Jonathan!

      1. Richard Mee says:

        I agree also. At the moment the MacLaren is just not quite on the level of the Red Bull. And they’ve really run out of chances this year – if they win either championship it will be lady luck to thank more than anyone else. I suspect (hope) they’re quietly shifting full focus to the 2011 car already.
        Jenson’s strategy choice looked more like trying to end the season ahead of Lewis than trying to end it ahead of Webber/Vettel.

  7. Luke Robbins says:

    I think JB was trying to be ‘too clever’ here. Obviously the Mclaren had no response to the Red Bulls and JB knew the only way he could get close to them would be on strategy. It didn’t work and as you point out he would have fared better if he had been conventional.

    As the race developed however, I was willing for them to keep JB out in order to slow up the Red Bulls and let Alonso and Hamilton catch them, in hindsight this would have been disasterous given Hamiltons gear box problems.

    At the end of the day however, Mclaren and their drivers wont lose the title due to tactics, they will not win it simply because they lost the development race.

    1. Luke A says:

      I think it’s not even too clever, it’s just a gamble, which is exactly what all his other supposed ingenious decisions have been in the past. The point is that he generally can’t win a race or beat Hamilton on out and out pace and thus he has to take risks. Sometimes they pay off, sometimes they don’t/

  8. Nathan says:

    Another thing that has been largely ignored is that when Button was on fresh soft tyres late in the race, he didn’t put any pressure on Alonso at all, he was consistently a few seconds away from him.

    James, do you think someone else in that position like Hamilton or Alonso would allow their competitor to be 3-4 seconds ahead of them when they had the better tyres and just as fast a car?

    I, for one, cannot imagine Hamilton or Alonso not putting pressure on the driver ahead in such an advantageous position.

    For me that is the main reason why Button will never be an “elite” driver. He’s very good, and has his strengths, but he’s not got the game to beat the very best.

  9. Matt says:

    I think hindsight is a wonderful thing, but even during the race I (and it seems the commentators) thought this might just pay off. He’s made strange tyre calls in the past that have won him Grand Prix – this one just didn’t pay off. It’s a massive shame he couldn’t put in the lap times when he needed to, but he seemingly didn’t have the pace on the hard tyres in the end.

    I actually wonder if it would have been better to let him back up the red bulls for longer – at least giving his team mate (and alonso) a chance of catching up to them. Obviously a Ferrari win would have meant less points for red bull in the constructors.

  10. Ross Brawn was interviewed on the Saturday and he gave a good reasoned explanation as to why starting on the hard tyre was not a good strategy even if the softs only lasted 10-12 laps. He said it was only a good strategy if a driver had qualified out of position as in much lower than he would expect to be.

    I think Button’s gamble was not timid, just a bit desperate. I think he felt he couldn’t beat the Red Bull’s using the same strategy so this was the only other thing he could do.

    1. iceman says:

      I agree, desperate is exactly what it was. The McLarens both needed to beat the Red Bulls to stay in the title fight, which they were clearly never going to do on pace alone. Any position behind Vettel and Webber, whether 3rd, 4th or 5th, was going to put the Macs pretty much out of contention, as they both now are.

  11. Adam says:

    as RickeeBoy says, everyone thought that the Option tyres would go off by around lap 12 but the early safety car meant that they lasted much longer than expected a removed the advantage from Buttons strategy.

    It was a gamble, as were Buttons much praised tyre decisions earlier in the season, but this one didn’t pay off.

    1. Grabyrdy says:

      And also it was hotter than they thought, so the track rubbered in more quickly. Jenson has won good points this year by trying a different strategy. This time it didn’t work.

      By the way, why did the safety car stay out for 3 laps longer than necessary ? It’s not the first time.

  12. Ben G says:

    I see it more than JB took a gamble to go for the win. It didn’t work, but I see it as an attacking option from someone who knew he had a mountain to climb in terms of points.

    Of course, if Vettel hadn’t robbed him of 18 points at Spa…

    1. James Allen says:

      There was no way he could win by starting fifth on hard tyres, compared to the Red Bulls.

      1. Mark Edwards says:

        Unless the options had a massive drop off in the early stages James, which given the realtive performance of both cars would have been the only way to have beaten the RB’s-think about it!

      2. James Allen says:

        Yes, but they weren’t trying to beat the Bulls, that’s the point

      3. RickeeBoy says:

        James, there was no way he was going to beat the Bulls … irrespective of tyres, irrespective of qualification position ….. Let’s face it … even if the Bulls were behind the McLaren’s on the grid – I could see them getting past.

      4. James Allen says:

        Exactly. It says that in the story if you read it. But the point is that from P3 on the grid Kubica jumped Webber for P2 at the start. Button could have done the same. Whether he’d have been able to hold onto it is a different matter.

      5. Voyager says:

        I think he was going for 3rd.

      6. RickeeBoy says:

        James,

        I do 100% agree with you in the sense that you advocate in your column “Jenson does need to display more aggression” as without that aggression he’ll never be a true winner. I believe Jenson’s strategy is his way to match what suits his style more … ( A bit like Prost ) it’s not what I admire in a driver but it suits him. I think overall JB has driven very well this year in a difficult car for his style.

      7. BMG says:

        James, my view on Button’s Strategy was that his job was to hold up the pack when everyone else had pitted. This would give Hamilton a fighting chance to try and overtake Alonso and Webber and it looked like it was starting to work until Hamilton had gear box problems.

        While Mclaren will not say it, I think they where already pooling there resources behind Hamilton and Button’s job was to support the Team goal.

        This will not happen at Redbull until Vettel is leading the championship.

    2. richie675 says:

      Absolutely – the 18 points from Spa is the only point-losing incident from all the main contenders that is absolutely not his fault.

      I’m not a huge Jenson fan but his way of racing is slightly different to the pack and has resulted in being just 3 points shy of the all out racer of Lewis, despite the Spa incident. I disagree with James above, I think a successful alternate strategy is the only way Jenson could have won. Just not this time!

      1. Bruce Hoult says:

        The Spa incident didn’t only cost Jensen 18 points. It also gave Mark 3 or 6 points more than he would otherwise have got — let’s say 6 points with Seb in front of him too, and Seb would have got 15.

        That would put the current points at:

        Vettel: 221
        Webber: 214
        Button: 207
        Alonso: 206
        Hamilton: 192

        That’s a 29 point spread vs the 31 point spread we actually have now.

      2. Galapago555 says:

        I bet we will finish calling this the “What if” season. So many different things if Alonso did not jump the start… if Seb and Mark didn’t crash in Turkey… and so on.

      3. James Allen says:

        I think that’s a very valid point. It’s been a year when no-one has really strung a consistent run together. Webber is the most consistent (ironically, given how inconsistent he used to be) and that’s why he’s leading.

      4. Brace says:

        What about that thing in Monaco when they forgot to remove cover from his radiator? :)

      5. Rubbish Dave says:

        And what if Hamiltons car hadn’t broken at Spain, Hungary and Japan? Or the fault with the gearbox recognised while it could’ve been changed for a new one and so not earning the penalty. Or if the contact with Webber had only been slightly different, allowing Hamilton through safely yet taking out Webber?

        Or what if Vettels Engine hadn’t gone wrong in Bahrain? Or his wheel in Australia? Or not had the accident in Belgium, remembering, of course, that Button was going to change his wing at the pitstops with Vettel, Kubica and Webber and probably Massa all close enough to take advantage of the long pit stop.
        . etc etc.

        What ifs are pointless, and I’d say Button is far from the most unlucky of the 5 or them, with only 2 DNFs and one of them from a not particulary high position at a circuit with little overtaking.

  13. Rungs says:

    Nice analysis, but I think I also disagree about Button ‘whimping out’.

    He was miles behind in the championship before the race and he knew he needed big points to be in with a chance of staying in contention – especially considering the Red Bull-friendly nature of the remaining circuits.

    I think he realised he needed to take a big gamble, think outside the box, and go for the win. He was clearly not going to win by racing the Red Bulls under the same conditions – they were so much faster in practise – so he tried to do something different.

    I agree that he could maybe have gotten third had he gone into Q3 on soft tyres – but even third wouldn’t have been enough. He needed to win.

    1. Anthony Marte says:

      And he didnt, and didnt even come 3rd. So James is right, it was a timid strategy.

      1. Dave Deacon says:

        Timid would have been not to try. It’s all right all of this speculation. But it might have come off for him at atime when he needs to take risks to stay in the fight. For a start the Bulls have history of tangling, not finishing races, etc. There were lots of reasons to take the gamble. Looking back now it’s easy to say this and that etc but who knew at the time?

  14. Kirk says:

    I also disagree James – I think Jenson went for a different and risky strategy with a view that this (if it had paid off) was his only chance of winning the race.

    He (or anyone else for that matter) couldnt beat the Red Bulls on pace so the only hope was to qualify maybe 4th with the hard tyres, then see if the softs would struggle big time as has happened in the past and lose a lot of time after say 12 laps, when he would close up on them, maybe even pass them on track. And then only use his set of soft tyres at the end of the race when the track had rubbered in.

    As it turned out he missed 3rd on the grid by a very small margin (so brilliant lap from him in qualy anyway) and the tyre gamble went totally against him as the softs worked well all race long. If Button had played it safe and gone with the rest he would have been 3rd on the grid and by the end of the race at best – so 4th or 5th is neither here or there from that as Red Bulls were 1st, 2nd – but at least he tried something different, that could have given him 2nd or maybe even a win with a bit of luck. It just didnt work out as he (and many others in fact) had expected it to with regards tyre degradation. Now he needs big points and some bad luck for the Red Bulls to get back on the title race – not easy with Ferrari and Kubica mixing in with McLaren.

  15. An interesting theory, and well argued, but the idea that Button would ever have beaten Webber – no matter whether he jumped him at the start – is a marginal one at best.

    The Red Bulls were far too quick for anyone at Suzuka, and were Button ahead Webber would have jumped him in the pits with a brisk in lap and decent pit stop just like Alonso/Ferrari did at Monza.

    That leaves third place, at best, which was the difference between 28 and 31 – not a massive difference. Being the furthest out of all the contenders, Button knew he needed a big result and he gambled on the soft tire graining.

    So I’d take the opposite view. It was a ballsy gamble from a driver who knew that, all things being equal, he was driving the third fastest car with four races to go. If he continued “just driving around…to get a result” as you put it, he’d just fade away. If the strategy, a outside bet as it was, had paid off he might have put himself right back in the mix. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but to call the move timid I find it hard to agree with.

    1. Kez says:

      If you’d read the article, James quoted Eddie Irvine for the “Just driving round..” comment

      1. I did read the article, thank you, and enjoyed the opinion – hence why I replied. My oversight, but in fairness it’s not a direct quote but a paraphrase and I assume James shares the view, otherwise why mention it?

  16. Ciprian says:

    actually I took Jenson`s defence on many occasions but I agree on the point of “lack of aggresivity” – it might turn out to be a flaw sometimes, now pretty much being the wrong time. But earlier in the year – James – you (too) saw that as a quality. so what’s it gonna be after all ?;)
    Anyway, I am sorry for him seeing out of contention. Even if he would have started third, I doubt he would have been able to hold charges of Alonso, let alone Webber.

    1. James Allen says:

      No, I think earlier in the year I was praising his racing brain. It’s tough to criticise decisions drivers make in a split second, but ones they make with plenty of data and time are different

  17. Neil Donnell says:

    I agree James, it appears as if Jenson is still stuck in the ‘steady’ mindset that was required when he was closing out last years championship.

    The chasing pack should be getting as high on the grid as possible and try to make some positions into the 1st corner.

    RBR racing have been slow off the line all year and Vettel & Webber are acutely aware that they need to finish every race so could concede positions quite easily. In some ways Lewis has had the right mentality…

  18. Steve J says:

    Interesting piece, James. I think, overall, you might well be right in your analysis. But I’d argue there is a case to say that Button trying something different on strategy, particularly at this time in the championship, was actually a bold move. Sure, it didn’t pay off, but had it done so we’d now be applauding Button the master strategist as we did in Australia.

