McLaren: Two sides of a victory
McLaren: Two sides of a victory
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Mar 2010   |  12:54 am GMT  |  602 comments

I’m very interested in the response of McLaren and its two drivers to the events in Australia. Jenson Button won the race with a performance of measured perfection and instinctive tactical brilliance, while Lewis Hamilton lit up Albert Park with his audacious passing, but ended up looking diminished in comparison with Button, less in control of his destiny, less mature.

Button: Nothing to lose (Darren Heath)

That isn’t so surprising; Button is 30 years old and ten years into his F1 career, whereas Hamilton is 25 and only three years in. Perhaps because he won the title so early in his career and has been a front runner since day one, we forget that he still isn’t the complete package.

But today the difference between them was highlighted in several ways. Button instinctively knew that lap 6 was the right moment to gamble on a switch to dry tyres. His first sector made him and us wonder whether it was the right choice, but he was soon up to speed and from then on there was no doubt.

When everyone dived in for tyres, he moved up to second place behind Vettel and was well placed to take the lead when the Red Bull car failed again. From there he measured the gap to the opposition, trimming the car using the front wing adjuster and showing the same ability to nurse a set of tyres he showed in Monaco last year, the cornerstone of that victory.

The confidence that Button now has since winning the world title is there for all to see. It’s in the way he walks through the paddock, conducts interviews, greets people. He’s achieved his goal, he is loving life as an F1 driver and whatever happens from now on is a bonus. Fear of failure is no longer part of his game and that is a mighty powerful weapon.

His mechanics love him already. He comes in and thanks them for their work at the end of every day and they appreciate his honesty on the days when he doesn’t get it right.

If Button is about swagger, mixed with savvy and subtlety, Hamilton is all about the warrior spirit, but the fear of failure is still there. He was aggressive from the outset and pulled off some stunning moves. He was never going to beat Button because he didn’t take the early tyre gamble but a podium was there for the taking.

Hamilton: Painful lesson (Darren Heath)

But unlike Button he wasn’t leading from the cockpit, he was still dependent on his engineers to tell him what to do on tyres and they felt that he would benefit from a second set of dry tyres, expecting the cars around him like the Ferraris and Kubica to do likewise. But as Fernando Alonso said, the simulations in no way recommended sacrificing track position for a second or two per lap of speed advantage. Track position is king.

McLaren’s decision was partly informed by the belief that Hamilton would struggle to make it to the finish on a single set of tyres, unlike Button.

Realising the decision had been wrong he criticised the team in a radio transmission which was heard by the world, which showed a lack of composure.

“All I know is the guys do, always, a fantastic job, but the strategy was not right,” he said after the race. “Everyone else in front of me did one stop and for some reason I did two.”

It’s the “for some reason” part of that sentence which rings hollow in comparison with Button’s decisiveness.

It reminded me of China 2007, where Hamilton lost the world championship by staying out too long on a set of tyres that everyone could see were destroyed. He slid off into the gravel trap on his belated way into the pits.

On that occasion he was led by the team, which was trying to win the title that day, rather than take a safe podium that was there for the taking and which would leave him with a simple tap-in at the final race. That was McLaren hubris at its most extreme.

Yesterday Hamilton showed he is still dependent on them for decisions, but unfortunately for him, Button showed what leadership from the cockpit is all about and the contrast is painful for Hamilton. He will be stinging.

It comes at a time when he is coming out of the protective cuccoon of his father Anthony, facing the world as his own man. The lesson of Melbourne is that as a driver he clearly has some life skills to learn.

He has exceptional skill behind the wheel, of the kind which could make him one of the greats, but until he can add that extra dimension of leadership and racing intelligence from the cockpit he will not be the complete package.

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I know it’s late in this discussion, but there is an important FACT comming out regarding tyres condition from Bridgestone’s guy (Hirohide Hamashima) appeared in autosport today.

He said:

“Concerning Webber and Hamilton – their first dry tyres were almost worn out,” he said following post-race analysis of their rubber. “They had to do a two-stop.”

