Button – “It’s all about the first few laps..”
Button – “It’s all about the first few laps..”
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Mar 2010   |  6:00 pm GMT  |  160 comments

World Champion Jenson Button spoke to a few of the leading F1 websites today on a phone-in from the McLaren Technology Centre.

He seemed very upbeat after the testing and clearly believes that he has a competitive car. However he said that the last few weeks have proved to him that the first few laps of the race are going to be vital,
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“It’s like an endurance race, like Le Mans, ” he said. “The car works very differently from high to low fuel loads in terms of balance. It is a different way of driving from last season. We have to look after the tyres a bit more, it’s tough on the tyres. If you damage the tyres on lap three in the race you’re screwed for the whole stint. So you have be gentle with the car.

“You have to work them the right way. They are on a knife edge, either they work or if they get outside the temperature range they fall off a cliff.”

Button confirmed what we’ve been saying on JA on F1 for some time, that the adjustable front wing is proving a crucial tool this season. Ferrari had theirs before McLaren and made good use of it, but it was interesting to note at the final test in Barcelona when McLaren fitted theirs for the first time, how much it helped in preserving the tyres over the long runs.

Hamilton’s race simulation on Sunday afternoon showed the lap times coming down nice and gradually, from 1m26s to 1m 25s in the first stint, then from 1m24s to 1m23s in the second stint and then from high 1m23s to 1m22s and low 1m 23s in the final stint.

“The way the cars work now with high fuel you really are adjusting the front wing a lot,” said Button. “Having it at the last test, you play around with it a lot as the fuel load comes down and through every stint and it’s key. The reliability of that front wing is key.”

Button also said that it is clear that the way the races will run this season will be quite different, things will be far less planned and much more reactive,
“I think the top teams will have similar strategies, although people will be looking to stop two or three laps before their rivals so they can get out and jump them,” he said. “You will also have the teams that aren’t so competitive trying crazy strategies like pitting on lap one and then hoping they can run to the end of the race.

“There will be lots of different strategies which will make it very exciting for the viewers but will make it very difficult for us. You cannot plan in advance really. All you can do is go through every scenario and hope that you are ready when you have to jump on a strategy change.”

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Early in the race,if your key rival is getting away from you,you’ll pass whoever is holding you up.It will be done gently and properly,to avoid damage to car and tires.The early laps are important because you can establish a demoralizing advantage by pulling away and then driving just as fast as you need to stay ahead until the end.By bringing refueling back,the hope was to create a show,increase safety by not carrying so much fuel at the start-but most of all stop someone like Ayrton Senna from leading wire to wire.Senna had many strengths-quickness,racecraft,and skill.But his ability to start a Grand Prix from pole is why he had so many victories.


James, I read in Polish media that both Renault and Mercedes are going to introduce the new super-diffusors at Bahrain. Any comments? Thanks


Super diffusers, I don’t know, but new updated ones, yes. Ferrari had one in Barcelona


I couldn’t agree more but wait a year and we will get to see it after button does worse than heikki and mclaren are throwing millions at kimi to come back and buttons off to toro rosso or us f1 next year


Hmmm.. he may even be replaced by an Irish driver – loads of them waiting in the wings…


The action at the opening should be very interesting indeed. The laptime difference at the beginning to the end of the race looks to be in the order of 3s so drivers cannot afford to be held up at the start as it would be impossible to make up that deficit at the latter stages, which should be good for some overtaking action right from the get go. What would compound this even more so is if some cars are particularly good, or set up to be, on empty tanks qualifying. The trick as Button says would be being aggressive without risking the tyres, can’t wait for the racing to start.


It will also be interesting to see what strategy the new teams (or even the least performant ones) will opt for. I would expect some to go for a setup favoring heavy fuel loads thus compromising qualifying for being able to challenge the midfield in the first half of the race and then try to hang on to grid position in the second half. Not much different from starting with a heavy fuel load in past years.

On a second note, I guess we won’t see any drivers opting for a strategy change and start from pitlane – unless the car has a problem and needs to be worked on past qualy, of course.


I’m not so sure Kitteh. I think they’ll all be too concerned about their tyres and front wing (as this seems more important than ever!) to attempt anything too risky at the start.