    Perhaps Button’s decision could have been driven by a desire to do something game-changing. Red Bull looked unbeatable in Japan. 3rd was the best to hope for – which would lose him more ground in the championship. If Red Bull’s soft tyres (and those of Alonso, Hamilton and Kubica) disintegrated on a green track, Button might have had a chance to win the race. A win was only possible by trying something different. Had he pulled it off, he’d have thrust himself right back into the heart of the title battle, instead of falling ever further off the championship lead.

  19. Danny says:

    Surely you can only play the percentages game if you have lead to protect, absolutely no point in my view trying to play the percentages whilst also playing catch up.

  20. SK says:

    To Daniel:

    Button has lost points due

    -At Monaco, with failure due to the enginer overwarming
    -Vettel crashing on him in Belgium

    Both of these incidents were entirely NOT his fault, compared to some of the incidents Hamilton was involved.

    So if he is still just below Hamilton in the points, probably has to do with incident that he could have not influence.

    1. I agree, though Hamilton did have that wheel failure earlier in the season (I forget where). It’s all part of the game really.

  21. Jaco says:

    Button was far behind going into this race. Best scenario starting on the hards – winning the race (very unlikely, but still). Best scenario starting on the softs – 2nd (also very unlikely, 4th is more likely). Even a 2nd place would have left him 22 points behind – a long way with 3 races remaining.

  22. Silverstone79 says:

    Quite a tough assesment of JB there James !

    I do not have the data or time to study it, so I must presume you are accurate in your view of Jensons performance in Japan. Maybe he felt that the Redbulls were out of sight anyway and that the only way to get on the podium was to do something different.

    I seem to recall that in the prerace build up thery were talking of changing to hard tyres after only 10 laps or so due to the green track…if that had been the case then JB would have been on the right tyre for much longer. As it turned out (again!) the Bridgestone is a stubbornly durable tyre.

    Excellent analysis though as ever and I enjoyed reading it…..not sure Jenson will though !

    PS – Joe Saward was having a pop at you (no names mentioned) on his blog for not attending all the races and that good insight only comes from being there….don’t know if you were in Japan or not but if you were not there I think that posts such as this one prove that Joe is not entirely accurate don’t you ! – Have a good trip to Korea !

    1. Curro says:

      A long time ago I saw JS insulting (!) people posting in his own blog…

    2. Lockster says:

      At least James’s blogs are actually talking about f1 rather than who he bumped into abu dhabi airport lounge or drivelling on about bad Internet at hotels. Anyone who knows james’s voice knows that he goes to most races because he does many of the post race interviews with the top 3 drivers, but even if he didn’t actually go to the races, his journalism is still lightyears ahead. If you want rumours and commentary about travel logistics, another blog is your place, if you want Thoughtful race analysis and technical explanations…

  23. Scott says:

    James,

    Have you seen Christian Horner’s quotes on crash.net about McL using JB as a roadblock for LH’s benefit? Give any credence to that view?

    1. James Allen says:

      McL say they’d never do that. There’s plenty of banter between RB and McL at the moment!

      1. Martin B says:

        It’s really amusing to see Horner winding up Whitmarsh on the BBC from time to time. Sometimes I get the impression that Whitmarsh really wants to lamp him.

        It would be interesting to know if these two got on behind the scenes. Or is there a “mutual respect” between professionals?

      2. James Allen says:

        Yes, they work together with FOTA, of course. There is always banter between competitors and established teams like McLaren and Ferrari always give new kids entering their turf some stick. But it’s far more friendly than it was say between Todt and Dennis.

      3. Rabbit Leader says:

        James,

        “But it’s far more friendly than it was say between Todt and Dennis.”

        Does n’t bode well for McLaren then if he’s the new FIA President. I wonder if that was one of the reasons why Max decided to back him?

  24. Gibby says:

    What about buttons lack of fight of the line recently? He had Lewis of the line in Singapore then let him through on the first corner and did the same in Japan with Fernando.

    His season has been fairly timid, I can’t remember seeing him actually race someone at any point. Consistantly average.
    Had Hamilton not had so many errors and mishaps there would be a major points differance between them. The performance gulf between the McClaren drivers is not evident in the current points standings.

  25. monjimike says:

    Hamilton and Button combined makes an almost perfect driver,…

    Nice read.

  26. Mark Edwards says:

    Largely agree with your article with the benefit of hindsight, and lets not forget how easy it is to be wise after the event!

    I was unsure about how that tyre strategy would play out, and I think JB looked at it knowing that RB’s had pace to burn and even if he’d jumped one or both RB’s at the start on either tyre they would have covered him easily in the pit-stops as their pace was immense throughout!

    So he pretty much thought I won’t beat the RB’s all things being equal, the track is green, I like the prime tyre on full tanks, we have good pace on both tyres to finish 3rd, so lets go with it and hope the options degrade, I might then get a crack at the front 2.

    As the options didn’t degrade, 3rd was still very doable for JB starting on either tyre and for me where he was at fault was at the start. After doing the hard bit and getting ahead of Alonso, he then left the door open for him to re-take the position at turn 2.

  27. Carlos E Del Valle says:

    Congrats for the nice explanation James. I would like to mention the start, In which he seemed to have passed Alonso but simply was not aggressive enough and was passed back by Alonso on turn two.

  28. nash says:

    Thanks James, good to see the analysis on the choice for hard tire during qualy, and what could have been if he had chosen the soft tire.

    But perhaps it should be emphasized more that its “Button side of the garage” making the wrong call instead of “Button” himself?

    I am surprised that a team like Mclaren does not have the “foresight” for what we can only conclude in hindsight.

    Where is all the simulations in this? MTC is supposed to be providing simulations of tactics during the race, don’t they not?

    Perhaps the simulations showed that Button on soft tire would not be a match for Alonso, so he opted for the hard tire, just because he felt more comfy with it…

    But the key question is: where is Mclaren strategy planning dept. in all of this?

  29. Bec says:

    Do you think there’s anything in Christian Horner’s Button was McLaren’s “sacrificial lamb” aside?

    Or is he just giving Whitmarsh back a bit of his destabilising medicine?

  30. earnst says:

    i think one of the reason why mclaren team sent Button out to qualify with hard tyres was also related with the penalty of Hamilton.

    It seems to me they didnt want to Button qualify ahead of Hamilton who already have to go back 5 places, so they decided to try something different with Button (may be a calculated gamble)which at the end didnt work so well.

    redbull drives also tried something similar with hard tyres back at Canadian race which hadnt work as well.

  31. Kenny Carwash says:

    Before the race I thought it might work out for him. Tyre degradation had been very high in qualifying: one reason why Button qualified when he did was because he did two flying laps in Q3, expecting the hard tyres to switch on for the second lap when in fact they started to go off. That meant he wasn’t able to get a lap with optimal tyres and low fuel and he could perhaps have outqualified Hamilton had he done a single flying lap.

    I don’t agree that Button isn’t aggressive enough. It’s something he can turn on when he needs it but aggression doesn’t help in every situation. As for being adventurous, he’s made some brave strategy and setup calls this season and been rewarded for them. I do wonder if that coloured his decisions in Japan and he became a bit too convinced that one should zig when the others zag. I wonder if perhaps Jenson thought that by being clever, he could get ahead of one or both of the Red Bulls, whereas a strategy aimed squarely at securing 3rd might have been more effective.

    Hopefully he can chalk this one up to experience. Had the tyres degraded like the had in the morning, or if there hadn’t been an early safety car period to gently rubber the track in, then Button might’ve been laughing but the race showed quite clearly that the best strategy is often to simply be the fastest you can be.

  32. Mark Smith says:

    Mmm

    He gambled – it didn’t work. It did in oz and china but not in Japan.

    You say he played it cautious, I say the very opposite, he needed a big result the only chance he had was if the options dropped off early doors – they didnt and once he let Alonso off the hook at the start 4th was the best he was going to do!

    Seems like you like a bit of jenson bashing whenever you get the chance!

  33. Alexx says:

    Hi James,

    What effect do you think the safety car had on Buttons strategy compared to the soft runners?

    Cheers for a great site!

    1. James Allen says:

      Just pushed everything back a few laps

  34. Crys says:

    It was a gamble that didn’t pay off, but what we can’t know for sure, is how much difference the safety car made. If there hadn’t been a safety car, or if JB had pitted under the safety car, the race could have been very different. Sadly, no one is psychic, and they couldn’t have predicted how the race started, or how much better the performance of the soft tyres would be on a racetrack that had so recently been washed clean.

  35. Rene says:

    Hindsight is great. If things had gone Button’s way, everyone would have applauded him as the brilliant ‘thinking man’s champion’, having once again made the right strategy call in defiance of his team (which is aggressive, in a way). He probably expected to be much quicker in the race, being only 0.2′s off in qualifying. No matter, I still think Vettel will win in the end…

    James, a quick question: I am planning to go to my first every live race in two weeks and would love to get your opinion on where to sit – is it better to sit on the straight and see the cars at speed, or near a corner and hope for some overtaking? This is a golden opportunity for me (I am from South Africa, and only started watching after we lost our race) and I want to make the most of it.

    Thank you very much for the blog – I look forward to reading it every day!

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks. Depends what series you are watching. I’d go for a mains stand seat, but you can usually walk around to see the corners too,

    2. RickeeBoy says:

      Rene,
      I loved the corners – braking zones, mid and exits – Once your eyes became accustomed then you could tell which driver who was a superb braker, a superb mid corner and superb exit speed Merchant as you can see the car slightly oversteering or understeering and the driver who nails it perfectly and then you fall in love with the driver who does it every lap and anywhere on the track. ( bit impossible these days on fast corners at GP’s) – IMO I never saw the appeal of the straight other than getting a very sore neck by the end of race. (At GP’s you get a very sore neck on corners just trying to keep up with cars and back for the next one (like tennis) so bear this in mind. Enjoy !

      1. RickeeBoy says:

        Rene,
        PS- If you watched Kobayashi at the hairpin then you could see his superb style of gaining anything up to car length on others and fighting like mad – It’s also the passion of recognising “Your Driver” the driver you love (not necessarily the winner as they could be young or a driver driving a complete donkey but you still love them.)

  36. Rafael says:

    No offense to Button-fans, but my issue with Jenson this year is that his approach seems to be hit-and-run: As if he knows deeply he isn’t as good as Hamilton/Vettel/Alonso and is simply satisfied to finish close to them and get lucky on certain days. Also, i personally think he needs to start making himself more adaptable. Right now, the perception is he can only win with a winning car. Whereas an Alonso, a Schumacher or a Hamilton can win with a half-decent one.

    I’m not his biggest fan, but I would sure like to see him prove his point and that his championship in ’09 wasn’t just a fluke, wherein he only won because he had a dominant car at the start of the season and that all the top talents were in uncompetitive machinery.

  37. Augusto Baena says:

    James,

    This statement: “He questioned the decision to leave him out so long, but the maximum gap he ever held over Hamilton was at the start of that stint and was just 17 seconds, which wasn’t enough to pit and keep his position. There was a big gap behind Hamilton and Button was always going to slot into it, whenever he pitted.”

    is incorrect.

    Hamiltons gaps vs Button were:
    L 22: 3.2s
    L 23: 21.s (Hamilton had pitted)
    L 24: 20.6
    L 25: 18.4s

    They were losing about 18s per pitstop, and it was clear at that moment from both Button and Hamilton’s performance that the gamble wouldn’t pay-off with respect to Hamilton, let alone Alonso or the Red Bulls. It was clear for anyone who watches the race with one eye on the timing sheets, as I (and most of us here, I guess) do.

    His logical choice would have been pitting on lap 24, exiting pits in front of Hamilton, and covering himself from a SC risk. Perhaps he could have tried to push like hell and stay out a couple more laps, but not more than that. He could even use his softs on empty tanks to try to charge up and put some pressure on Alonso (think Kobayashi). He would only have needed to do 29 laps on softs, which should be easy considering Hamilton (who is harsher on the tyres) had made the best of softs for 24 laps with full tanks and a very remarkable rythm.