“Jenson’s tread was almost finished. It was a very, very dangerous situation for him.”

“Fernando Alonso – fantastic! His taking care of tyres was tremendous. Great. Fernando was still looking very good.”


If so, on his first set of tyres, how was he still setting quick laps, and managing to catch cars in front of him? All this proves is that Lewis can still set the pace and even overtake on worn tires!


Agree with you 100%. In Malaysia LH did 30 laps and was still faster than most of the others. How’s that for good tyre management?


Great article. Can’t comment on which strategies were better / worse, but the result is a good indication.

The real story here is Lewis not owning the decision. Clearly, lewis is dependent on the team to give him strategy, but he was shocked that others had opted to go to the finish on one set – he should have understood that his strategy was either a) a gamble (that others would also pit) or b) that he couldn’t finish on those tires.

A great driver is one who, on a good day, sees that the decision is required.

Had another driver been in the same boat, even unaware of the strategy call, the post race comment would have been a whinge about not being able to overtake 2x ferraris on old tyres!


Many observers who enjoy 20/20 hindsight fail to appreciate that the right strategy and the successful strategy are totally different things.

If I were to offer, say, Phil Prew a bet on a single coin toss, for which he would have to pay me £10 for heads and I would have to pay him £20 for tails, the right strategy for him would always be to take the bet.

Nonetheless, there would inevitably be a 50% chance that he would lose the bet.

His losing the bet would not mean that he had been wrong to take it, nor would my winning mean that I had been right to offer it.


Poor James, I bet you won’t be writing an article mentioning Hamilton again for a while, people are so bias either for or against, it’s unbelievable the venom they spew!

I’d just like to remind everyone, when you watch F1 you are essentially watching the rare phenomena of multi millionaires… driving themselves! I hate them all with all equal contempt. But I enjoy the racing and admire their talent.


Not at all. I’ll write what I want to write.


I was only joking. It’s just a shame that some people can’t give a balanced opinion and just ignore the bigger picture all together. I will be looking forward to your informative and balanced articles over the coming weekend.

Oh and on my previous post on Senna, did you find out how long his Williams contract was actually for?

Many Thanks & All the best.


wow! Button now is suddenly a briliant race strategist after like 10 years in F1! he’s taken over the mantel from Ross Brawn. lets all watch Button churn out the best strategy from henceforth every race. To those whom he’s now become god after 10 years now excuse!


i agree with the “nay james” sayers.

any driver makes the call when to change from wets to dry, but the team calla dry to dry.

had the track positions been reversed, it would have been button that was called in for a second dry set. dont try to make it into something it isnt


I just want to write some few words. James is not biased. He has written the truth! The problem is that there are tons of Button “haters” and, by the way…I think that he is the most underestimated driver in the paddock….(I have never seen so many people speaking so bad about him!). I expected such a reaction from James’ article.

Yes! it was tactical brilliance! His inters were worn because the track was not wet enough and these tires are not designed for dry racing….he was racing in a dry line with inters…so he took the decision and changed to slicks (proactively)….the result was evident and believe me, it is not so easy to drive at that pace just in that narrow dry line! You should be a master to do that for so many laps without touching the wet surface.

Hamilton is great…he is a warrior and he knows how to overtake and he did it. Can Button do the same? He demonstrated this last year in Brazil…yes he can do it but a real warrior is also a strategist. There are different warriors, the ones that just use their weapons to kill brutely and the ones that use strategy to out-mind the opponent. These ones are the ones who defeat the raw fighters.

Time will tell…the truth is that Hammy will NOT destroy Button, and the same goes for Button…This will be a close and an interesting fight!

Thank you James for your always great articles!


So what exactly are you saying?, as im struggling to understand which side of the fence you are on. Is Hamilton a warrior, but not a strategist? Is Button a “true “warrior (read: Warrior + Strategist)?