I can see some of the young ‘uns going for it though – only to be reprimanded by their respective team boss – after they’ve pitted on lap 1 for a new front wing and to change their flat-spotted tyres 😉

It’s going to be about tyre conservation for as long as possible, leaving you with better grip (than your rivals) in the latter stages of the race.


It’s more like a JOURNEY where one has to arrive at the destination still with a little fuel left for say 3 meters. But it’s FUN tho. Just think like THE PROFESSOR.


James (or anyone else who understands these things!), if they have adjustable front wings, does that mean they could tweak them in the race to help them when in “dirty air” behind another car to get close enough for the pass?


Last season too…


That’s the idea


i think i would be more a drivers call when to change the tyres..

i would also miss kimi. but im going to see him next week in rally mexico!!


Lest I remind you all that it could very well be that Mclaren and Ferrari are behind Red Bull and/or Mercedes. Everyone assumes that unless you are Ferrari or Mclaren you are the underdog. You heard it here first… my Bahrain Finishing order








Damn thhere are some really awesome drivers in the field this year…TG Schuey is back!!!!!


I think at least one of those and maybe two won’t finish the first race.

For sure there are a few drivers that will be looking to mix it with Schumacher, letting him know that it’s a different ball game in 2010.

How will Schumacher react? Will he yield?


I am just going to miss Kimi from this competitive field. I would have loved him against Hamilton in the Macca.

M. Fitri from Malaysia

Yeah, that would be good to watch…


Despite all this talk, assuming the top four are within half a second of each other, I still think it’s the team-mate dynamic that will make all the difference.

We have four teams and eight drivers…. but out of those eight only one driver is the de-facto number one – no matter what Nico thinks.

Four races in, MS will be 2nd or 3rd in the Championship even if he hasn’t hit the podium in any of the races, simply because the others will be stealing places off each other. By Europe, he’ll have momentum (and updates) and by the time the other teams have the guts to back one driver over another, he’ll be back to the old master.

The only fly in the ointments are reliability and Nico’s balls finally dropping.

BUT.. more importantly, who came up with the calendar??!! After months of anticipation I’ve just realised Bahrain starts at mid-day on Mother’s Day!! How do I tell an 80 year old she’s not going out for a meal after all???

It’s bad enough that Australia isn’t the opener (who doesn’t love going to the pub on a Saturday night, coming home and watching some crap film until the race start in the early hours?), but to clash with Mother’s Day too is a disaster.


According to Wikipedia, only Britain, Ireland and Nigeria celebrate mother’s day on that date… in Arab countries it’s the following weekend, and for most other countries it’s in May.


Maybe they do not *have mothers in Bahrain, so it makes no diff?


Maybe they don’t – but I do!


Whatever Nico does, if the Mercedes is not competitive enough, then it won’t help Michael to have a chance for the title because of the difference between a win and other places. Only wins and reliability will help.


If the chance takers are going to be penalised by having worn tyres from following too close/taking chances overtaking isn’t this going to spoil the real racing?

James do you think the motivation for no refuelling was to save Bernie money transporting the fuel rigs around or to improve racing?


It was to save €300,000 a year per team in transporting the gear, yes. But it wasn’t Bernie who was saving the money it was the teams


I thought the top 10 teams had their freight costs picked up by FOM (CVC)?


wow, thats a drop in the budget ocean isn’t it. Surely saving money is not the only reason for the ban…


As a certain supermarket likes to say, “Every little helps”


My understanding is that there was a feeling that the refuelling era had run its course. The strategies were too predictable and it was time to try another tact. Good move too I say.


I understand there’s no longer a need for super fast, 12L/sec fuel rigs but the cars still need to be filled up on site. So, fuel rigs are still needed. James, do you care to elaborate on how the teams can save that much on transporting (less) gear because of the ‘no refueling during the race’ rule?


Well they weigh a lot in freight terms, plus the people needed to man them and so on. That’s the figure Christian Horner gave me when I asked him what the saving is


James, I find it hard to believe that they are saving much money by banning refueling.

They still need fuel during race weekends. And during practice and qualifying, all teams will have to do plenty of refueling and tank draining.

Are you saying that teams don’t have their own rigs anymore? Do they have a common pit lane gas station were everyone needs to line-up?

