McLaren strives to give Button and Hamilton equality
McLaren
McLaren strives to give Button and Hamilton equality
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Jan 2010   |  4:41 pm GMT  |  111 comments

McLaren has reshuffled its engineering staff at the race track, giving both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button new race engineers, who have been promoted from junior roles.

Hamilton with Phil Prew (right)

Hamilton with Phil Prue (right)


Hamilton will work with 31 year old Andy Latham, while Button will be engineered by 39 year old Jakob Andreason, who was number two engineer on Hamilton’s car for the last few years.

It is a statement of how careful they are trying to be to appear even handed between the two drivers.

With painful experiences of Fernando Alonso’s year at the team, where allegations were made of preferential treatment towards Hamilton, McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale has promoted Hamilton’s old engineer, Phil Prew, to chief engineer and has taken two equally qualified junior race engineers and promoted them to the main roles for their respective drivers.

Prew will oversee both sides of the garage and ensure that information is shared. This will be interesting to watch as Button has certainly used Rubens Barrichello’s set-ups in the past at Honda and Brawn and we will see whether he and Hamilton go the same way more often than not and who takes the lead.

Both drivers are starting afresh with new engineering teams but the impression Neale is trying to give is that there is no established favouritism going into this partnership.

“When Jenson visited MTC, one of the questions he asked was, ‘Is this Lewis’s team?’ and the answer was ‘Yes, of course it’s Lewis’s team… as it was Heikki Kovalainen’s team, Fernando Alonso’s team, Juan Pablo Montoya’s, and Kimi Raikkonen’s, ” said Neale. “And it will be your team as well.

“Is this Lewis’s team to the exclusion of any other high-performance driver? Absolutely not. At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we love winning drivers – and we want to go about telling the world that story.”

Prue and the other race engineer Mark Slade had been in their roles for 15 years with McLaren. Prior to Hamilton, Prew engineered David Coulthard and Juan Pablo Montoya, while Slade engineered Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen. Slade is still with McLaren and his new role will become clear in the next few weeks.

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1

I’m not sure about this move by McLaren. Both Prew and Slade are top notch race engineers. They could well lose something by not having them in their current capacities.

If assignment of race engineers is an indication of bias, then how could McLaren be called biased in favor of Hamilton if Button had gotten Slade, the guy who worked with Hakkinen in winning two world championships and who had great success with Raikkonen?

2

I can’t careless about who is going to be Jenson Button, or Lewis Hamilton engineer next year, no offense James, great blog by the way. What I’m trying to say is that no matter what Jenson will be tronced next year period. Lewis Hamilton is still on his journey, while Jenson has almost reached his destination.

Lewis Hamilton will be racing Schumacher next year, not Jenson Button.

3

Jenson’s one only motive of going to McLaren was to ensure he was not chucked out of F1 sooner rather then later…

His move to McLaren has simply prolonged our agony of having to watch an utterly dull driver getting in the way of the other racers and spoiling their races…

4

Add to the fact that he clipped the wall at tabac in Monaco and put him on perfect stragety when safety car came out shortly after that, safety car again in canada when massa’s refueling system failed and he had to pit twice in two laps for fuel and also in german gp when safety car came out and piquet got ahead through luck and massa’s brakes were cooked and coulnt fight back. Pretty lucky he was if u ask me.

5

Talking about equality James – do you have any word on whether Mercedes have been asked to ‘turn down’ their engines for this year?

This was mooted by the FIA but was anything ever agreed?

6

Good question, Will follow up

7

Absolutely agree cliff. Rb specifically flagged it at a tech meeting.

Saying jensons wdc is fake because his team had a tech advantage.

So how many wdcs have been crowned without having a good ?

8

As a long term McLaren supporter (>25 years), I am not at all sure they “have learned”. This restructuring actually worries me more than it is a relieve or positive. Let’s see how Martin Whitmarsh will deal with having two drivers capable of winning races and championships.

Although I do trust McLaren’s intention of offering their drivers “equal opportunities”, the question remains whether they managed to do just that (Häkkinen vs DC; Kimi vs JPM; Hamilton vs Alonso, just to name a few). Last year imo proved that Heikki was not at all in an equal position to attack the races. Just look at his race strategies. So I am a bit sceptic (again).