It is telling that the only example you have given of Button being an overtaker is 1 race in his 10yr tenure of F1, and there is no example of his strategic nuance barr Australia 2010 – Again 1 example in 10yrs!

Hamilton literally overtakes almost every race, and he has shown he can strategise aw well – and this is only the beginning of his 4th yr. He has proven he can win in a dog of a car. If that does not require some sort of tactical thinking, then i dont know what else is.

The problem is that Hamilton is not as bad as this article suggest, and Button is definitely not as good as the article suggests also, hence the extremely polarised views displayed.

Putting all aside regarding Button time in F1, Dont you think its a bit unusual, that Ross Brawn, the master strategist of F1 would be willing to let go a man who just won the WDC for his fledgling team? If Button was so good, “leading from the cockpit”, with “measured perfection and instinctive tactical brilliance”, im sure Ross would have spotted that and made more of an effort to retain him.

If Hamilton is not the finished package, it is clearly evident that he is already more of a package than Button.


I think we’re all done now. Shall we move on?




I hope these comments don’t put you off writing other articles


This article is not biased at all . if people cart see the article for what it is , then they are really missing the point. There are very few f1 drivers that have the full package , senna, prost had the gift and the list could go on . its clear to see now buttons world champion, its opened his eyes and mind to new heights , and with ten years of hard work its paying off. all he needed was the right car and team to suit him. lewis also has this gift as senna and prost had , but he is not using it to his full potential yet, if he can release it then wow ,it will be like watching senna all over again.


James, to describe your valued contributors as “hysterical” is a tad insulting. You knew what the response would be to an article like this. What did you expect?


This blog is usually very balanced and one of the most insightful commentaries available on the web-sphere… but these opening remarks:

“Jenson Button won the race with a performance of measured perfection and instinctive tactical brilliance, while Lewis Hamilton lit up Albert Park with his audacious passing, but ended up looking diminished in comparison with Button, less in control of his destiny, less mature.”

is somewhat… well… very biased.

1) it was not “tactical brilliance” but a “got nothing to lose now that I am going backwards” call, and a good one to realize when to make such a call… but not “tactical brilliance”… and “measured perfection?”.. my oh my.. leaves one speechless to describe a good call and an unchallenged drive (because of Kubica) as “perfection”

2) Hamilton was not diminished by his radio transmission, many top notch drivers express their frustration on the radio… we don’t know what Alonso was saying about Masa do we? And Button last year? Such radio transmissions happen, and for a top notch driver to not be frustrated at a bad strategy call that he had *no* input on, well, that would diminish him as a top driver.

The Mac engineers who made the call on the assumption that the top cars would as well, was poor judgement, especially if, as it seems, they did not ask Hamilton on the status of his tires.

Anyway, just wanted to say no one is perfect and even top notch commentators once in a while write some obviously biased articles… but it’s a rare exception on this blog 🙂



Wery well said!


Schumacher was the master of upping the pace and putting in a handful of stonking laps when asked to in the race when he needed to pass someone during pit stops and won many races and Championships doing just that.

Button had the ability to do the same upping of the pace mid race last year and banging in some super hot laps that led Barrichello on more than one occasion to wonder how Button had jumped him.

Hamilton needs to learn these kind of tactics push when necessary, whilst having the foresight to pace himself a little at other times – he didn’t need to be 2 seconds a lap quicker than Alonso when he was chasing – him he could have knocked a second per lap off that pace and still arrived behind Alonso with laps left to pass him but with more life left in his tyres to execute a pass.


its clear to see that james allen, was only pointing out that lewis ,still has room for improvment as only been in f1 three years, and with more hard work in different areas, can be an even better world champion, than he was before.. Give james a break , if you dont like the comments then dont come on this site.


Sums it up nicely, thanks


A lot of us didn’t agree with you, this time around James, but I also think that most of the people who write on here are very thankful for the existence of this site! It’s by far and away the best F1 site out there and I hope, like others, that you continue to keep up the great work!


Speak for yourself.