But that would mean that they all use the same fuel, which I can’t really believe. Teams used to have their own fuel suppliers, so surely that must mean that they still have individual fueling rigs?

Or do I miss something here? Can you clarify this please?


Because fueling isn’t time sensative they can use normal gravety fed rigs(ie: a can and a funel) as opposed to the highly specialized (and complex, and heavy) pressurized systems they’ve needed recently.


Regarding the mess that is USF1 and Campos the FIA should penalise them both for missing the first race (its inevitable now) by reducing there entry to a one car entry each, thus allowing space for a third team to enter.


Benny and Mike, you’re both talking about penalising Campos and USF1, I don’t follow your reasoning. In my opinion they should be helped to meet their goals! Due to various circumstances they are struggeling to be ready in time, but that is no reason penalise them!

If you were going to be late for school wouldn’t you like another parent to give you a lift?



Nice analogy Paul 🙂 but if I wasn’t planning to go to school at all this year, I think they’d give my place to another deserving pupil who has just as much right to an education as I do, rather than having an empty desk all year.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

USF1 now want their seat kept warm until 2011. Why should they be given this grace and favour? Their set up is a shambles and a disgrace.


Got any info on the rumours of a Mercedes ‘super diffuser’ for Bahrain James?


I second that peter.

James what can you tell us of Mercedes updates?

In your opinion, is it going to be controversial?


It’s always a bit of a mug’s game predicting updates, unless you have an insight from someone close to it, which is rare. Let’s wait and see what it is in Bahrain


Ok James,

I read with interest that not only is the update a diffuser but also a new front wing, new side pods and a new floor!

New car??


Pretty much! No, it’s substantial but based on a strong platform


One of the biggest problems with today’s FIA restricted F1 is that all the top teams have engines that almost never fail whereas in the past it was never certain that an engine would finish a race as they were on the limit of known engineering know how.

Putting a rev limit on the engines has made them almost bullet proof which, I suggest is bad for F1 as well as the engine manufactures as they aren’t able to show us what they can do compared to their competitors.

As for the upcoming races I think pole is going to be absolutely critical as all the top teams have great drivers so overtaking will be very unlikely as all can defend brilliantly.


No so sure Vettel would agree with you.


although that would make the races me enjoyable and less predictable, Im guessing the FIA were thinking about cost which has overshadowed the sport over the past year. Engine development and replacement costs a lot of money.


Not sure about that, with the cars now carrying 150kg more fuel and engine having to operate with more stress under racing conditions, who knows?


“You will also have the teams that aren’t so competitive trying crazy strategies like pitting on lap one and then hoping they can run to the end of the race.

“There will be lots of different strategies which will make it very exciting for the viewers but will make it very difficult for us. You cannot plan in advance really. All you can do is go through every scenario and hope that you are ready when you have to jump on a strategy change.”

I was imagining the clever people at Mclaren with their computers trying to work all this out and i started to do some back of the envelope calculations. …Then i realized i’m not that clever and don’t have enough degrees to work it out and might be doing it wrong. 🙂

…22 drivers, 2 types of tyres. So for each driver each lap they have 3 choices which are stay out or pit for the softer or harder tyre. Lets say the race is 50 laps long. i believe the resulting number of possible scenarios is absolutely gigantic, hence the “You cannot plan in advance really” quote.

The clever people in the teams will undoubtedly cut down the number of possible scenarios by assuming drivers won’t stop more than a certain number of times in a race and that they are unlikely to stop again soon after making a stop. they will have models for the performance of each car that they will factor in.

Anyone out there with a degree in Maths want to expand on this and try and work out the number of possible scenarios?

my crap maths suggested that (assuming a driver might pit each lap…yes i know that can’t happen in real life):

number possibilities = (3^22)^laps

[3 choices each lap. 22 cars]


When making a strategy it is important to remember that there are different scenarios that could happen at each stage of the race (safety car, weather, wing change etc)

Depending on which tyre the car starts the race on it is common logic that tyre wear is going to be highest at the beggining due to high fuel loads and less grip compared to the end of the race. Also factor in that a standard stop now takes about 21/22 seconds from pit in to pit out. Now through testing cars were experiencing that a change of tyres can make up to 3 secs difference a lap, meaning a car on average could pit every 7/8 laps but this isnt feasible or practical.

