Hamilton and Button mark out their territory
McLaren
Hamilton and Button mark out their territory
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jan 2010   |  4:43 pm GMT  |  141 comments

The two McLaren drivers for 2010, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have had some revealing things to say this week as F1 gets going again after the New Year. The in house battle at McLaren will be a real talking point this year and the pair are approaching it in different ways.

Hamilton_Australia'09_110
Hamilton has come out strongly to challenge Fernando Alonso, who will square up to him in a Ferrari this season. If it were not for the return of Michael Schumacher, this renewal of an old and bitter rivalry would have become the leading story line of F1.

Meanwhile Button, who started work at McLaren this week having been held to his contract by Brawn and Mercedes which ran to the end of 2009, has explained a little more about the motivation for a move many in F1 are still questioning, including Sir Jackie Stewart, who this weekend raised doubts again.

Hamilton came out with his most robust statement yet about his time with Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007, in an interview for McLaren sponsor Johnnie Walker. Regular readers of JA on F1 will know that there is no subject which attracts more comment than Alonso’s rivalry with Hamilton this is partly driven by the difficulty of assessing which of them came out on top that year. They tied on points after Hamilton led most of the season. As Hamilton was a rookie and Alonso a two time champion, many people considered the season a win for Hamilton, but it is a very contentious subject. Hamilton has chose to open the can or worms up again to mark out his turf ahead of the season,

“My first season in Formula 1, alongside a world champion – a double world champion – and I blew him away. I beat him, ” said Hamilton.

“No-one has ever come into their first year and been at the front, let alone beat a world champion, beat the mentality and the strength that he would have had and his experience in Formula 1 already up to that point. I’m very proud that I had the experience of leading the world championship for most of the year, and it’s sickening, for sure, to think we lost it in the last couple of races.”

This coming week Hamilton will be working hard for Banco Santander, which is rebranding all its Abbey banks in the UK as Santander. Monday is D Day for the switch-over and Hamilton will be the face of the switchover. Santander has maintained a presence with McLaren this year for that very reason. But the bulk of their sponsorship budget has shifted to Ferrari, linked to Alonso’s move there.

Meanwhile Button has made the same move as Alonso and joined McLaren as world champion. In addition to the cultural issue of stepping into a team which Alonso concluded was all geared up around Hamilton, he will face a stiff driving challenge. Hamilton, with a world title himself, is more mature now than he was in 2007. So, all things considered, it is on paper a far more formidable challenge than the one Alonso thought he was facing. I’ve said it before, I think Hamilton improved a great deal as a driver in 2009 and is now far better than he was in 2007 and 2008. So the challenge for Button is very great. Will Hamilton “blow him away”?

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“Maybe if I stayed where I was, “reflected Button this week in a teleconference with UK newspaper journalists, “It would have been harder to get a second title — maybe I wouldn’t have been so motivated. But moving to where I am now, I think it’s really motivated me. It is a big challenge but something that excites me and something I am going to work really hard on achieving this year.

“I’m not going to say he starts with a big advantage,” Button added. “I will say it’s all new to me with the team and I’ve got to get to know a lot of people and how they work, which is going to take a little time. Hopefully we will be ready for the first race.”

I think the key to this – and the difference from Alonso’s situation at McLaren – lies in another quote Button made during the teleconference,
“When I decided to join McLaren and partner Lewis, I knew it was not going to be easy but it is a challenge that I am very excited about. I don’t feel I need to prove anything to anyone.”

Alonso felt he had a lot to prove when he went to McLaren and still does today on the threshold of the Ferrari challenge. He said to me once that his motivation for racing in F1 is to show everyone that he is the best. That means that for as long as he races, the challenge never ends. He is a relentless competitor. Another key difference with Alonso is that Button doesn’t get phased when a team mate beats him, so he will be able to find his level at McLaren and co-exist quite happily with Hamilton.

Button is a competitor, make no mistake, his desire to challenge himself in Triathlons proves that. No-one who wants an easy life does Triathlons. But he has won his world title now and that was always the target. Now the new target is a second title, but he can afford to be calm. He has a lucrative three year contract in his pocket, which will take him through to the age of 33. Driving a McLaren he is likely to win more races and get plenty more podiums. Going up against Hamilton is brave but as long as he does his best he will emerge with honour as no-one expects him to beat Hamilton.

Alonso could never say that.

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1

Nice choice of headline – I’ve just got the image of the two of them peeing all over their respective cars and areas of the garage

2

@Ron.