    The more I look at it, the more I believe Button’s team decisions as events unfolded were not a gamble that hadn’t payed-off, or risk hedging, it was an orchestrated strategy to allow Hamilton overtake him without triggering a scandal, with the potential side benefit of holding the RBR and Alonso for Hamilton to come. And Button’s post-race reaction seems to confirm it (“To stay out when everyone else pitted was probably the wrong thing. Maybe you should cover the people that you are racing and we didn’t do that.”)

    Regards

    Augusto

    1. RickeeBoy says:

      Thanks Augusto, Everything you say makes sense and I have to agree with you. So can we assume a bit of 1 and 2 driver being displayed ????

      1. Augusto Baena says:

        I don’t think it was a pre-race decision. My intuition is that MW allowed JB to gamble, but decided to put all the eggs on Hamilton’s basket when Jenson’s gamble didn’t pay-off by extending his 1st stint beyond logic with 2 objectives: (a) to swap positions, so that LH ended up above JB to improve Ham’s chances in the DWC and (b) to sandwich the RBR and Alonso, holding them up for Hamilton to arrive and attack. Then Lewis’ gearbox failed and the rest is history.

  38. J. Singh says:

    Webber commented earlier that in a normal, dry race Button has never been a challenger. I would agree with Irvines comments also.

    1. Kaz says:

      Well in that case Mark needs to take a look back at Monza.

      It was dry. Mark qualified P4 and went backwards. Jenson qualified P2 and was P1 from the start and only lost it due to the slow thinking of the pit wall…

      Never a challenger in the dry indeed. Short memories! ;-)

      1. GarryT says:

        You seem to miss the crucial fact in your arguement that the Mclaren was suited to Monza were as the RB was not.

        Other than Monza has Jenson in the dry this year been fighting for the lead in any race

      2. Kaz says:

        My comment wasn’t really a RB vs Mclaren comment, rather just stating the fact that he was challenging at that race. In the dry.

        Whether the car was suitable or not, that’s no reason to discount his performance as not validly challenging. The bulls are faster at all sorts of tracks (due to the very same suitability) and we don’t discount their performances do we?

        Anyway, I don’t agree with your core argument that the Mclaren was particularly stellar at Monza. The Ferrari was almost certainly faster, and in a standard low-downforce Monza setup with an apparently superior driver in Lewis at the wheel, the best it could manage in qualifying was 5th.

        Jenson opted for a high downforce setup which was once again contrary to the rest of the field. That’s how he challenges, and that’s where his experience comes in to it’s own.

        I always watch all of the sessions on a grand prix weekend, and for me Friday practice at Monza was particularly enlightening. In a high downforce package with the kind of stability that JB clearly likes, Lewis couldn’t touch him. That’s not a negative against Lewis, just a reminder that it’s important for all drivers to be using a setup that suits their style. Once Lewis switched to low downforce in the FPs, he was faster than Button, but then didn’t manage it in qualifying and aborted the race rather too early to provide anymore useful information.

        Anyway, I guess we’ll see on the track, but for me all of the signs are looking good for Mark Webber to eat his words regarding JBs competitiveness in the forthcoming races.

        JB seems very happy with the stability of the car, upgrades are still coming, and the next races should play to the strength’s of the Mclaren.

        MW on the other hand, is just going to find himself under more and more pressure. – Alonso’s on the rampage, and Vettel is a faster driver in the same equipment and with very little respect for his elders! ;-)

  39. Kaz says:

    Interesting analysis James.

    I (being a Button fan! ;- ) ) am going to disagree on the whole point of whether he was adventurous enough or not though.

    The safe and non-adventurous option would have been to do what all the teams and drivers do, and that is qualify and start on the soft tires. Then it’s purely down to race strategy, the car, and the driver. That would have been a pretty safe bet as far as far as managing to hold on to your qualifying position goes, but wouldn’t have been a go out and win the championship type move. I’m sure he didn’t go this route after remembering what happened in Monza with Alonso. What point is it running just in front of the faster bulls if the same thing happens again around the pit stops when they get clear air?

    I think Button knew that he didn’t have the pace to challenge the bulls, and so made a bigger gamble instead. It wasn’t clear cut that the hards would be better at the start of the race, and as it turns out, they weren’t. As mentioned above, he didn’t want a repeat of Monza, and whilst it was a risky plan, the upside would have been huge had it paid off. It would have been a totally different proposition, and no one else in the field would have been able to touch him (had their softs disintegrated!).

    I’m inclined to come to the complete opposite of your conclusion. Doing Q3 on hard tires showed that he clearly had enough faith in his own pace to do that. Instead of settling for a probable third, he went all out for the win with a risky strategy.

    It didn’t pay off unfortunately, showing there’s a fine line between hero and zero.

    Oh, and an interesting digression to remind you how wise Eddie Irvine is:

    “Lewis is going to murder Jenson”

    Hah. Jenson’s got another two seasons at Mclaren to win the championship again.

    The thing that everyone has overlooked, is that Jenson has every chance of beating his team mate this year on points. In his FIRST year at Mclaren.

    What is it they say? The first driver you have to beat is your team mate.

    Anyway, that’s why he went to Mclaren in the first place. To take on Lewis and improve the value of his stock, which so many devalued after he took the championship with Brawn.

    ;-)

    1. RickeeBoy says:

      Yip have to agree with all you have written and honestly think Lewis has been in this crazy driving mode all year knowing he never had the car to really beat the other two. (Let’s face it the McLaren looks a pig to drive and it also doesn’t suit JB’s driving style )

      1. Stevie P says:

        I feel that Lewis hasn’t been in “crazy driving mode” all year… I feel there have been times when he’s been patient and gone for points rather than trying banzai moves (gleaning something from Button’s approach perhaps); latterly in the championship I feel Lewis has returned to “crazy driving mode” (especially Monza!) when he was in a great championship position to simply pick up points, remain in the hunt, until they reached a more McLaren biased track… but you wouldn’t want Lewis to lose that aggression\desire to win and make places, because that’s why he’s sooooo good to watch.

  40. michael grievson says:

    Button is a very good driver and he’s done well this season. However he does lask the killer instinct that makes Hamilton and Vettel etc great to watch. Although he did do it in Brazil last year he needs to be more aggressive.

    The suprise this year is how well the tyres have been and no one has really lost out so it was a gamble that he didn’t need to take

  41. Ciprian says:

    On other notes, much more interesting lately are happenings in red bull backyard. so I get from the media Vettel is a “fully relaxed smiley” while “Mark is elluding journalist”, possibly out of not-so-well-coping-with-the-pressure.
    hmm, pressure is there no question, but other than that…cannot really buy these things.
    what you got James?

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll have to tell you in Korea.

    2. Albevo says:

      Lee McKenzie’s blog from Japan doesn’t agree with that, seems pretty relaxed to me:

      “When I was recording the links for the highlights show, I was almost at the end when Championship leader Mark Webber ran over and shouted into my mic “Is she doin’ a good job?” whilst shaking my shoulders. Now if this had been live it would have been great but sadly it just sounded like I had been attacked by an Australian hooligan so we had to record the whole thing again! Bloomin’ drivers! But for me it was lovely that Mark, other drivers and people in the F1 paddock were interested in how I got on.”
      http://www.leemckenzie.tv/full_story.asp?pageref=65

      1. Ciprian says:

        yes, now were talkin…thx Albevo, so I got her on my bookmarks.
        still waitin though for James view on red bull “internal affairs”

  42. Mark Crooks says:

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, the fact that he had the second fastest laptime on the softs proves he was on the wrong tyre for the majority of the race.

    He did gamble but he gambled on a number of factors falling into place rather than going with the facts that he had in front of him at the time.

    1. Chris says:

      JB was able to set very fast times on the soft because he pitted much later, therefor having the faster tyre available to him when the car was lighter on fuel. So it’s not really a fair indicasion of pace.

  43. frogjim says:

    I think button knew he couldnt win the race, as the red bulls were so fast so he tried a strategy that might of made a difference, if it worked then he might of got a good podium result, if it didnt he wudnt of lost much.

    In many ways to stick with the same strategy that the other drivers in the top ten did was the “safe” option. The easy option is to go with the crowd and no stick your neck out.

    I think high downforce strategy at monza and the strategy at japan were both good ideas and showed someone who is willing to try ideas to beat faster cars. Sticking to the same strategies as the faster cars will never get you ahead of them.

    Btw i dont really think the two different tyre compounds have made much difference really i would prefer to let the drivers decide what tyres they want to use and if they want to pit at all….

    1. Samuel says:

      Faster ‘drivers’ I would say….as the Ferrari has been pretty much equal to the McLaren’s all year in performance.

  44. Matt H says:

    I would reason that were there not a safety car, the choice of starting on hards would have paid off for Jenson, it was a reasonable assumption that he’d never beat the Red Bulls on sheer pace so he tried to out fox them ( a la Prost ). It is in fact ballsier than just just using the same strategy in a car known to be slower than the Red Bull and just cruising round to collect third place IMO as he was risking the solid third for the win.

    Essentially it all boiled down to there being a safety car or not and the fact there was screwed his slim chance and made the gamble look a bit silly in hindsight.

  45. Pete Doughty says:

    Perhaps Button was hedging his bets. On balance, he generally dosnt do as well in Qualifying as Hamilton/Alonso/Vettel. So maybe he was factoring in that ‘like for like’ those 3 championship rivals would all be ahead of him on Soft tyres anyway. Therefore he was trying something ‘different’ – like he has earlier in the season with tyre choices at various stages of races.

    he tends generally to make up ground in the races – and his logic for using hard tyres earlier in the race, when the softs might ‘go off’ was sound. Unfortunately for him, the softs didnt go off that quickly – and the hards didnt really work for him.

    It could also be seen as Maclaren splitting their strategy.

    James – do you think Button has benefited from his ‘smooth’ driving style this year? Lots of people claimed with full tanks of fuel that he would treat his tryes well, and benefit in races – I`m not sure we`ve really seen him gain an advantage from this……

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, we saw that in some of the races where he ran longer on the soft tyres than the others and gained.

  46. richie675 says:

    I also disagree to a certain extent. Of course, running the same soft-first strategy as the others would have meant he remained in touch both race and championship-wise, but in running hard-first he gave himself a chance to vault ahead on strategy rather than aggression – which we’ve seen this year doesn’t always bring the right result!

    Graining would surely have been a much bigger issue had there not been a safety car for about 6-7 laps allowing the soft-running cars to get further into the race.

  47. Glen says:

    I think he should have stayed out as long as he could have done with the hard tyres. Right to the last lap. He was never going to finish higher or lower than 4th at one point. So when he was in the lead he might have well as backed the Red Bulls up to Alonso.

  48. Francisco says:

    Very insteresting item….
    My reading from your item is as follows.
    The issue is deeper that this, JB is inferior driver to LH. He knows this.
    His victories have not been on merit but luck, I mean, he have not managed to dominate any race from the front row like SV, MW , FA or LH.

    He only chance is to try something different or being luckly. This time has not work out despite LH failure and RB wheel’s problem, luck was his side again. He is on back foot now, he can affort to be really adventurous or aggressive from now on. I will love to see him going for it.

  49. David Newsome says:

    JA: “It’s tough to criticise decisions drivers make in a split second, but ones they make with plenty of data and time are different”.

    I agree, and I agree with the overall point of this entry. Martin Whitmarsh should have a t-shirt saying “Jenson drove a solid race”. Solid, but unspectacular.

    1. iceman says:

      Unspectacular is underrated :) Despite the lack of spectacle, Button’s only 3 points behind Hamilton in the championship.

      The Saubers were another great example at Suzuka. Kobayashi was as spectacular as they come, while Heidfeld was the invisible man, and they finished 5 seconds apart.

      Granted in both those cases the spectacular driver is on top, but by such a small margin as to be indistinguishable from random chance.

      1. Anthony says:

        Hamilton is 3 points behind with 4 DNF & gearbox problem+penalty vs only 2 DNF of button.