Through a calculation I have worked out it is best depending on type of tyre and considering fuel load, it is the best strategy to start on the harder compound and pit for another set of hards at 25/30% race distance and again at 60% for the final stint of soft tyres.

If starting on soft pit 20/25% race distance for hard compound, 55/60% for soft again to finish the race. This should keep the tyre wear constant with the ever decrease in the amount of fuel.


I think what best tire to use in Q3 will be determined by the race engineers based on the particular circuit and how good their individual car is good at preserving/optimizing their tire each lap, and hence will determine whether to go for performance / or durability. You bet they’d have dozen of computers doing simulations based from their Friday practice times.

Therefore, for example last year Brawn GP knew they had difficulty bringing their tires up to speed at the colder European races, hence they’d probably go for the hard-compound in Q3 and be a little off the pace initially, but their tire will last longer and pick up speed during the end of the stint.

Whereby, Force India, for instance, had serious problems with tire graining under high-downforce circuits like Monaco, hence they’d perhaps go for softer compounds and more pit-stops in order to maximize their speed, because it won’t be too durable aways.

All this just based on my limited F1 fan knowledge, any tire experts out there pls clarify. 😉

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

You have to work with factorials (! symbol in mathematics).

Firstly, you have to decide what makes most sense to look at. You could look into the number of possible outcomes available to a driver and or to look at the number of outcomes for an event. You could then look at the number of orders in which events could happen. Given that there are numerous factors that can affect when a car pits and changes tyres the number of outcomes will be enormous.

Teams can only base strategy working around known parameters on which to base their calculations (e.g. fuel load and tyre wear) and not on an “every scenario situation”.


I always like hearing JB’s thoughts, he comes across as the most honest of the front runners. Really can’t wait for qualifying in Bahrain!

James, do you expect the cars to change order as the race progresses? Ie, in the first quarter of the race could mclaren be quickest then in the next part of the race could rbr be quicker? Or will it be more like 2009 when the quickest car stayed quickest all race?


It will be about track position – always is. Now the chance to jump a car in the pit stops is about pitting a lap or two before the car in front.


I take it that means it’s essential to predicting how long the SECOND set of tyres can last then?… So you leap into the pits as soon as you’re into their ‘window’ to last to the end and hope you were the first of the pitters?


As ever in F1, there won’t be any single item to factor in, but I’m guessing it’s going to be important to have the longest lasting set of tyres on last…. and whoever is kindest to their tyres stands the chance of getting that set on first.

It means therefore that you’re running tyre strategy from the end backwards, not the start forwards – so you’d plan to come in AS SOON AS you’re in the 2nd sets’ window to run to the end, NOT when your first set is knackered (so the first set is only there to run you through to that window, not until they’re knackered).

Wow that makes it complicated when choosing tyres for qualifying! Get it right and you could win from fourth/fifth row just on tyre strategy.

That’s before we think about it raining.

Blimey, I think my head’s going to explode.

James, do they actually have the software to help calculate this stuff or is it square one on that front until they get a season of data stored?


This is v interesting, since you may calculate that your second set will last until the end, but then ferrari pit 2 laps before you thus they may be in front of you when you emerge from your stop, you then have to push to close the gap, thus using your tyres quicker than originally thought.

Most teams I would guess will be making at least 2 stops and they will both be subject to change according to what your rivals are doing.

Is a false pit crew turnout allowed?


I think you’re right. As James wrote recently, it’s going to be important for teams to get long runs in during practice to gauge the tyre performance.


Predict, not predicting!


The thing that bugged me about last year was that nobody seemed to be using adjustable wings – it was common to see the traditional wing adjustments being made. They were rarely mentioned.

To see the comments that McLaren did not have an adjustable wing to bring to the early tests, when you’d assume they’d have a year’s worth of trialling them so it should have been a no brainer makes me wonder about what did go on last year with all the discussion on the Working Group Overtaking fixes.


As Button said “you had to look after the tyres”. Perhaps at last the driver will be as important as a car is crucial. I would like to see F1 where the driver contributes at least 50% to overall performance. To me no re-fueling makes F1 more interesting.