That is indeed possible. It obviously took away a bit of the gloss from Ferrari’s capture of Fernando Alonso, and the Mercedes Benz shift towards the Brawn Gp team. I have often wondered in recent weeks, that maybe the Michael Schumacher move to Mercedes was known months ago. That surely would have been motive enough for Button to jump ship.

3

The only reason McLaren hired Button was to milk the fake WDC for marketing, and as a bonus, he Button maybe just as good as Heikki…

Button, at his best, may contribute a few constructors points to the WDC…

4

Get a life mate, you’re boring

I’m a Jenson fan but at no time do i feel the need to have a pop at Lewis, i like the guy but SOME of his ‘fans’ are the most moronic and disrespectful in F1

5

The two words that spring to mind reading Hamilton’s comments are ‘mind games’. I think it is safe to say that Lewis considers Fernando Alonso his main rival in 2010, that is if both their cars are capable.

On the subject of 2007, I am convinced that Alonso was promised the earth when he signed to McLaren back in 2005 which simply wasn’t the case in the end. When you think about it, Ron Dennis must have offered him one hell of a deal to leave Renault, especially after just claiming his first championship.

Secondly, I believe everyone involved assumed that Juan Montoya would be Alonso’s team mate for 2007, which we know now was not the case. Montoya’s departure in the summer of 2006 changed everything, and paved the way for Hamilton’s rise to an F1 race drive.

I simply do not believe that Alonso’s dramatic fallout with Dennis and McLaren was just based on events that happened in 2007, but to those that happened before.

6
hamilton2010champ

i think that at end of season hamilton will come out on top. the main difference being that while button is a great driver when the car is 100% to his liking but once that drops off a little he struggles as we saw mid season last year. but hamilton is able to just drive the wheels of his car to make up for the performance deficit by just driving aggressivley…we saw that last year…button cant do that.

buttons only hope is that the tyres play a massive role in the races because hamilton will struggle with them wearing because of his driving stlye.

i dont expect button to beat hamilton often in qualifying and in fact if mclaren have a car thats near the front i think hamilton will be on pole for half the races i think he is the fastest guy out there over a single lap.

its going to be an intresting year thats for sure

7

I like Lewis and I quite like Jenson. But, which one is best?

There is only one way to find out!

FIGHT!!!!!

8

Good call! I’ll be watching that after the first qualifying session to see if Hill does that.

9

Hey James I have a quick question 4 u mate.

I am a big Button fan and I really hope he can show Lewis what he is made of this year. One thing I think will play into his favour is the fact that with no refeulling, it will be a big advantage to the driver that can use his tyres better. Jenson has always been good on the tyres with his smooth driving style, hence the first 7 races of 2009. Lewis has always had tyre problems, Turkey 2007 and 2008 come to mind. Do you think this will be a big factor or it won’t really make a difference?

10

Great question. I’ve heard different answers from various F1 engineers on this, including ones from McLaren. Some think it will some think it won’t. On paper it should make a difference, but until they get out there and put in the long runs in testing in that car on those tyres, you can’t really say for sure. Hamilton will have to adapt his style, so he is the one with some work to do. But then Button has to learn the team and the engineering staff and so on.

11

Let us remember that at the start it’s going to be like having two medium sized (european) adult passengers on board the car as well as the driver. Whereas last year it was just one skinny model! Better traction, but much harder on the brakes. Indeed brakes will become a much bigger factor this season, but the extra load may well warm the tyres up much quicker.

The tyre warmers are restricted this year to the outer surface only, not the almost complete blanket previously used. There could be some dispute that the centre pads are not actually heated, but merely retaining heat, thus still allowed.

12

I’ve read people comparing Hamilton/Button to the Senna/Prost pairing, but I don’t think the Hamilton/Button rivalry will be as close as that. What made Prost great wasn’t just his speed and smoothness, which Button has, but his obsessive attention to detail with race strategy and car setup. And I don’t think Button comes close to Prost in that respect. Whereas Lewis tries to model himself after Senna, always pushing himself to be faster and better.

As for Lewis’s comment about Alonso, it does sound silly and dickish, but he’s totally convinced that he’s the best so we shouldn’t be so surprised to hear him say that. I just hope he backs up his trash talk by winning more races.

13

Button’s WDC was a complete farce – the FIA needed to keep BrawnGP by attracting sponsortship, so they gave them a massive advantage in the form of the diffuser.