  50. John Johnson says:

    It is increasingly obvious to me that Button is racing Lewis – he has given up on the defending the WDC but reasons that beating Lewis will be just as good for his reputation.

    Even though he was on the slower tyre he wasn’t going to allow Lewis by in the early laps so that Lewis could challenge Alonso and his comment afterwards that the team should have shadowed the drivers he was racing – Lewis – was very telling IMO.

    For once I actually agree with one of your articles, James :thumbsup:

    1. Samuel says:

      I actually agree with that. It appears he knows his title chances are slim at best, so now what he wants to do is beat his teammate…

    2. Richard Mee says:

      Precisely.

      JB wasn’t born yesterday. As soon as they got out to Asia after the Summer break and the big update wasn’t doing the job he would’ve known the WDC title was lost. He then shed a brief tear and immediately changed 2010 goal. The history books don’t caveat the number of DNF’s etc a driver might suffer when they list the season finishing order. He’s figuring that if he can keep bringing it home in 4th or 5th Lewis will take care of the rest by pushing too hard too often.

  51. Jo Torrent says:

    There’s something I don’t understand James. Why do you see Jenson out of the title and Lewis still with a shot !!! The problem isn’t in the 3 points, it’s rather in the 28 isn’t it ?

    1. James Allen says:

      They both have tenuous chances, don’t they?

  52. Luke A says:

    James, do you think Jenson could have won if he’d of qualified in 3rd on hard tyres. The reason I bring this up is if you remember, they sent him out to do 3 hot laps on the hard tyres and he did his fastest lap on the 1st of those. If they’d of fueled him for just a single hot lap on the hard tyres then, with that same lap, I estimate he would have been ahead of Kubica and would have started 3rd on the grid.

    Saying this, if he had only of been fuelled for 1 lap and done a poor lap or the hard tyres hadn’t of got up to temperature (which usually takes 2 – 3 laps) then everyone would be slating him and McLaren for their tactic. It’s a strange one because usually the hard tyres perform better after 2 – 3 laps. Possibly he just didn’t get in a good lap after the first?

    1. James Allen says:

      No I don’t. The Bulls were too fast.

  53. PaulL says:

    Yeah and as I mentioned previously he’s also been timid at the first corner at the last 2 races after jumping the guy ahead initially.

    His setup window always seems too small. Hamilton drives whatever he’s got harder and faster than Button. The first person you have to beat is your teammate and Button gets off the hook too easily because it’s Hamilton.

    I agree with Irvine, he drives for a result, but that’s only half the job. You’re paid to get the most out of the car you’re given and he doesnt seem to do that, he doesn’t take too many risks, he’s dare I say a true value-for-money #2 driver.

  54. Mark says:

    The temperature was high on Sunday, helped to preserve the softer tyres! As did the safety car staying out too long in my view.
    Martin Brundle thought Jenson’s gamble might pay off. Had it been cooler, had there been no safety car, Jenson would have been praised for a “Professor” like judgement!
    I admire his attempt to do something different.

    1. mtb says:

      I would have thought that higher temperatures would have worked against the softer compound and favoured the harder compound.

      1. Mark says:

        They would have grained more readily on the cooler track.

      2. Richard Mee says:

        I know it’s counter-intuitive but a colder track = more sliding and wheel spin during and out of corners = more graining of the tyres.

  55. Jo Torrent says:

    I think James that in your comments you’re right if you look only at maximising this race potentiel but if you look at it from a championship perspective I think that jenson’s decision is absolutely right.

    Jenson is in a situation where not only he’s the last among the 5 contenders but he is also the slowest among them. If he goes for a conventional strategy there’s a huge chance that most of them end ahead of him and he has a huge points deficit so his only chance of overtaking all of them is by going in an opposite direction to the other 4. If he’s wrong he’ll end 5th, not much lower than what he would have achieved with a conventional strategy. If the soft tyres grain heavily, all the other 4 will find themselves in a bad shape and he will capitalise on that by winning the race and being back in a shot for the championship. So his choice, considering he’s looking for the championship and considering his general lack of pace compared to the others, is ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT CHOICE.

    He has to gamble, the best thing he can achieve by a conventional strategy is to reduce the gap to the leader and even that isn’t sure.

    1. James Allen says:

      Why would he expect Alonso and Hamilton (with penalty) to finish in front of him if he was fast enough on soft tyre in Q2 to be ahead?

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        Because he is no match for them in race trim, there lies his main issues. He is absolutely no match for them on race trim, he can’t pull great times lap in lap out. Can he ?

        Besides, his ability to look after his tyres is of no help here because when other drivers pit before him they have a new set of tyres which is faster anyway, so he can’t capitalise on his ability to look after them. Whenever someone pits everybody has to follow and so has Jenson.

  56. Declan says:

    Completely agree James – Jenson has always gone down the contrarian route this season, and sometimes it has paid off (Melbourne perhaps being the ultimate example) and other times, it makes him look passive when he has the speed in him to make it a straight fight.

    I truly think a big part of his approach is a reaction to Lewis’ speed.

    I wasn’t watching F1 in late 80′s (first race I saw was in 1993) so I’m not sure whether Prost had the same approach against Senna – i.e. contrarian approach and trying to neutralise Senna’s speed with different strategy and concentration on race set up.

    Also – it would be great to hear your thoughts on whether Jenson was intentionally backing up the Red Bulls for Lewis!

  57. Matt Hubbert says:

    I am a big fan of Jenson but he needs to be more aggressive and look to take some risks. You can argue that by trying a different strategy he was doing but i cant really see how he thought this would work his best chance surely would have been to qualify 3rd and hope to split the Red Bulls and at least get 3rd he was never going to beat Alonso unless he qualified in front of him in my opinion.In the last 3 races he must take some risks he has nothing to lose.

    1. iceman says:

      What risk should he have taken instead? Taking the same tyre strategy as everyone else and aiming to finish in the same position you started is hardly being aggressive or taking a risk.
      Hoping to beat a Red Bull on pace alone at Suzuka would have been no less of a long shot than the tyre gamble was.

      1. James Allen says:

        Yes but surely if you have the pace to qualify and race 3rd with a chance of jumping a Red Bull at the start, that’s preferable to starting fifth on the slower tyre and hoping a chain of events brings you 3rd place..?

      2. Matt Hubbert says:

        He should have taken a risk by looking to qualify 3rd and at least have a go at splitting the Red Bulls at the start,starting on the hard tyre was never going to work in my opinion he should have been looking to qualify in front of Alonso and beating him should have been a realistic aim i agree that he would not have beaten the Red Bulls but he could have got Webber at the start.His starts are not aggressive enough he beat Alonso off the line but still lost out and the same at Singapore he gave way to Lewis too easy.All i am saying he needs to be more aggressive i can see what people are saying that by trying a differnet tyre strategy is having a go but how was this ever going to work?

  58. mayhemfunkster says:

    I am wondering whether it is more a the case that Jenson realised early in the season that he can’t beat Lewis in the Race or Quali by doing the same as Lewis because Lewis is just that little bit quicker.

    Therefore, he tends to roll the dice. This worked great in Oz and China, and has resulted in some great recovery drives into the points from poor qualifying.

    The more I think about it, the more I think it is the case that Jenson has a bit of a qualifying weakeness, and he has to attack races differently to get results. This was much the same at Brawn last year versus Rubens.

    I think he has also clocked that Lewis’ impetuous nature is a source of strengh – so he plays the restrained card, always being there when Lewis has an incident.

    I don’t think Jenson has done a lot wrong. I think the McLaren is the 3rd best car (at best) and Jenson usually gets the best out what he has in his hands.

    Lewis is busy trancending the car, which has perhaps given us all a false impression of McLaren’s true pace. Incidentally, I beleive that’s why Hamilton’s errors are becoming more evident as the car slips in competitivness, Lewis is now having to overdrive with logical consequences. That, and Lewis cannot handle it when Jenson is actually quicker. I’m sure his silly move on Massa was due to Jenson being in the lead.

    1. Andrew says:

      Excellent reading of the situation – seems to make sense

  59. jamie norman says:

    I think if we accept Jenson is slower 80% of the time, just a few 10ths off Hamilton. But if Jenson finishes the season with more points than his faster team mate, who is arguably the 2nd best driver in f1 after Alonso, he must be doing something right.

    one of the above posters called it right when he said, Button + Hamilton = Alonso

  60. Adam says:

    Another point is the team mistake in Q3. They fuelled JB for too many laps, as he said afterwards. The lighter car would have given him the edge required to qualify in front of Alonso – still on the hard tyres. Could have been interesting, even if he’d only kept Alonso back and in range for Hamilton.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not quite true. According to the team this morning, they fuelled him for two laps as he was on the hard tyre, but his second lap was slower.

  61. JohnT says:

    I actually think Button’s call was a good one. But the team should have put him on the option at the same time as everyone went on the prime tyre. The option tyre was obviously going to hold up for the remainder of the race imo as it did almost half the race with full tanks and a green track. this way he would have been on the better tyre for longer and lost less ground going slow on used primes. Poss could have caught alonso this way.

    1. JohnT says:

      seems that jenson feels the same as me in his interview on another site…. should have gone on the option tyre earlier.

  62. Andy says:

    An interesting strategy, but we saw this before in Canada with Red Bull and it didn’t work for them either.

    I know this years been different to many others, the pole sitter has not gone on to win as often as you would expect. However, qualifying as high up as possible has to be the best strategy for getting the best result from the race.

    Jenson wasn’t helped out by the early safety car, which obviously helped the option tyres last longer than expected but I still don’t think the strategy would have paid off in the end – unless he had somehow managed to jump the rest at the start.

    The problem that McLaren have is that either of their drivers could still win the championship (it’s still mathematically possible, as they’ll point out) so they won’t favour either driver in any way. If they were to favour Hamilton, he’s now their best shot at the championship, they might stand a chance.

  63. jamie norman says:

    On a different note, what do make of the Massa situation, do you think he will leave Ferarri?

    I read somewhere if you include all practice sessions, qualifying and races, he’s only been faster than Alonso 7 times. Couple that with team orders and it doesn’t seem a good place for him to be

  64. John Snow says:

    I don’t often think this James but your wrong. Button didn’t find much extra speed from the soft tyres so made a gamble, on a track where the red bull is king, over taking is tricky and a championship position where he must go for a win he had to try something different.

    Had it not been for the safety car and the track rubbering in quicker than he expected, we might be talking about another great button decision. The only other driver to make the same tyre choice was kobyashi and what a great race he had.

    1. James Allen says:

      Sorry, but you are wrong. Look at the relative pace of Button on hard tyres and Red Bulls on soft in first stint and tell me how it was going to work out?

      1. tristan says:

        anything can happen! imagine: the softs go off after 5 laps, everyone in front of button pits and comes out behind some midfielders who are already on the primes. button inherits the lead and establishes a gap to those “he is racing” as they scramble to pass the likes of heidfeld and kobayashi etc. he pits 20 laps from the end and comes out in front, on a faster tyre and employs his smooth driving to get to the flag… granted, a lot of ifs and buts… not impossible though!

      2. James Allen says:

        Yes but it’s based on what happens in practice on Friday, that gives an indication of likely wear rates

      3. iceman says:

        If it was apparent from Friday that the softs weren’t going to go off quickly, then how did Button’s side of the garage fail to see that? He said in interview that they had been expecting the softs to go off quickly. Or was he dissembling?

  65. Gary Smith says:

    At this late stage of the season Jenson needs race wins if he wants to keep the No. 1 on his car and in a straight fight neither he nor Lewis would have beaten the Red Bulls at Suzuka.

    Ok, if in Q3 JB would have chosen the soft tyre and fuelled for a single flying lap run instead of the hard tyre/three lap option he theoretically had the pace for third on the grid and could then have had a punt at the notoriously slow starting Red Bulls. But instead he gambled on the soft tyre degrading quickly on a green track and it didn’t work out for him this time.

    Given how dominant the Red Bulls had been all weekend, I’d guess the only chance anyone had of beating them would be through adopting a different strategy and not by performing a do-or-die lunge at the first corner.