Alain Prost! nuff said!


If the tyres on going to be such a big factor, i would love to see the blue flags scraped and watch the leaders have to overtake the back markers whilst having to consider their tyres.


I’m very much in favour of this too… but it won’t happen 🙁


“I think the top teams will have similar strategies, although people will be looking to stop two or three laps before their rivals so they can get out and jump them”

No one worth their salt will let a driver closing in on their own car pit more than one lap before said car, which should allow the leading car to still lead after a pitstop.

This whole rule setup lends itself to an aggressive qualifying effort, followed by 300 kilometers of defensive driving, trying to keep the spot you earned on Saturday. I foresee a field full of Trulli-inspired trains.


The hard facts are that GP racing has always been more often processional than not. The fastest cars at the front followed by the second fastest cars followed by the third, and so an so forth…

During the refueling era, all that changed was a several periods of artificial uncertainty at the end of which the fast cars were at the front followed by the second fastest cars followed by the third fastest cars, and so on and so forth…


Its gonna be really odd not seeing the cars getting re-fuelled this but I hope it will come back next year as it was a vital part of the race. But this year will be interesting and now you will be able to see how talented the drivers are to be able to drive such an heavy car and adapt every lap as the car gets lighter.

We will see that fastest lap during the end up of the race when the cars are at its lightest…


This is some truly wonderful insight in the upcoming season. I mean the difference between worn tyres and new tyres can be up to 3 seconds a lap or so. So that hands the possibilty that teams can go for a late pitstop and make up for the lost time within 10-12 laps and still have the faster car. Meaning possibility to overtake the cars in front

Certainly when you throw in the suggested odd strategy by the less competitive teams there can be some more interesting racing and overtaking coming up this season.

The other nice aspect is that you really don’t know when teams are going to stop. Normally this was fuel related, but know it is the great unknown, even for the teams themselves.

Can’t wait to see how this season will unfold!


James, Love your Blog, love the content, but really don’t like this new format, have to be honest… Keep it Simple. Thanks 🙂


What new format are you referring to?


I think it sometimes appears as the mobile version even on a normal computer, eg: news headlines as widgets.


I really forgot the adjustable-front-wing tool. It could really help the drivers during the race. I remember last year when Fernando told the press: “I have never used it all the season long” :-S


“You will also have the teams that aren’t so competitive trying crazy strategies like pitting on lap one and then hoping they can run to the end of the race.”

Will it really be as extreme as that? Find it hard to believe. Guess we’ll see though.

Also, if these front wing adjustable flaps are actually going to be useful it’d be nice to have a KERS style graphic to show them being used, although I suspect we’re not going to get that.


No strategy will ever work if you cannot pass, no matter how much faster you are in theory, in practice it all goes to pot and you end up at the same speed as the lowest common denominator in front. Therefore bold and aggressive passing will come to the fore this year.

Mr S will have to watch his weaving/blocking as the rules have been tightened since his day and as he is no longer with the leaping horse (whisperer) all the rules apply to him as well this time. Lets face it he got away with the proverbial “hand of god” far too many times in the past. People remember this so there may be a queue at the steward’s office if he misbehaves again.


Totally agree rpaco.

Incidentally THIS was the real thing about KERS last year. It didn’t matter a jot if it was 0.2 seconds a lap slower or faster to run with it or without, or whatever.

The REAL benefit of KERS was that you’d launch off the line make up five or six places, and then with noone else able to pass you would royally screw their races to the tune of 20 plus seconds. If you did so outside the top 10 it was even worse as they were generally stopping once less than the top 10 guys. And you could carry more fuel than those around you safe in the knowledge you’d still clobber them off the line.

There was quite a lot of times when someone like a Kovi would utterly split the field in half by qualifying on the fringes of the top 10, then leap up to 6th or 7th and hold the rest of them up and generally alter the balance for the minor points.

It won’t be so dramatic this year with no KERs but you’d figure there may be ways to be the “blocker” again with the new strategies in play.


A TV graphic for the flap adjustment is an excellent idea. Who has Bernie’s mobile number handy?

I guess they must already have some data about the use of the flap to enforce the 2 adjustments per lap rule.

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