Now, with Button moving to McLaren, we will see his real worth. Button will be left spinning on the spot on each race…

Button will make the Mclaren look like a Minardi…

On average, Button may be up to 1 sec off Hamilton’s lap pace…

It’s going to be an epic beating of a fake WDC holder…

14

One second? Buddy, you might want to take a look in the history books. Jenson Button is not the slouch he was made out to be in 2008. Jenson Button is one of the finest racers of his generation, so fast and skilled that your beloved Lewis Hamilton looked up to JB when JB was “just” a karter (I say just in quotation marks because Jenson was racking up wins like it was going out of style at the time). Button, had he agreed to a deal offered by Ron Dennis in the late 90s, could have been in Hamilton’s place, even in Kimi’s.

Jenson Button was never not contesting F1 championships out of lack of talent, he fell off the motorsport ladder after a decent showing in a satelite F3 outfit owing to lack of funds – a problem Hamilton never had because McLaren stepped in. Button literally had few options other than to drive for Williams in 2000 – and he readily admits that was probably too early. It got worse when the Benetton team he raced for in 2001 was a complete disaster. But he rebuilt, and strongly lead the new Renault team the next year.

Again, right place at the wrong time. Alonso reaped the Renault rewards in Jenson’s place. Time and again circumstance prevented Button from showing what he was made of. The unique circumstances surrounding Jenson’s place at Honda, then Brawn, have put him back on the ladder, right where he should be: the top tier of F1.

Incidentally, I suggest you make that “the diffuser is why they were quick” crack to the Mercedes GP designers and engineers and watch them fall about laughing. No one part of that car made it quick – which probably explains why they won several more races after the other teams added double diffusers AND why Button made mincemeat out of the Williams and Toyota drivers who ALSO had DDs – Williams at one point at least were running the most advanced one of the lot. Look where that got them.

15

Well, we’ll talk again after 2010 season…

As for the diffuser, it impacts the entire car aero package… so off course, the other cars are going to be further disadvantage as they add a diffuser and fix all the other aero problems it creates…

The FIA waited and waited for clarification on the diffuser because they wanted to attract sponsorship to Brawn and damage FOTA… that’s all that happened in the borefest of 2010.

Button will be blown clean out of the water in 2010… it’s going to be pretty extreme, I suspect…

16

It’s a shame that Hamilton fans seem to share his arrogance

17

Arrogant remarks from a world champion. You would never hear Schumi, Mika or indeed Alonso say stuff like that. My respect for Jenson is growing by the day in that he wants to take Lewis on, he has way more respect for his fellow drivers than Lewis does.

18

“Arrogant remarks from a world champion. You would never hear Schumi, Mika or indeed Alonso say stuff like that. “

Very funny, excellent! 🙂

19

Disappointing to hear Hamilton use that kind of tone in a interview for a sponsor. I am all for mind games against the competition but I feel that to state that he “blew away” Alonso is inaccurate and rather gives a bit more strength to Fernando’s cause. I think it patronises his fans and anyone without a short memory. He is tarnishing a great achievement.

20

Would you not say that Alonso has had bad cars ever since returning to Renault?

21

James, do you find it a bit sad that some sections of the British press already seem to be stirring up a civil war type scenario between Jenson and Lewis

IMO there won’t be any problems, both guys seem to get on well

On the racing i don’t think it is as cut and dried as some people think, i can see a tortoise and hare scenario playing out, Lewis driving the balls of his McLaren, sometimes destroying his tyres and having to make an extra stop, while Jenson goes on his merry way

Anyway forget them two, the real battle will be between the girlfriends, and IMO there’s no contest, Jensons girl is in another league to Lewis’

22

Lewis must have heard you, he has parted company with his girlfriend and will presumably be looking to upgrade.

23

I believe the refuelling ban will work to Jenson’s advantage.

24

maybe, but don’t bet against hamilton. He is a very fast learner.

25

It’s amazing the number of people who misinterpret Ron Dennis’s remark “we were basically racing Alonso”.

Ron was working on Lewis’s side of the garage and Martin Whitmarsh Alonso’s. At the race in question Kimi was to far ahead to be caught.

If you’d asked Whitmarsh the same question he may well of said the same thing, “we were basically racing Lewis”.

There are two sides of the garage at McLaren racing against each other with, as far as possible, the same equipment. I’ve never heard Alonso complain he had been given an inferior car by design.