    Fair play to Jenson for taking the risk and employing a different strategy and fair play to McLaren for letting him.

  66. Tim Parry says:

    In his defense, I think Button IS playing the odds because he realizes that the other contending teams stole a march on McLaren during mid season. Hamilton might be able to triumph on any given Sunday, but on the other occasions, he’s push the car beyond its limits and end up with no points. Button will find a way to get what he can out of a car that has fallen a little behind the competition.

  67. Kedar says:

    Is it because Jenson played the percentage game early in the season and had some great results that he is still cautious?
    Like Australia for example he made a brave tyre call and managed to stay out of any collisions to win the race.
    It is time the proverbial old dog learnt new tricks and he starts being a bit more aggressive like his teammate if he doesnt want to be the number 2 driver ( i mean the car number 2 or possibly 3,4,5,6 for that matter!)

  68. Jonathan says:

    Contrary to popular belief, I think Jenson WAS being aggressive. If he did what everyone did, he would (according to James) be 25 points behind Webber instead of 31 points. It sounds pretty good, but being 25 points behind isn’t much better than 31 points. Given how strong the Red Bull is at the moment, and with Alonso in the mix, a cautious strategy (start on soft tyres) would still leave him behind all his championship rivals.

    Assuming Button cut Webber’s championship lead 6 points per race, he would still end up with 7 points less than Webber. I think McLaren and Button know unless they do something extreme, or Red Bull (and Ferrari) makes a mistake (which is unlikely given their recent performance), they are not going to win the WDC with the MP4′s pure pace.

    Button took a gamble. It didn’t pay off. But that’s why it’s called a ‘gamble’. You risk being worse off for a huge payoff. You can’t be a world champion for doing what everyone else is doing when you are that far behind.

  69. D. says:

    Let’s not sugar-coat this. Button is no more (and no less) than a mediocre driver, as I have been saying all along. He lucked out last year (having a car that was a full second per lap faster than any other, for at least half the season) and won the WDC. This year, with a car that has been simply competitive, he has not done anything, as expected. Lewis has been far and away the better McLaren driver.

    I feel the same way about Webber. He is nothing more than a mediocre driver, who may luck out also this year, having had the fastest car on the grid, on almost every track. I still think the WDC will be decided between Alonso and Vettel, even w/ a 14-point gap, based on Webber’s lack of top-driver skills.

    1. James Allen says:

      No, I disagree, he’s much better than that. Just wish he’d get on the attack at this stage of the season given where he is in the championship

      1. BMG says:

        Are you referring to Webber or Button?

    2. Don Farrell says:

      Here-here – I totally agree… Webber is another old-timer that got a good car this year…. it goes to show if you hang around driving F1 cars for long enough – you’ll get a good car eventually

      I hope Alonso keeps chipping away at Red Bull’s lead! :) ha – ha

    3. Eric says:

      Of course, however, your labeling of Button and Webber as nothing but mediocre drivers doesn’t really make it so, does it?

    4. hesus says:

      Button and Webber are great drivers but not brilliant. In my view Alonso, Kubica, Rosberg and probably Hamilton in Red Bull 2010 would have taken the WDC already.

      1. Jato says:

        Yet it was Webber who beat Rosberg (even though Rosberg was in his rookie year). What if Webber retires this year with the WDC and Vettel in the future wins a couple. Where would that rank Webber then if he was the only driver to beat Vettel?

        I would like to see Kubica against a far more experienced team-mate. If Kubica had a reasonably hard time against Heidfield (IMO Webber was faster at Williams but didn’t score the points – JA’s comment about Webber in past being inconsistent) then Webber must definately be better than mediocre.

        What Kubica – like Alonso in his championship years – has is minimal mistakes with consistency along with his speed.

        Mediocre would be having a championship winning car and not being able to perform against your team-mate. Button is by no means a mediocre driver.

    5. Harv says:

      It’s ridiculous to compare Button’s situation to Webber’s. Last year Button had a superior car, and had to beat a solid consistent driver as a team mate in the twilight of his career. This year Webber has a superior car and is only 7-9 down in qualifying against a young hungry driver who is considered on raw pace alone, to be as quick as Alonso or Hamilton. To belittle Webber by saying the situation is the same only demonstrates that you hate Webber, and that’s all.

    6. richie675 says:

      I’d like to comment that neither Webber nor Vettel have capitalised on “having a car that was a full second per lap faster than any other, for at least half the season” as Button did in 09.

      Without the two retirements which were completely out of his hands this season, he would be very comfortable in the WDC standings and easily above Lewis.

      Also it’s interesting that there’s the comment on Webber being similarly “mediocre” – Vettel is still 14 points behind and he’s in exactly comparable machinery (so RB point out regularly following Silvertsone).

      It would be incredibly interesting to see JB and LH head to head in a car like the RB6, but I think both would have been able to be more consistent than the current Red Bull drivers, with such a dominating car at their disposal.

  70. Mark V says:

    I’m not defending Button but this article smacks somewhat of an exoneration of Hamilton. Lewis crashed in the two races preceding Japan AND during the first practice session ostensibly because he was being “aggressive” (as opposed to what many have described as being stupid and/or reckless). On the other hand, Jenson has a mediocre result because he is being “cautious” (rather than “smart” or “strategic”). Read with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent, I believe Jenson just got called a girlie-man.

    1. Canuck says:

      I had forgotten about the SNL skit! it may have been lost on our friends in Europe but still funny.
      James, keep writing these pieces. They keep us entertained and I think you are right to to boot.
      The 2 weeks between races go a bit faster this way.

      James: Do you think that JB will have a better chance next year in McLaren? I ask you because he may be able to influence how the car is developed. It may be that next year’s car will be better suited for him.
      In that case, this year’s performance relative to Hamilton may be deceptive…

      I’ll welcome your thoughts and your impressions from the McL garage.

      Cheers

      1. James Allen says:

        Interesting point. The cars change quite a lot next year with adjustable rear wing etc. Will be interesting to see what input JB has

      2. Mark V says:

        I was never the biggest Button fan, and I was genuinely excited when Hamilton came into the fray so I like to think my opinion has SOME balance. However, Jenson has really impressed me this year. He may not have the raw speed or aggression of Hamilton, but he has shown he is very clever and willing to claim the role as leader to determine his own destiny on the track. To me this shows as much guts as it takes to physically pass someone. Perhaps more since mental courage is not prized as much as physical courage. Lewis is no doubt brave behind the wheel but he still shows signs of being a girlie man when it comes to being a leader. Perhaps he will grow into this now that his father is out of the picture.

        For those to whom the phrase “girlie-man” is lost, here’s a clip from NBC’s Saturday Night Live in the 90′s that pretty well explains it: http://vimeo.com/7595897

  71. piotr says:

    Hi James

    Considering what Jenson said after the qualifications and by looking at the lap times in Q3, he could well qualified above Alonso and Kubica if not for misjudgement tire performance wise. He went for three timed laps stint and did his personal best on the very first one. Fuelled for two laps less he would probably gain few tenths which would give him second row on the grid and starting from there his tire strategy could well be more successful.

    As for his “timid” approach it did not surprise me really. We all remember all the criticism he took for similar race strategies last year and although he showed his ability to race others on the very same Suzuka track and in Interlagos that year, in my opinion he will never be as aggressive a driver as Hamilton is because simply it doesn’t agrees with him.

    On the side note: Does anybody know where can I find detailed lap by lap records of Japanese GP’ Q3 times? The live timing archive at http://www.formula1.com shows only the quickest lap times of each session. I was hoping to find out by how much did Kubica improve between first and second outing in Q3.

      1. piotr says:

        Thanks for that James

        Now I know that it was exactly 0.542 of a second! Quite an improvement!

  72. Andy C says:

    What I don’t understand is why mclaren keep developing parts and not risking them.

    Let’s just be quite clear, as the car is they will lose both championships.

    So if they risk putting all of the parts on and they work that’s great. But of they risk it and lose surely they don’t lose anymore.

    I would like to see both jenson and Lewis going aggressive and mclaren throwing all the parts on the car.

    They need to win races and there is little chance of that if they don’t race the parts. Look at remained progress this year!

  73. Matt B says:

    Spot on James.

    Button’s style of driving is great if you have a title winning car, play it safe, pick up the points and get the title. But if the car isn’t quick enough the only option is to attack.

    The reason why Hamilton has had more DNF’s is because both him and the team have been trying to outperfom the car’s own deficiencies.

    When you are constantly overdriving the car, problems happen.

    At the end of the day though alot of this, for me anyway is irrelevant, the thing i look for in a driver is entertainment. I have no time for drivers who just trundle along picking up points.

    Drivers are remembered for there flair, attitude and style, not for their boring statistics.

    That’s why people have been talking about Koboyashi so much.

    1. Ryan Eckford says:

      Both the McLaren drivers are showing the deficiencies of the car in very different ways. Button is showing this by being on a different strategy compared to everyone else, and the strategy not working. Hamilton is showing this by trying to take opportunistic risks, and with those risks not working.

  74. Nesto says:

    Is race strategy up to the driver alone ? I’m not sure its fair to place it all on Button.

    Plus, theres an editorial on autosport.com about how McLaren were attempting to use Button as a sacrificial lamb to back the Red Bulls up to Hamilton, who was leading a charge. Then Hammy’s gearbox went and finally, Button was called into the pits.

    1. James Allen says:

      I don’t buy that theory at all. Jenson was racing for Jenson, as he should

  75. BillBald says:

    Actually this was an excellent strategy, which could have resulted in a race win, with just a little bit of luck.

    If there had been a Safety Car at any time after the cars on options had changed to primes, Jenson would have pitted immediately, with the result that he would be right behind his rivals with new option tyres. I think his straight-line speed was pretty good, he could even have won this race.

    As it turned out, there was just the one SC at completely the wrong time.

    Funny how luck goes, Webber gambled at Singapore, and everything went his way. Jenson needed just one piece of luck (a 50/50 chance of a Safety Car) and he didn’t get it.

    Even without the SC, the other front-runners could easily have become stuck in the midfield after pitting, but Massa & co. took themselves out at the start, giving the leaders a nice big gap to fall back into.

    1. Jato says:

      I think the chances of a SC at Singapore vs. Suzuka would be far more likely to happen at Singapore though I do not have the definitive stats.

      Additionally, Webber had to make the strategy work – overtaking Glock, Koyabashi and Schumacher – before luck went his way. IMO this is where Webber earned his podium. Something I can’t say Jensen did at Suzuka.

  76. Ian Blackwell says:

    I’m sure it must have looked like a good decision at the time. Kobayashi certainly made it work. McLaren have some poor execution in the last two rounds to blame on what now looks like a blown chance at both titles.

    Its gotten to that point where one should be able to stick one’s neck out and make a prediction on the title. Who you pick for the WDC this season James?

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s a bit different for Kobayashi when he starts 14th with nothing to lose and lots of cars drop out in front of him, yes he made some great passing moves, but I doubt he would have started on hards if his car was capable of P3 on the grid and he was fighting for the title….

    2. RickeeBoy says:

      Ian, No prediction other than I think we still have at least one bust up to come ….

      IMO the following is now the state on the protagonists – ( I know it’s a piece on Jenson but ….. )

      Webber – Been on a “Just get podiums – stay out of trouble” mode since before Spa. Has seen Fernando and now Seb come chasing him. Sweating a bit now ( to be expected) Has gone quiet as he can expect the stupid mind games to be started by all the chasers. Has now publicly stated that he needs to win to secure the title as he’s saying basically saying he can’t win the title without actually beating Seb and Fernando in one race.

      Seb – Knows he has the best car – knows the tracks suit the car – Belief he’s better than Mark – therefore can only go for it – Nice to see him mega relaxed . therefore winning is what he should be doing. ( Head in the best place of the 3.)

      Fernando – Wanted a Suzuka podium – got a podium but wanted better than third – Fernando is now in that zone of showing the real pressure – he left the podium early – he’s not happy and he’s got that scowl – ( My guess – expect fireworks at Korea from Fernando. )

      Jenson – Already phlegmatic – he was so relaxed – he’ll try anything – showed before Suzuka on the chat with MB on the grid walk.