I’d rather see this site disappear if it meant we get JA back in the box with Brundle instead of Legard.

Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone? Case in point right here.

love Brundle’s input, but I’d rather miss out on him altogether and listen to the R5 crew than have to put up with Legard’s commentary. Gave him the benfit of the doubt first year, but there’s been no change.

Time to put a proper professional back in the box!


Came back for another read of the article after I saw a tweet that many people got excited over this. I still don’t really understand what the kerfuffle is about. I totally agree with Jim here that it pays to learn from lessons and criticism positively to move ahead. Actions speak louder than words and it seems that one of the Mclaren guys have a better understanding of this fact. I am curious as to what the comments would be like if the roles and results were swapped the other way last weekend….


Um..No it doesn’t James.

I love your site, and i like you; so much so that i wrote a letter to the BBC telling them to offer you the same role when the coverage move to the BBC, and not to that dull artificially excitable chap who now has it.(well, we now how that’s now turned out!)

But the poster saying we should not come to your site unless we agree with your opinion is ridiculous – and i’m you know that; otherwise why would there be a “comments” section.

The problem with this particular article is its extreme views regarding the two drivers.

In this article, you have been particularly gushing about Buttons abilities, and particularly critical about Lewis’s shortcomings. Unfortunately, this race was not a barometer to test either of those.

Yes, there seems to be a lot of the fanboys about, and most do nothing to enhance the debate. But by far, most posters here have been rational, and have articulated their opinions quite clearly, and why they disagree with yours. Most people seem to agree on the following –

Jenson –

1.Jenson drove a great race

2. His inters were shot, so he made a call with nothing to lose.

3. He was give the option to make the call. It was not “his” idea

4. As it turned out, it was the right call.

5. This was certainly no “leadership”

Lewis –

1.Lewis drove an amazing race

2.He has cemented his reputation now as one of the best overtakers in the business.

3. He has proven again that he always makes the best out of bad situations

4.His never say die attitude gives us the F1 racing we fans all want and crave.

5. He followed a team order, and is being wrongly criticised for it (Remember, he wasn’t given the option to make the call, which meant business as usual = following team orders)

6. Lewis could have driven Jenson’s race, but it is highly unlikely that Jenson could have driven Lewis’s race.

7. He may have some “life skills” to learn, but certainly none that would have changed the outcome of the race in Australia


Jenson drove a great race, made a call, got lucky it was right, capitalised on it, and won – End Of.

Lewis drove an amazing race, got screwed by his team on strategy, got pi**ed off about it, told them, we heard – End Of.


bit of a long article but n almost 100% correct reading of the situation. great stuff.


Stop making out that Button is a genius. When interviewed he said it was his only choice as the inters were shot and not working so he didnt want to put another set on. He took a gamble and it payed off, it could have easily gone the other way and he would have been slated. The facts are Button drove a good race and im glad he got a win so early with Mclaren, however Lewis was awesome and showed how fast he is. Lewis didnt have to switch like Button so early as his tyres were working just fine. Button only changed tyres cause he felt he had no choice not because he made some amazing judgement. everyone get off the band waggon. Lewis was in another league, the overtake on Nico was epic, Lewis could have won that race had he stayed out and got past Kubica but we will never know. Lets see if Buttons amazing sence of timing works next time, i doubt it. He drove a great race and deserved the win dont get me wrong, im just fed up with all this “button is so more inteligent than Lewis, he isnt.


It’s quite clear that James Allen, and many of his fellow UK F1 insiders have been licking their chops at the opportunity to pen an article that lambasts Hamilton (not for his driving i might add), while placing Button on a pedastol.

JA even went as far to imply that Button…Jenson Button… is the “Complete Package”, or the driver that Hamilton should emulate…give me a break.


Tell me where in the article is says that Button is the complete package.. or that he is the driver Hamilton should emulate???

People have got a bit hysterical in their responses to this article and I’m a bit disappointed that many readers seem able only to view something via their own bias or by suspecting some bias on my part. This is becoming like politics where you cannot have an intelligent debate without partisanship.