As for Alonso’s speed a recent remark he made was interesting: ” I may not be the fastest driver in F1 but…”

I think he suspects the young guns like Vettel and Hamilton are faster than him but less experienced.

26

i think what alonso is saying is that he mite not be the fastest over a single lap but his consistency and no mistakes in races plus the fact he never lets an oppurtunity slip by is what he is talking about

27

After watching the races in 2007, I think the main differences were in race strategies, who would take on a little less oil so have a better chance to get starting ahead of the other.

Button is lucky, under the new fuel rule of 2010, he could less worry about team’s arrangements during the qualifying.

28

I think Ron was caught red-handed with that remark. Not that it proves mechanical/strategical favouritism, but it shows where the loyalties lied.

29

I’m afraid that is not true. Ron didn’t ‘work’ on either side of the garage. He sat above everyone, but got more closely involved when he got tense

30

tense? that is de definition of the 2007 season.

31

But, James, don’t you think that the quote still is mischaracterized?

He was talking in reference to the strategy for Lewis at the time (IIRC). So, the only inartful word he might have used is ‘we’. But then what else would he say. And, even with that its often stretched even further to indicate Lewis was somehow getting preferential treatment.

Personally, I actually think Mclaren would have been fully within their rights to fire Alonso after he had attempted to blackmail them. And, yet even so Dennis maintained equity.

What I find a stretch is people’s expectations for him not to maybe end up, on a personal level, wanting Lewis to win rather than Alonso. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, as long as you’re fair. And, there’s never been any concrete evidence to suggest otherwise.

32

It’s already been said, ‘Jenson is a great driver of which there are many on the grid, Lewis is an exceptional driver who generally only come about once in a generation’. Would Jenson have won last years championship had the Brawn car not been so dominant at the start of the season post major rule changes and the rest playing catch up….probably not. In the past Eddie Irvine & Rubens, though both great drivers were competely outshone by Schumi as was DC by Mikka at Mclaren. Indeed Eddie said that Schumi could reduce the laptime of the same car he was driving with his aggressive style, worth up to a second a lap, Lewis is out of the same mold. Jenson is going to have to drive out his skin but I still fear all he will see is the rear spoiler of Lewis in the distance. No pressure then Jenson! If the Ferrari and Mercedes are good from the first lap we are in for a cracking season.

33

Howard, with all due respect (to you) what exactly has Lewis done to warrant the “once in a generation” label? He has some modest achievements thus far. I am a fan of his, but fail to see how he is this sort of demi-god that some fans (and the press) try to make him out to be. Most “generational” talents are deemed so AFTER they actually achieve something extraordinary. Not before.

34

Hamilton is obviously the one feeling the pressure right now. All this blather about having “blown away” Alonso is a sure sign of nerves on his part. Why would it be necessary for him to point this out at all? (not to mention that his point his highly debateable) Jenson is taking it all in stride and generally staying out of the fray it seems. The irony is that it’s Hamilton who is under the most pressure to produce this year. Button will remain cool as he settles into his new home at McLaren. He has a three year contract so he can take the long view. No one expects Button to beat Hamilton. So he’s actually in a good place. The expectations are much greater where Hamilton is concerned.

35

Hamilton feeling the pressure? I don’t think at this point. It is just a little mental therapy, to see if it affects alonso a little. He knows that if he can get into alonso’s mind, he might make mistakes. He did during the 2007 mid part of the season.

I think though, alonso has better things to focus now. Like the wrooom reunion on the italian alps.

Hamilton is going to do better than that. And remember, alonso is surrounded by the ferrari team now. On 2007, he didn’t feel loved from part of the mclaren team. That was what make him a little vulnerable.

36
Crid [CridComment @ gmail]

After Ryangate (MelbourneGate?) it’s at least noteworthy that a bank is using Lewis as the face of integrity… In 2010!

37

I think Jenson & Lewis will work it out! I think it could get messy but they may have more to worry about than each other.

However the funiest ‘pre-season’ thing I’ve heard is poor Nico saying he expects equal status at Mercedes!

Good luck with that one!

38

We all know Lewis has speed,that is a no brainer,but Jenson has shown he is not far off at all,and we will see this soon.Come race,or should I say,3 quarters into the race is where you will see Jenson leave Lewis behind.Not by alot,but Lewis will struggle.He may know his team and all the important things needed for confidence,but you cannot teach him to change his style over night and become smooth like Jenson.