      Lewis – Fuming ( that’s just him ) – needs a valium as he’s doing everything he can but the title race has walked away.

      Mark’s still doing a great job 14 points in front of others but Mark feels he has to win ( IMO this maybe one race too early )- but history dictates that there will be a fight and there will steering wheels thrown across the track due to pressure. ( so Mark keep calm for another race and then see what happens. ) All my total opinion and I’m not betting because one “off “ can easily change the whole run in….. What a great year !

  77. Malcom says:

    Absolutely spot on Daniel.

  78. Me says:

    And Webber has been doing the same the last 3-4 races. Driving around like a scared mouse and counting the points instead of driving like a champion.

    Copying Button of last year in detail….though Button then actually won the title so…

    At the moment only Vettel, Kubica and yes, Kobayashi are driving around like champions. All the others look weak and timid compared to these 3.

    1. lebesset says:

      quite right too …nobody will remember how he drove at the end of the season , only if he is champion

  79. RickeeBoy says:

    Fantastic Forum,

    Thanks James for such a superb forum, with excellent additions from yourself, and all your knowledgeable and well written correspondents.

    Many Thanks to all for your great comments.

  80. The Kitchen Cynic says:

    To me it simply says that JB has figured to win this championship he has to roll snakeyes more often than not in the remaining races. From his position, in his car, against that competition, he need something unusual to happen. He won’t get enough results by playing a vanilla strategy each time.

  81. Harvey Yates says:

    My feeling on the day was that JB was after Alonso. And I think he had the opportunity when on softs. I can’t help thinking that if he had pushed Alonso he could have caught him.

    I know catching is one thing, etc, but Alonso sees himself as potential champion this season and a coming together with JB would have been disasterous for him. I reckon JB woud have stood a chance at getting past. But all it took was one fast lap by Alonso and JB backed off.

    He disappointed me.

    The Ferrari was the quicker car (you can’t really consider Q2 timings as a measure) with everything being equal but fresh softs against worn hards meant that TB had an advantage.

    We don’t know if there were any other issues. There was an awful lot of smoke coming from one of the McLs mid race (can’t remember which one) so I suppose there might be a reason.

    But whether it was an excuse or not is another matter. There was little doubt that Lewis was going to attack FA. But I have to say there was just about the same that JB would not.

    It might be that he’s got the #1 on the car so has taken a year’s sabbatical. I don’t know. But he’s a better driver than he showed last Sunday.

    Must try harder.

  82. Amritraj says:

    Hello James,

    There is not data to support that “Hamilton is always a tenth or two quicker than Jenson at Suzuka” considering that Hamilton raced for the 1st time i n Suzuka last year and they were in separate teams.

    And by your own admission, Jenson would have out-qualified Hamilton notwithstanding Hamilton’s penalty.

    There is some disconnect here.

    1. EM says:

      Yes I was going to ask for some data to back that one up too.

  83. lebesset says:

    not everyone gets to see all the interviews

    after qualifying he said that he was keen to use the hard tyre , but the error was that they decided to try for a 3 lap run ….with enough fuel for a single he should have been able to be on the 2nd row [ 2 laps fuel , 0.2 approx ]

    so far behind he had to try something …100% the correct idea ; the long safety car period must have helped rubber in the track and extend the life of the softs

  84. Bevan says:

    It all boils down to Whitmarsh’s previous statement really,”we’re the best of the fixed wing teams”!.And McLaren are not able to just punt their WDC opposition off track like the Bulls seem able to do so its little wonder Button feels little motivation.

  85. David Chubb says:

    Button was going to take Hamilton even without the gear box because he was setting very fast times until the yellow flag. If the yellow flag hadn’t happened I believe Button would have been on Alonso’s tale at least. Button isn’t a strong qualifier so by playing on strategy something he thrives at he is living up to his strengths. The problem is the tyres aren’t different enough. Last year I think Bridgestone got it right.

    1. Mickey says:

      Dream on!

  86. Kyle says:

    I am a massive Button fan so hopefully readers don’t take the following as some kind of anti-Button bashing but I’ve been observing him quite closely in all races this season and have made a few observations about his approach that are concerning.

    Firstly he appears to have some minor issues with tyre warmup during qualifying runs compared to Hamilton which I believe slightly compromises his ultimate pace over a single lap. More often than not he appears to be too slow on his out lap – several seconds slower than Hamilton – and as such doesn’t get enough heat into the tyres to blitz the first sector of his flying lap. The opposite is sometimes also true where he pushes too hard out of the gate which compomises his tyre grip in the final sector.

    The concerning aspect is that he is clearly aware of this himself – he has acknowledged the grip discrepencies in different sectors several times in post qualy interviews this season but the problem still remains.

    Secondly, his race starts and in particular his approaches to the first corner are frequently underwhelming. The issue is not pace off the line – both Mclaren drivers have had great standing starts at the majority of races this season – but rather his car positioning and tendancy to yield positions he should be securing.

    I’ve noticed that almost every race where he starts on the “good” side of the grid – the side on the racing line – he prefers to sit casually on the outside on the approach and sometimes even around the first corner. Doing this he has repeatedly lost places or failed to gain places to other drivers who take initiative with opportunistic moves up the inside, forcing him to yield as they squeeze him out at the corner exit.

    Thirdly, I think his standard approach of settling into a consistent race pace 2-3 seconds behind the car in front and playing the long game whilst preserving the tyres frequently works well for him but not often enough to justify this approach at every single race.

    I’d like to see him take the fight to cars in front occasionally after the first 2-3 laps and maintain pressure on them like Hamilton does most races. He’s extremely strong on braking, especially into slow corners, so perhaps he should try to exploit this strength and translate it into overtaking maneuvers should he force an opportunity.

    Finally, in both of the last two races he’s set his fastest lap on the last lap of the race. This is fine for a race leader who has been pacing himself and consolidating his lead – although probably slightly concerning from a team perspective – but in my opinion this is cause for concern for drivers who should be fighting or at least pressuring for position.

    Most notably versus Webber in Singapore, I feel like Jenson was overly passive in the closing stages of the race despite being advised over team radio several times to give everything he’s got.

    Ultimately I think that Jenson could resolve these minor nuances simply by being slightly more aggressive and opportunistic on a consistent basis – traits which his teammate has in droves. Lewis on the other hand could equally benefit from taking a few leafs out of Jenson’s book.

    1. Harvey Yates says:

      Thanks for that Kyle. Some food for thought. However, I cannot see LH ever taking a casual approach to the first corner. And good for him.

      I think the WDC takes a lot from the sport. Drivers seem to concentrate on it from race 1. I know the benefits are overwhelming, even down to the publicity for the team but I’d much rather see every driver going for the highest place they can achieve at each race rather than playing the long game.

      Some of the media plays up the importance of the WDC as if it automatically makes the driver the best on the grid, even in the years where some of your points could be taken away for being too successful. The WDC is there to try and make the last race of the season intresting for those who are not F1 nerds.

      Perhaps we should follow the Tour de France and have different podiums. Most overtakes, places made up, fastest first/second half of the race. Then we could keep the WDC for the one who deserves it: the most entertaining driver of the year.

  87. Edward says:

    Hello James,

    That’s a great insight into what happened regarding JB in Suzuka. I didn’t realise that the hard tyre was two tenths slower than the soft and thus JB did himself out of a potential podium.

    I do not agree though that Jenson is out of the title race. If we have a similar result in Korea as we did in Australia (yes I know there was rain involved there) then that will launch Jense right back into the hunt.

    Anything can happen in Formula 1 and it usually does!

    Keep up the great analysis James

  88. Blade Runner says:

    With the points situation going into the race as they were, i.e Jenson at the back of the top five, his “Gamble” on tires was totally the right thing to do.

    With Mark just really having to keep it honest for the last races to win the Championship, Jenson needed something to gain an advantage.

    Cant see Jenson or Lewis winning it this year anymore but they gave it a good try despite, Mclaren, not having the best “bendy” car.

    Bring it on next year, hope it is as close and the rules are enforced properly!

  89. Stevie P says:

    I tell you what though James, you’ve created a great debate on this topic! I wanna see JB win in Korea now, with LH battling through the field to 2nd spot… the other contenders can pick up some lower points placings and we can all continue to Brazil with 5 drivers still in the hunt. It won’t happen… but it’d be nice; after the Bahrain bore-fest, this season has become an utter classic.

  90. Pete Furtek says:

    I doubt Jenson or Lewis are out of the title fight. Decent percentage game by McLaren, the rain forecast for Sunday never came. New track next with long straights and big braking zones – bit like Canada? It’s known to rain on race day in Brazil and who’s good in the wet? Consider…

    1. Nathan says:

      There was never any rain forecast for Sunday?

  91. Don Farrell says:

    Jenson has been driving in F1 for 10+ years… in the first 10 years he was an average driver…. he won his first race at the start of 2009(I think!) in a fantastic Honda (Brawn GP) car. He lucked out last year and got an amazingly fast well balanced car to drive and then lucked out again by winning the championship.

    If he didn’t win the championship last year he wouldn’t have been offered a seat in the McLaren this year…. and this year Lewis would be 30+ points ahead of Jenson if he hasn’t had such horrid luck the past few races.

    So please folks less of the Jenson worship…. he’s an nice ordinary guy that got lucky last year… isn’t it nice to see good things happen to nice ordinary guys every now and then!

    Ha!

    1. Volkan ARDA says:

      With all due respect, you should check Jenson’s racing career. His first race win dates back to 2006 in the Hungarian GP in admittedly mixed conditions, but he made the best of the opportunity he had on the rain soaked Hungaroring.
      He was also impressive in his debut season (2000) with Williams-BMW. He was probably the first example of the super-young drivers trend ie Hamilton, Vettel. I’m not a Jenson fan, but we gotta give him the credit he deserves, he may not have the final 1% Lewis has, but every driver has his strengths or weaknesses. Yes, he may have won the championship with the best car in 2009, but most of the champions had the best cars anyway… If Vettel or Webbo win it this year, will we say ” Oh Alonso or Hamilton should’ve won it, Red-Bull had the best car” ?

      1. Don says:

        Hi Volkan Arda,

        You mention some fair points and Jensen is an excellent ‘Wet-Race’ driver! cheers :)

    2. AdrianP says:

      Very elucidating. Maybe try to get some facts straight first next time – Hungary 2006? Ha!

      1. Don says:

        Yes I agree… remembering dates was never my strong point! :)

  92. Kenny says:

    Anybody know where Webber disappeared to after the race?

    He wasn’t in the Team photo.

  93. JohnBt says:

    Hopefully Red Bull will falter at Korea so Alonso, Hamilton and Button gap closes up.

    Maybe Massa will grab gold medal at Brazil. Or Kubica slips between the leaders for second or third for the last three races.

    And the WDC be decided at Abu Dhabi. Fans will love every bit of this season.

    Kobayashi will surely be a scene stealer for the remaining races.

    Will Branson and Fernandez keep their words and fulfill their stewardess attire?.

    Read an article by Mike Lawrence that Nick Wirth is as good as Newey if not better.

    There’s just too much to digest in Formula One but I love it!

  94. MonzaOne says:

    “Timid” is not an apt description of Jenson – and is actually offensive. He is a different sort of driver to Hamilton. Jenson seeks to let the car do the work, so set-up is critical, and he rarely drives at 10/10ths. This is not an unusual style.

    Button explained after the race exactly what they had done and that it did not work to plan.

    Remember this is the same driver that also went against convention at Monza and might have won the race of not for the slower Mclaren pitstop.

    Jenson is never overtly critical of his team. Unlike drivers such as Alonso, Barrichello and Hamilton, he keeps his disagreements behind garage doors – where it ought to be.

    Even during his Honda days he maintained composure.

    McLaren is a TEAM and whichever strategy they followed, it is one they will have valid reasons for. If it works or does not work – well thats motor racing.

    Martin Whitmarsh in my view is a better leader for McLaren than Ron Dennis because he is not divisive.