If you read it carefully, I’m not criticising Hamilton, not suggesting that Button is a better driver – he clearly isn’t. I’m merely pointing out that Button demonstrated one quality (leadership from the cockpit) that Hamilton still lacks. End of.


Great blog James – as always an interesting slant and great debating points. People are entitled to have their views but please spare us the “omg-fanboi” level of comment that a couple here are bordering on.

Hopefully we can keep the “one eyed ranters” out and have people who are passionate but fair contribute – which to me is exactly how you and your posts come across. Keep the chin up and keep writing. This is the best F1 site out there imo.


I’d have to agree – Some of the comments on here border on libel, suggesting conspiracies and all sorts.

However, I’d say that this is the most balanced article I’ve seen on the subject, not least from your own good self. I’ll admit that I was critical when you were a commentator for ITV, for a seeming obsession with Hamilton (ALthough that might have been due to ITV editorial decisions), but this is balanced and perfectly fair.

Hussein Lokhandwala

I’m assuming that it is the price you pay for the ever growing popularity of your site. I, for one, enjoyed reading the comments a lot more when they came from fans of the sport rather then one particular driver over another. 500+ comments, the majority of which do nothing to further the debate, is a bit of a shame on a board that, more often than not, contains commentary of a high standard. Just my ‘two cents’.


Well said Hussein.


A lot of the comments have challenged the article in a very rational and measured way, to dismiss all dissenters as partisan crazies is ridiculous. I’ve read most of the posts on here and a few things have come through consistently; firstly, a lot of people don’t believe Jenson won due to his ‘tactical brilliance’ and they have supported this theory with sound evidence. And secondly a lot of people think the article was unduly harsh on Hamilton given that he drove a brilliant race and simply followed team orders. Many posters seem to think this was understandable given that the team were best informed to make that call. I think it’s been a decent debate, and if you read the article again i think it’s easy to see why it’s sparked such a heated response.


Isn’t politics one of the great things about F1? I think most other racing series are boring because they lack it.


If Button is supposed to be such a superior manager of his tires….How did he get into trouble with his intermediates after only 6 laps?


And how many of those laps were behind a safety car, too…..

One desperate call after being overtaken by his team-mate, knowing that the leading driver pits first, knowing that pitting first in the new F1 is the preferred tactic to get you ahead of another car. All Button did was short circuit the decision making process at McLaren, catching the pit crew unprepared, then rode the breaks until the end because he then had the track position that Lewis had taken from him within a lap or so of the safety car disappearing.

Not taking anything from jenson here, he drove a great race, but lauding his tactical brilliance is going too far. He read the track, knew it was a lap too soon given the wetness of sector one, but gambled anyway and ended up in a gravel trap. There was a large dose of luck in jenson’s victory on Sunday.

There is some truth in James’ assertion that Hamilton needs to make his own choices. McLaren screwed him over in both China and Brazil 2007 with their knowledge in FP2 of gearbox issues and their insane three stop strategy. They screwed him again in Germany by making him win the race twice, and again in Brazil by putting a low downforce setup with rain predicted for Sunday, they shouted at him down the radio at Silverstone 2009 to let them make the strategy calls when had they pitted when Hamilton wanted he’d have cleared all the cars stuck behind the Heidfeld train, they screwed his win up at Valencia in 2009 with their pit lane dithering and still he trusts them to make the right call.

Lewis needs to draw a line under McLaren and move to Mercedes when MS has a gutsfull of being repeatedly raceraped by Rosberg. A year or two under Brawn’s wing will be the making of the kid.


Amen to that! how anyone could not read the situation the way youve read it, especially the first part of your post beggards beleive! Technical Brilliance? just bc he took one of the two options put on the table for him? thats going too far i think.


It’s simple:

Jenson: Lucky Call and Skill leading to a win;

Lewis: Phenomenal driving spoiled by Bad TEAM Strategy. There’s nothing wrong with calling spoiled milk spoiled. The next thing to do is throw it out and replace the container.