9

If lewis had been paired with grosjean, he would have been world champion in his rookie year. Which wouid have brought even more excitement. I think no body at this stage can predict the outcome of the season or who will come on top between button and hamilton. But what can’t be overlooked is that it takes a tremedous talent to even match a two time world champion in his rookie year. You may not like the man but one has to admit that he is a driver of exceptional talent.

10

I would like to ask James if he thinks Whitmarsh is sufficiently in charge of this team? I sense a tension, a split even, between him and Dennis.

Maybe schizophrenia is too strong a term, but has it spread to the new chief. He is Prew to some and Prue to others.

11

Martin is in charge, but things have changed quite a bit there. I think it will be interesting to see what happens with Dennis and Whitmarsh this season. But Ron’s recent interview suggests he’s done with F1 and doesn’t want a comeback

12

No doubt Lewis will “Blow Button away”…and by “Blow Button Away” I mean finish level on points!

I do think it will be close but Lewis isn’t going to have to do something special to beat Button.

13

Slightly off topic.

Do you guys think F1 fans in general support drivers or teams? Is it nationality or personal preference?

F1 is odd in that the team dynamic exists whilst there also a large element of individualism.

Personal I have always like Maclaren and hae never been too worried who drove for them.

14

Well, this all depends on the person. I am a Kimi fan but first I supported Mika and McLaren. When Mika left I naturally supported the guy who took his place, the fact that Kimi and Mika are similar helped make the decision. When Kimi left I had another decision to make, and I followed Kimi to Ferarri, even though I had disliked them for years. I still dislike Ferarri after ending Kimi’s contract and giving him a bad car last year. next year I will most likely support Vettel. This is mainly because Vettel is similar to Kimi in some ways and they are good friends, so Kimi would want Vettel to win.

This seems rather odd as I am English but I think the reason I supported the drivers I have is because of their personallity.

Drivers personallity is also a reason I dislike some drivers. Opinions can change but for me they have never changed from one extreme to the other.

15

I always thought Mclaren treated both drivers equally and that Hakkinen and Hamilton only best their team mates on merit. I always thought Alonso’s main issue was that he thought he would be number 1 on account of taking the title to Mclaren, and it went sour when Mclaren gave Hamilton and equal shot.

16

I’m getting sick of all this Button battering. No-one dismissed any of schumi’s titles by him driving a superior car. No one says the same for our nige. Yet here is a driver that made his own mark for Williams on his debut. Yes he’s been through some crap cars since. And has always just got on with it.

He WILL be quick next yr. Whether he’ll beat lewis is the same arguement as will alonso better massa, will webber outclass vettel. No one knows the answers yet. That’s the point. He’s there for a reason. His smooth style may well just better others.

I suppose the fact that he Beat some of these names in past race of champions also means he’s a fake??

I like lewis, why wouldn’t I, but it’s not as clean cut as all you lewis lovers make out.

It wouldn’t suprise me to see both drivers fairly equal points wise by the end of 2010

17

The FIA have lost all crediblity, and all that it hosts has to be taken with a pinch of salt…

We had a team that was on the verge of leaving F1 – and suddently they end up with a diffuser that gave them a 1 sec a lap advantage for half a season… that’s not clever engineering – that’s pure politics..

Button will always be a fake WDC – in 2010, he will be thrashed – only problem for me is, that we have a driver that doesn’t deserve a top seat – it’s a waste of money and time…

18

RON

Stick your head in the sand and keep believing that if you want mate but you have obviously overly simplified or ignored certain facts to justify your opinion.

19

I will certainly stick to what I witnessed… just be prepared for a rude awakening when Button confirms just how poor he is as a F1 driver…

Dirty politics have ruled F1 for a number of years now… and that’s why 97% of the people surveyed, wanted a breakaway series…

Manufacturers are demanding change in F1 before they will get involved again… these demans are all perfectly valid… the FIA are an utter failure as an organization, and they have a long way to go before I recognize any of the trophies they regulate…

Like Kimi said, his F1 WDC title is worthless… and I have to agree with him…

21

Agreed. Reason why I bought two of your books on the weekend, James.

22

Actually a very good point there.

23

I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of this reshuffle to start with, thinking it may disadvantage Lewis, but have changed my mind, particularly as the team has to reduce the number of engineers they have at the race.