    He stated at the start of the season why they were signed together and it has panned out that way.

  95. MonzaOne says:

    As this is my first posting, I would really like to say how much I have enjoyed reading the Schumacher and Mansell books written by James Allen.

    The Schumacher book easily allows the reader to understand Schumi’s approach and that in my view he has anything but “lost it” based on 2010 form.

    I was never a Prost or Senna fan – I was and remain a Mansell fan through and through. Nigel was better that Prost and equal to Senna.

    I just loved the Mansell book!

    Thanks indeed for writing both!

  96. Michael Prestia says:

    Hamilton was handcuffed with the grid penalty so McLaren thought it would help to have Button stay out longer than the leaders to back the pack up into Hamilton. It didn’t work but at least we know who McLaren’s number 1 driver is and who the sacrificial lamb is. :)

    Forza Ferrari!

  97. Quillan Rogers says:

    Hey James, excluding the fact that Jenson may have been to cautious in some races I would rate 2010 as his best yet. 2004 and last year were fantastic but this year he seems to have stepped up again, what do you think?

    1. James Allen says:

      Some good days, yes, but his peak performances in 2009 surely take the spoils?

      1. monktonnik says:

        As a die hard JB fan I agree with James, but I am by no means disappointed with JB’s performance, just his qualifying (as usual).

        Ironically, even though Lewis is ahead on points and race wins I feel that this has not been his best season. People criticise JB for being too cautious, which is probably fair, but Lewis has made mistakes this year which ultimately have made his job harder.

        I think if Jenson had Lewis’ raw pace, particularly in qualifying then he would be pretty unbeatable. I think that Lewis has the instincts of a true racer and if he tempered some of his wilder moves he would be a match for the Red Bulls at every track.

      2. Quillan Rogers says:

        I think those first 7 races of 2009, he was at his best. Even though the Brawn wasn’t the best in the second half of the year he was more conservitive. I just think that this year he said he could go toe to toe with Lewis and he has, I think that in itself has showed just how good Jenson is

  98. chris says:

    I think that virtually every angle has been covered here, mature and reasoned argument on an F1 forum extremely rare in my experience, however, to quote James’ predecessor;
    ‘Anything happens in Grand Prix racing, and it usually does.’

  99. Michael says:

    Funny to to read that you blame Button for his lack of aggresssiveness, where he is the only contender who hs the guts to try something different on a regular basis.
    What you seem to forget is the the rather lengthy pace car situation (7 laps!). That means the whole top 10 (except Button) would have pitted 7 laps earlier. That would have left the whole top 10 (again except Button) caught up in the midfield. Clear track vs midfield overtaking, no way you can seriously believe that midfield overtaking is the better option. Simple numbers show that every guy you have to pass costs you approx. 2 seconds. And then all of a sudden Button would be far enough in the lead by the time he pits that he actually has a shot of being in front of the RBSs. And then everybody would have applauded Button for his guts.

    In short, you accuse Button of being a whimp because the safetycar caught him out. Curious.

    1. monktonnik says:

      Kubica may have held up Webbre and Alonso as well. It could have been a different race.

  100. For Sure says:

    James, I think only his country men and friends would think that Button is a serious title contender. If he is realistic, he would probably fighting for a solid runner up position.
    It may sound harsh but rating him as one of the top ten drivers on the world is hardly a bad thing.

  101. Patrick says:

    I think you’re wrong about Button playing it cautious.

    It was a gamble to take the hard tyres, it would have been a great decision if the soft tyre had of behaved like a soft tyre and lost its advantage rather quickly, like he thought it would. In Brundle’s grid walk Jenson says he thinks he’s on the right tyre.
    But a long safety car period meant those on the soft could stay out longer and remove any benefit of being on the hards.

    I think you are being too hard on Button.

  102. Sergio says:

    Go on James you can do better.

    Some clues: qualy, hard tyres, fuel, laps, decision, team, Hamilton, subtle, McLaren.

    Try to imagine McLaren as a foreign team.

    1. James Allen says:

      Sorry, save the conspiracies for another day. It was Button’s call to go with hard tyres. Not everything McLaren or any other leading team does is a conspiracy!

  103. Dave Pilgrim says:

    James,

    I’d be really interested to ask you how you feel the remaining circuits will suit the three competing constructors?

    We don’t know a lot about Korea I guess, but I’m at odds with what some of the comments I’ve read suggest – the long straight could be a concern to RBR, but looking at the layout, doesnt the long twisty part of the lap surely make up for this handicap for Newey and co?

    Am I right in thinking Abu Dhabi is going to be far more about McLaren?

    and what about Brazil?

    Would be really interested to see your thoughts on this if you have time.

    1. James Allen says:

      Brazil should be Red Bull territory, Abu Dhabi was good for McLaren last year with KERS and they should be competitive this year as will Ferrari. But Vettel won the race last year so Red Bull are no slouches around there. If Alonso wants to win the title he really needs to beat Red Bull in Korea, but I can’t see Vettel and Webber off the podium now for the remaining races and that should do it for one of them

      1. Mr squiggle says:

        Can you see Kubica breaking through for his first win?

      2. James Allen says:

        He’s already won once. I can’t see him winning this year without some change of conditions. But I see him now at F1′s top table. He’s had another excellent year

  104. Steve W says:

    I thought it was the more aggressive decision to take, rather than the safe option. The bottom line is that the McLaren isn’t fast enough, and the only way Jenson and Lewis were going to be able to take points off Red Bull was by doing something different. As you say James, had Jenson qualified on the soft tyre, it’s likely he would have finished 3rd. Given that he was playing catch up in the championship, that wouldn’t have been enough, as he would have lost further ground to Webber. With the track being ‘green’ from all the rain the previous day, there was a chance that drivers starting the race on the softs might be forced to pit after just a few laps, which would then have played into Jenson’s hands. In the end, it didn’t play out that way, and Jenson lost out, however he didn’t really have a lot to lose going into the race, as McLaren’s title chances looked almost over after their poor showing in Singapore.

  105. Mr squiggle says:

    James, judging by the number of replies, this article has really struck a chord.

    I have not read all the comments (time!), but my favourite ‘what if’ question is how would Jenson’s gamble have played out without the first yellow flag.

    Six laps is more than 10% race distance in Japan and more than 25% of the life of the option tyres.

    If the first six laps had been run under green, with the option tyres getting torn to shreds on the washed-clean track, Jenson’s competitors would have pitted earlier than they did, leaving him clean air for longer.

    Still a gamble for JB, but better odds

  106. Jack Sentry says:

    I think that your comments may be correct in as much as the result is concerned, but that they benefit hugely from hindsight.

    Before Japan Button was seen as fifth out of five in the line for the title and, therefore, perhaps looked at the strategy as the only possible way to finesse a win out of the Japanese race, albeit that the particular route had many variables and relied somewhat on ‘unknowns’ e.g tyre wear.

    It was obviously a huge gamble, and one that did not pay off, but I see it as more of an acknowledgement that something had to be tried to try to win the title rather than a missed opportunity to get third place.

    I think it should be seen both as a bold strategy seeking a win over everything else and an acknowledgement, particulalry now, that the title will not be retained.

  107. lebesset says:

    strange that nobody seems to realise what actually happened after button’s gamble failed …no chance after the safety car period

    so the team left him out for a long time [ if you look at the timing sheets you will see that he could only have come back where he did whenever he stopped ]

    why did they do this ? to slow down the leaders of course , and give hamilton a chance to catch up …preference for hamilton ? not at all , nothing would help button so a no brainer as far as I am concerned ; ok , button queried what happened immediately after the race , but once he looked at the timings at the post mortem he would have seen exactly what the team did and why

    personally I watch the races with the laptop showing the live timings , once button had been in the lead for a couple of laps it was obvious what the team should do , and they did it …in fact I think they could and should have left him out a little longer , despite their faster cars and fresher tyres the RB’s were not going to risk trying to overtake ; but obviously McL know things I don’t

    in the end it didn’t matter because of hamilton’s gearbox problem , but it is the principle that counts

    1. James Allen says:

      So if it was all set up for that, why didn’t they do it then? Why did they pit Button on lap 35 instead of leaving him out as a roadblock?

      1. lebesset says:

        well , as I said james , it was pretty clear that is exactly what they did
        but without access to the telemetry I can’t tell you why they didn’t leave him out a bit longer [as I said ]

        as you were not there I presume you don’t know either ,but if you watched how it was enabling alonso and hamilton to close up they certainly must have had a reason ; try asking martin whitmarsh when you are in korea

  108. Dufus says:

    Couple the number of times the BBC F1 commentators, James Allen and British F1 fans say the word “Button” and its enough to make the average person want to chew their own arm off !

    1. James Allen says:

      ???????What’s your point?

      1. peter says:

        An anti Buttonista! Perhaps you hadn’t noticed

        that this particular section is all about JB?

        Look at the enormous response so far – because

        it’s something people want to discuss, whether

        are a ‘fanboy’ or not!

      2. James Allen says:

        That’s exactly the point. I have no time for “fanboy” or “hater” language, that just drags everything down. We need to be able to discuss things intelligently and in an unbiased way.

  109. AdrianP says:

    It’s undoubtedly a fascinating topic, Button’s strengths vs. others, in particular, Hamilton’s. Some miscellaneous points:

    (1) There were a huge number of respected commentators who predicted that Hamilton was going to blow Button away this season. With 3 races to go, they are more or less level. Given that Button has had to adapt to his new surroundings and it has taken time to get the car to his liking, this would tend to show that said respected commentators fixed preconceptions were wrong.

    (2) Because one of Button’s strengths is not making *any* errors, he has found it hard to shake off the corresponding proposition that he does not take enough risks. Moreover, most people’s perception of Button is coloured by the awful years at Honda.

    (3) The one major (self-admitted) weakness that Button has had is in qualifying. It is a tempting to infer that he lacks a tenth or two in ultimate pace, but that it not a safe inference – a major part of the problem is that he is not a driver who finds it easy to get these tyres up to temperature effectively.

    (4) In terms of pace over a whole race, however, I think that there are few, if any, drivers on the grid who could match Button (ceteris paribus), especially in these times where tyre management is very important. This is disguised by the fact that often his race has been compromised by his grid position. It is interesting that in the races this season which Lewis has won, Button has been breathing down his neck at the end of the race (having qualified behind Lewis) – I mean Canada and Turkey (and except Spa for obvious reasons); not dissimilar were Valencia and the Nurburgring.

    (5) I venture to suggest that Lewis is making mistakes in no small part because of the pressure that he is coming under from Button (I think particularly of Monza this year and, indeed, last year).

    (6) So on to Suzuka: the tyre gamble was undoubtedly exactly that ‘a gamble’. It’s very hard to see that it was a conservative option – the conservative option would be to do what everyone else would do. The thinking, it seems obvious to me, was that the race was going to go similarly to Canada – i.e. tyre degradation would be sufficient such that the leaders on the softs would not be able to gain a pit stop on the middle-runners before they needed to change and so would be compromised by running in traffic. But the prediction proved wrong(the safety car should have been neutral as to this plan save that what it did do is ensure that the running on heaviest fuel which might be otherwise worst on the tyres didn’t happen at racing pace).

    (7) Once it was clear that the prediction had proved wrong, Button should have been pitted immediately. He was vulnerable to Hamilton and should have attempted to cover him by pitting when he did and if he failed to get out ahead of him, to at least be very close to him with new soft tyres against Hamilton’s new hard tyres. This is what Horner was referring to as incomprehensible unless Button was the ‘sacrificial lamb’, what Brundle was going on about in the race and what Button was pissed off about after the race. There is ample material for conspiracy theorists there, although it might equally be said that it was entirely pragmatic and sensible not to want Hamilton and Button to be dicing it out among themselves – cf. Webber and Vettel’s different strategies at Monza.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for that. Some great points here

    2. Matt Hubbert says:

      Excellent Post

    3. lebesset says:

      button was never far enough to overtake hamilton in the pits
      even if he came out immediately behind hamilton on new softs there was absolutely no way he was going to risk a dodgy overtake on his team-mate any more that webber would try to overtake vettel

      not a winning strategy !

      better to leave him out even longer if possible to hold up the RB’s who couldn’t risk an overtake on him even on new soft’s

      1. AdrianP says:

        After my long post, I read the race report in Autosport and was pleased to see that they made similar points to my point (7). They pointed out that if Button had pitted the lap after Hamilton he would have kept track position as Hamilton was held up by Kobayashi for a lap or so. They also pointed out that the safety car did have another adverse effect to Button’s strategy, namely that it helped to rubber the track down at non-racing speeds, i.e. this was part of the reason why the softs did not go off as badly as expected.