There’s nothing wrong with gushing over Jenson; bloggers and commentators just shouldn’t dream up needless contrasts and critiques for effect.

Mr. Allen, up till now, you’ve maintained a great reputation in the F1 commentary world. Please don’t lose your touch.

NONE of us reading and writing here know what it’s like to be in the heat of a racing battle, upwards of 300km/h at times, wheel to wheel with other sublime drivers…. but we all know WHY we bother to tune in: Drives from drivers like Lewis.

May the season be spectacular!


Love the fact that Kimi’s left the sport and James Allen’s message boards are still full of his name.



@225. Couldn’t agree more.


I know it seems as if people are pulling lewis down , but he needs to learn some more racecraft this season , as its going to be a championship thats going to be won by a thinker , no so much as a flyer. its going to be all about rubber and making it last . going flat out lap after lap as lewis does aint going to do him any favours. its time he started thinking outside the box , rather than being told by the team all the time .he is a fantastic driver with raw pace , if he can think ahead and also push this season , then it will make him a better driver for the future, and he will win many championships .these guys do a fantastic job , and its all to easy for the fans and press to pull them down . iam a big fan of lewis just want whats best for the guy, and him to bring the best out of himself and the team.


is this the highest number of comments ever on one article ?

I am thoroughly enjoying the debate, although trying to scroll down all of the my dad could beat up your dad type comments about lewis and jenson is going to give me RSI 😉

I can’t wait to see this team battle develop over the coming races.


Well we had 1500 once but there was a competition attached. I reckon it’s a record for a debate! Bit out of control really..


Huge number of commentaries proves there is plenty of love and hate.


I think you may well see that exceeded by morning 🙂

.My particular favourite comment was that you James, should do more research before writing such an article.

You know such as being at the race, speaking to engineers and drivers etc. Rather than watching on the television.

on this basis we should have the BBC red button with an overtake now button or pit now button. As clearly the greatest strategic minds are on your forum 😉

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I think that the article is a unfair on Hamilton and he somewhat being kicked while he is down.

If someone else on the grid had made those team radio comments then they would have been hailed as a “racer” or being “demanding of his team”.

McLaren misread the actions of others and bet on Ferrari making another stop…pure and simple. The rest of this seems like over analysis.


There are times when Lewis and his Father decided to quit Formula 1 but non bad people in F1 and the support around him is what Lewis thought of continuing. The media treats Lewis as an outsider, there is more to it than him being in F1, he has been mocked by the fans and the media. There are things that will never change in F1 or people in it.

In my view Lewis has never felt at home in F1m his father has left and If I were Lewis i would certainly quit F1 and let some of anti Lewis fans take over his seat at McLaren and run their hardline invasive media.

He has been called all sorts of things, even privately by those who dislike him.

From what Lewis did, he drove his heart out and is not afraid to attack, more like Senna, once he arrives he doesnt waste time but pass you.

F1 has done little to control the invasive behavior of people in F1 and the media.

In the end you have to wonder if people like Tiger Woods deserved to be destroyed by a pack of media wolves when they hide all the dirt about people they are protecting in the media, from my experience with the media, i know the media can be a really dark place and stuff you are told to write and worse of all lies.


Hello James,

I know this article is regarding the two Mclaren drivers but have you heard anything about the rumours concerning the two Ferrari drivers? There has been talk around that they’re refusing to share set-up information with one another. Heard anything at your end?



Hi James

Good piece, but i think mclaren deserve a lot more praise than lewis was giving them, they certainly covered all angles bringing lewis in. Think about it, if jenson’s and ferraris tyres wouldn’t have lasted the full race lewis wins, if the tyres lasted, jenson wins, win for mclaren either way. Pity lewis didnt see the team role he was playing, and could (and will on other days)so easily have profitted from. Pity ferrari didn’t try it out with alonso so he could chase down massa.

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