Lewis,take a chill pill,and wait till the end of race 1,and if you are ahead of Jenson,I’ll be very surprised….because it will not happen,unless Jenson has a problem with his car,or other misfortune….

Jenson knows Lewis is fast,but Lewis doesn’t know how smooth Jenson is,and that is difficult to change….but we will soon see…

39

Intresting article James as you “sound ” as if you have moved your possition from when you first broke the news that Button had signed for McLaren.

I tend to agree more with this post than your previous as in i feel Button may be more relaxed this year with a WDC under his belt, and i think most people agree that Button drives more smoothly when he is relaxed

Although ” I blew him away ” may be an exageratiion i do belive Hamilton came out on top with it being his rookie year.

That covers 3 of the drivers and i still cannot decide who will come out on top in 2010. and i aint mentioned Shumacker,Vettel,Massa,Webber,Rosberg,Kubica

Nor the fact that most are in new machinary and teams

Intrtersting times ahead simples no!

40

Well I cannot claim to have broken that story, others had it before me. I didn’t think it likely until he went to McLaren for a visit.

41

This is a sticky situation for me. Being british I like Jenson….and I like Lewis…. but for me driving entertainment is wear it has to lie…

Jenson is smooth, very neat… great! but lets face it a bit boring… really sorry Jenson

I love how Lewis can make mistakes, and he does that when you see him getting that 110% out of the car which is forgivable. If I were a team owner, I would like that, I think it’s unforgivable when a driver is in a car, that’s below and instead of getting that 8th place, lags about and get 10th…

Monza Lewis crashing after sitting in 3rd (or was it 2nd can’t remember) point is, he was flipping pushing hard, and wanted that extra place and blew it, but it was the determination that wins it for me…

Jenson may find a style int he mclaren that really suits him and he can use it to defend his title, and I really hope he can, but I just get that ‘gut’ feeling that if he does, Lewis will find that extra (schumachar style) from nowhere and beat him…

Bottom line is, we have a Lewis, Michael and Fernando war on… there is no place for anyone else!

42

Going into McLaren, I thought Alonso was the ultimate driver. So composed and unflappable against Schumacher, I thought we had a real great on our hands (still do). Then what I saw unfold before me with Hamilton was truly amazing. Anyone who starts saying it was Hamilton’s team have lost control of their senses, most were questioning who he was, never mind being his team!

In those early days, I saw Alonso flap and make more errors than in the previous seasons against Schumacher, truly remarkable. A complete rookie who had not driven most of the tracks was taking it to the 2 times WDC and showing him how it should be done.

Hamilton’s inexperience and the team making uncharacteristic errors at the end cost Hamilton the title. They may have ended up on the same points but in reality it never got that close.

I think we are so lucky at this present time, to have one of the greatest driver line ups maybe ever. There are about 7 drivers out there who could be justly be crowned WDC next season, all going to come down to the equipment and that little bit special possibly.

43

Exactly. When people talk about Alonso “coming into Lewis’s team” what they fail to admit is at best that’s because Lewis made it his team; it certainly wasn’t his team to start off.

It would be bizarre to think that a team would prioritize a rookie over a 2xWDC.

Of course by later in the season, Mclaren could see that Lewis wasn’t your average rookie.

44

Frankie, it wasn’t the team that made the errors. It was Hamilton slithering off the pit lane into the gravel in China. Shutting down his car in Brazil. Blowing a 17 point lead to Kimi with two races to go in ’08. Barely squeaking by on the final corner in’09…if that’s “showing us how it should be done” then I am at a loss. Jenson winning in stunning style in Brazil (with one race to go and with a much more convincing lead than LH the year prior) Kimi coming from 17 pts behind to hunt LH down and take the title at the last race…now THATS how it’s done mate. 🙂

45

The maturity and experience of Jenson will allow him to compete with Lewis on a regular basis. There will be some tracks which favour either driver. If he can consistently out qualify Lewis then I can see him finishing ahead of his team mate in the race.

46

James do u think like I do that button needs an enormous start to the season if he stands anychance this year at all. Because if he isn’t ahead mclaren will turn him into a rear gunner for hamilton because next years world championship is going to b a dog fight between four teams. Also I really don’t think he stands a chance at all as lewis is a better quailfier than jenson and button won’t beat him if he starts behind him

47

Not sure about that – he is world champion after all

48

No – Button is not a real WDC.

The double diffuser, that the FIA took half a season to clarify is the WDC…

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