      2. lebesset says:

        doesn’t alter the fact that the gap to hamilton was never enough to get ahead of him under normal circumstances …unless you think the team should have been psychic

        I kept watching the gap but never saw one that would have got button ahead …why would the team want their cars fighting each other ..hamilton would have his tyres fully up to temperature so disaster would have been the most likely result

      3. AdrianP says:

        Lebesset, I think you’ve got confused. Button *was* ahead of Hamilton when Hamilton pitted. If Button had pitted immediately afterwards he would have remained ahead in the ordinary course of things. In fact, Hamilton was held up by Kobayashi, which means that this would have been a near certainty.

    4. Ciprian says:

      I’ll have to agree on pts 1 to 5. partly for 6 -its not a question of etymology (conservative)just that he was a shade faster than Ferrari in quali and could /should have gone for third on the grid. from there, with the “conventional” softs he would have succesfully (??) raced Alonso for third.

      this was a standard and handy approach, it only seems “aggresive” taken into the context of commenting “Button is this or that” and there are people who do that, true.
      make a long story short it was a bad call and one can only presume that Jensons` character had anything to do with it (which I disagree obviously, that`s sort of silly talk)

      for pt 7 I’ll hold my comments though

    5. james b says:

      This is why I read this blog every day……

    6. David C says:

      I dont agree wirh your 4th point. The reason why Jenson was “breathing down Lewis’ neck” at the closing stages of the races at Turkey and Canada was not due to Jenson’s pace. It was because Lewis was controlling the pace and *cruising* to the finish, confident in the knowledge that the win was practically in the bag, and he could fend off Jenson if needed. Of course, Jenson actually got around Lewis briefly in Turkey, but we all know the reason why that happened.

      1. AdrianP says:

        David C – that’s rubbish. Turkey, Button backed off because he was told ‘fuel was very critical now’ (hint, hint from the team). Canada, Hamilton himself admitted that it was touch and go what pace he had left in his tyres.

      2. David C says:

        AdrianP, you seem to have a short memory, so let me remind you of how things actually unfolded.

        Lewis was cruising in the closing stages of the Canadian GP, thus both Jenson and Alonso were closing on him until Lewis set some quick lap times *10 laps from the finish* which sent a clear message to Jenson and co. that they were not going to get past him, and that’s how Jenson finished about 2.2 seconds behind. Tire wear was an issue for everyone in that race, but Lewis was able to manage his tires well enough to control the gap to Jenson and still be able to set those quick laps. The point is that Lewis had the speed advantage to handle Jenson, and he was smart enough to know when to use it as well as when not to, given that this was a race of tire attrition.

        In Turkey, Lewis was again cruising in the lead when he (and Jenson) were told by the team to save fuel. Lewis was given a benchmark time to adhere to, thus he slowed down (which allowed Jenson o bear down on him). Lewis then radioed to the team and spoke to Phil Prew.

        McLaren: Lewis, we need you to save fuel. Both cars are doing the same
        Hamilton: Jenson’s closing in on me, you guys
        McLaren: Understood, Lewis
        Hamilton: If I back off, is Jenson going to pass me or not?
        McLaren: No, Lewis…no

        It was soon afterward on lap 48 that Jenson passed Lewis, only for Lewis to re-pass him immediately. Then

        Then on around lap 50, both Phil Prew and Martin Whitmarsh were on the radio to both drivers, and Button was finally told “We need more fuel saving. Fuel is critical”, which was a clear message to call off the fight.

    7. Meg says:

      Hamilton did blow Button away performance wise, he just got more unlucky this season.

      Same with Sebastian Bad Luck Vettel and Webber.

      Anyone claiming Button is at the same level as Hamilton, or Webber at the same level as Vettel, needs to lay down on the Fanta mix :P

      Button and Webber just got more lucky this season. But then again, luck is part of the game too.

      Look at Kimi, he could have easily been 3 times champion but bad luck meant just 1 times and that only because of fighting within Mclaren.

      1. Michael says:

        There is no such thing as luck with regard to keeping your own car in one piece. The large discrepancy is car failure there sometimes is between drivers is also down to skill. People like Button, Schumacher and Heidfeld are very good at keeping their cars running without overstressing them. Hamilton, Raikonen and Vettel, Kubica are drivers which are scarily fast, but seem to forget cars can be damaged by driving them to hard. As an example, Heidfeld beat Kubica 2 out of 3 seasons in the same team. That’s consistency and racecraft, not luck. And then the same with crashes. Some drivers are very good at avoiding them (Schumacher), some are very good at causing them (Vettel). Luck has very little to do with that. It all comes down to a skill called situational awarenes.

      2. hesus says:

        “Hamilton, Raikonen and Vettel, Kubica are drivers which are scarily fast, but seem to forget cars can be damaged by driving them to hard. As an example, Heidfeld beat Kubica 2 out of 3 seasons in the same team. That’s consistency and racecraft, not luck”

        Not sure about Kubica – during 4 seasons he had maybe 2 DNF that go to his account (Canada 2007 and maybe Britain 2008 when he spun in heavy rain as half of the grid). This season 3 DNFs due to mechanical things.

      3. David C says:

        Michael, I understand what you’re trying to say, but I think you’re both oversimplifying and overselling the case when you claim that “there is no such thing as luck with regard to keeping your own car in one piece”.

        Take the case of Hamilton’s wheel rim failure in Spain. How on earth does one over-stress a wheel rim? Surely a wheel is designed to last the course of 1 race. Hamilton doesn’t ride the kerbs any more than say Kubica or Alonso, so surely that component failure was caused by a manufacturing defect. Or how about Button’s engine overheating because a crew member forgot to remove a bung from the radiator? If that’s not bad luck, then I can only wonder what qualifies as “bad luck” in your book.

        So while I agree that a driver can be a contributing factor in the longetivity of his equipment, there are certainly other factors at play which do not fall under the driver’s sphere of influence, and we can call that “luck” if you please.

      4. frogjimj says:

        Hamilton crashing isnt bad luck its bad judgement…Crashing out so early in practice when mclaren are testing lots of new bits doesnt help the team any.

  110. Segedunum says:

    As Pat Symonds said of McLaren in 2005 when they actually had a very fast car, he said they at Renault felt they did some very odd things.

  111. Carl Craven says:

    James your article is very scathing of Button’s strategy. IMO it was fouled by staying out too late if anything and that the decision, whoever made it was what really killed his chances.

    Also if he’d carried less fuel in qualifying he may also have had a better grid position. All of which would have given him a better race.

    Also once Button was on the soft tyres he was catching Lewis pretty quickly anyway and would at least have caught him, overtaking being another issue. Lewis’s gearbox issue, which may well have been down to Lewis’s attacking style really only speeded the process up. Jenson was putting in a lot of fastest laps and catching Lewis by .5 to 1.2 secs per lap which SUDDENLY became 2 secs per lap once Lewis inherited his problem.

    All in all, the strategy could have worked with a few tweaks.

    It’s also very annoying that people so often criticize Button for being critical when infact he isn’t. He did NOT say the team screwed his chances, he just questioned why they held him out so long. If anything, when he makes a good call, the TEAM credit HIM.

    Give the guy a break, he’s 3 points behind his illustrious team mate in his first year with the team.

  112. mo kahn says:

    China? Everyone Forgot??

    Sometimes, it works.. Sometimes, it doesn’t

    Precisely like life.

    Button has given Mclaren the strongest driver line-up on the grid since Kimi Raikkonnen and Juan Pablo Montoya.

    I think he been a revelation last year and this year he has driven better than he did last year.

  113. BMG says:

    “WOW” alot very poor sports on this sit. The amount of people sinking the boot into Button and Webber. Both are considered number 2 drivers but they continue to out drive there more fancied Team mate.

    Button seems to be just wanting to beat Hamilton in the championship. Then he can ask for top billing next year.

    Weber is just focused on making this a year of no regrets.

    My view is that both drivers have been under estimated for a long time. They have good cars under them now and the public are saying, “gee it must be the car”, but they have very strong Team mates that they have pushed so hard, forcing them to make so many mistakes.

    I think you should just appreciate what a great season it’s been.

  114. doug says:

    @AdrianP… They pointed out that if Button had pitted the lap after Hamilton he would have kept track position as Hamilton was held up by Kobayashi for a lap or so
    —————————————–

    Please excuse my ignorance but I thought the whole point of Button s strategy was to stay out for longer and and put in some blistering laps to gain on the others. Now if he had pitted immediately after Hamilton and those on the softs, how on earth were they going to try out let alone implement that strategy????? Excuses excuses excuses!!!!!

  115. George Lamb says:

    How about a pitstop under the lap 1 safety car, a tough race on soft tires but surely some overtaking and a free pitstop for it?
    Realy JBs bigest victory this year must be the move to Macca and not being in the Merc?

  116. BillBald says:

    At Singapore Webber had several pieces of luck:
    1. A lot of cars followed him into the pits, even though it was only lap 3, so he didn’t have to overtake them.
    2. Both Kobayashi and Schumi made mistakes, making it much easier than it would normally have been for Webber to overtake them.
    3. He didn’t have to overtake Rubens, who is always hard to pass, because Rubens’ pace was unusually good.
    That’s before you get to his miraculous survival of the accident with Hammy.

    Suzuka quite often gives us a Safety Car, and in fact there could easily have been one when Rosberg crashed out.

  117. Arcturis says:

    Build ‘em up and knock them down eh? A fairly typical British press type article and really quite disappointing. The Mclaren was nowhere near the pace. Button gambled on the tyres relative performance and lost. The only criticism with hindsight was staying out too long on hards but it would hardly have made a difference.

    Too many ifs and buts in this article. The weakest I’ve seen on this site.

  118. Dufus says:

    JA “That’s exactly the point. I have no time for “fanboy” or “hater” language, that just drags everything down. We need to be able to discuss things intelligently and in an unbiased way.”

    Hi James, no hater language or fan boy sentiment here.

    But let’s all be clear on your passion for JB and McLaren.
    The world is shrinking thanks to the Internet. People who visit this site for some insight are not all Brits.
    You are talking to a global audience that is growing as is f1 so a little less JB and McLaren would be nice.

    The BBC commentators, well that’s another story for another time, suffice to say the “button counter” is off scale.

    One final comment, think global, F1 is growing rapidly and that’s a good thing.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks. I do and that’s why 60% of the audience of this site is outside UK. We passed 1 million users for the first nine months of 2010, so you can see we are talking to an international audience. I wrote about Button because he’s a title contender…

  119. Dereck says:

    James
    I got this from drivers interview today-webber stating that RBR have been running “adjustable front ride height suspension”. Please read excerp below…

    Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe): The Red Bulls seem quickest in qualifying, so for the two Red Bull drivers can you explain why it is so fast and do you think you will have the pole on Saturday? For the three others, do you think you can beat them and do you have a special thing to beat them on Saturday?

    MW: Well, obviously Seb has had a good run in qualifying. He has had a few pole positions and I have had some poles as well. As you say the car is pretty quick on Saturday afternoon. We have adjustable front ride height suspension which has been running since the start of the year and that works well and then we put the car back up for Sunday. Lots of things have been good for us and we try to do the same job on Saturday.

    SV: As Mark said we have this big lever for the ride height. I think that is the secret for Saturday.

    1. James Allen says:

      It was a joke. Everyone has been accusing them of it, they are playing up to it. Horner has been doing it for months

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