Phil Prew will oversee everything, Lewis already knows the team well along with the car. His methods of communication will be well known to his new engineer, so the transition should be fairly seamless. Jenson gets the benefit of a highly experienced engineer while he adjusts to the ways in which to work with a new team.

This all bodes well for the team being able to get the best out of both drivers and the drivers having clear access to the right engineering expertise.

Great blog James – keep up the good work.

24

There will most likely be many mentions of the Hamilton-Alonso thing throughout the season. I think Jenson will handle it alot better than Alonso did. Personally I think Alonso was rattled and suprised at how well Hamilton performed during his first year. Hypothetically, would it be different if Alonso had come to McLaren for 2010 now Hamilton is known?

I can’t wait for 2010. I’m a big fan of Lewis’ driving style and love watching him race. I like the fact he’s a bit arrogant – it adds some spice into the sport – look at someone like Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, coming in and declaring that he is ‘The Special One’. A similar confidence oozes from Hamilton and I like that.

I do hope it is equal this year between Jenson and Lewis – both top drivers, to see them go head to head in the same car is a fascinating prospect.

I’m quite new to this blog James, been reading since just before Christmas and its now become my first port of call for any F1 news. Fantastic read, well done.

25

Thanks for that

26

jose!!! 6 titles in 3 years Lewis!!!! just 1

jose built the team, lewis just drove the car using ALO setup, no doubt be is good, thanks to Mclearn for providing great car in 2008 and sp thanks to ferrari engine blows up in 3rd last lap. massa lost 10 points, do you remember how he won 2008, after overtaking struggling glock in the last corner.

27

I was comparing character rather than actual acheivements.

Fair enough, he overtook Glock on the last corner in Brazil, but you might then say similar things about how, Brazil excluded, Jenson rather struggled to seal up his title as well.

Both drivers are capable of terrific overtakes. Jenson in Brazil last year was a joy to watch.

28

The most talented engineer in the pit lane will not make a crap car or a crap driver go any quicker so what’s the issue here? Psycholoically yes, if you like and trust the chap then I can understand how you’ll enjoy the race more and want to share your success with the guy on the other end of the radio but apart from that they essentially communicate what’s being shown on the screen in front of them.

29

I think if you look at what Rob Smedley has done for Felipe Massa one would argue that engineers are very important.

31

I think it is a silly move. In trying to demonstrate just how equal the playing field will be, they have just fed the Trolls who still cannot get their heads around Lewis beating their little Alonso fair and square.

32

Next years cars will require a driver to be adaptablt. Something jenson button couldn’t spell never mind do. So although I can’t stand Hamilton I reckon he will wipe the floor with button as he is too one dimensional

33

seems to be something you can’t spell either 🙂

34

Nice irony.

35

McLaren have one of the strongest driver line ups. Along with Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes.

I wonder how Alonso feels now he has joined team Felipe?

I suggest that the combination of Lewis and Jenson will help develop the team more rapidly throughout the year than, for example, teams with a more dominant number 1 driver.

Surely the McLaren engineers will ensure that all information is shared with the goal to maximise both cars performance. Then the rest of us can sit back and watch 2 top drivers in equal equipment go head to head. Can’t wait.

36

The word Equality and Mclaren can’t be said in the same sentance. Hehehehe – also Integrity HHAHAHAHAHA

37

I still feel there are too many “If”s on JB’s side to make a good point.

“If the car setup…”, “If the tyre…”, “If next year rule…”, you name it…

Put these things aside, he’s a WDC after all…

38

If Jenson and Lewis get on better than Lewis-Fernando this is why I think it will be…

Because Jenson is more content with losing than people like Alonso, Schumacher, and Senna. 2008, where Rubens outperformed Button, to me may have been proof of that.

39

Is it Prue or Prew?!

Sounds like a good piece of PR from McLaren here. There seems to be a perception that Jenson will be rubbish up against Lewis. Both drivers have outperformed their cars on occasions. Both have become world champions when the car is in the right zone. Is it perhaps a bias towards more aggressive driving styles as opposed to the smoother style of Button? I’m tipping more of an even contest in this one.

In a totally unrelated issue James, has there been any further development by Williams with their KERS system? I remember articles surfacing a while ago where they suggested it might be used in 2010 despite an agreement not to.

40

Maybe Mclaren was thinking about this kind move for sometime and realized that it was a good oportunity to make the change.

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