Whitmarsh explains away McLaren drivers’ overtake confusion
Whitmarsh explains away McLaren drivers’ overtake confusion
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Jun 2010   |  10:55 am GMT  |  101 comments

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has dismissed the misunderstanding between his drivers at the end of the Turkish Grand Prix, saying that when Lewis Hamilton was told that Jenson Button would not pass him, this was an engineer’s “opinion”, rather than a team policy.

Speaking in a Vodafone teleconference with the leading websites, he also said that in the new style F1 racing, it is hard to know when – or indeed if – to stop drivers from racing each other in the interests of the team.

In the closing stages of the race Hamilton was told to save fuel, Button likewise. Hamilton took it fairly easy, thinking that they were driving, rather than racing, to the finish. When Button closed on him he said, “Jenson’s closing in on me, you guys. If I back off, is Jenson going to pass me or not?”

The team replies: “No, Lewis. No.”

Whitmarsh says that this was the opinion of chief engineer Phil Prue, rather than the statement of a team decision. Perhaps this misunderstanding arose because McLaren is still cautious about crossing the FIA, even though Max Mosley is no longer president, and did not want it’s fuel saving instruction to be construed as a team order, which would be prohibited under F1 rules.

“Shortly after he was told that Jenson wouldn’t overtake him, Jenson did overtake him, ” said Whitmarsh. “Phil gave an opinion. It turned out his opinion was wrong. They are both racing drivers, they had a challenge in that race. The race was quicker for the Red Bulls and McLarens than expected so we were consuming more fuel than we needed to.

“It wasn’t expected that Lewis would lift as much as he did in Turn 8. For Jenson who is a racing driver, when he saw quite a big lift in Turn 8 he thought it was his opportunity and made the pass.”

There is still plenty of confusion about how the incident occurred with McLaren engineer Tim Goss saying that the drivers were given identical lap times to stick to, while Button says he was not given any specifics.

Whitmarsh added that teams which let their drivers race each other are going to face the problem of what to do with drivers in a 1-2 situation when drivers have to save fuel. In the refuelling era, it was generally accepted that the team mates could race until the final pit stop and then hold station, but with only one early stop in most races and drivers saving different amounts of fuel, the prospect for some exciting racing late in the event certainly exists. But as Red Bull proved and McLaren almost proved, it can have disastrous consequences.

“There is a dilemma at the end of a race about how hard you can race, ” said Whitmarsh. “We had it amply demonstrated that a team and drivers can get that wrong. But there is no doubt that both of our drivers want to win.”

So it seems that for the moment there is no rule controlling drivers in the closing stages of the race.

Whitmarsh added that this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix should suit the McLaren more than the Red Bull team. However rain is forecast for the weekend and there are plenty of pitfalls. It is one of the hardest races of the season on brakes, for example, and with the cars starting the race on full tanks, managing brakes will be vital.

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I’m also frustrated by the prospect of ‘parade lap’ driving between team mates which will no doubt continue until they find a way to ensure sufficient fuel is carried to cover the race distance irrespective of strategy, without penalising relative engine efficiency/inefficiency. Just wondering if dictating each car carries a specified fuel weight which is calculated using benchmark amounts, e.g. the number of laps fuel to be carried = race distance plus ‘x’ laps with the fuel per lap calculated from a benchmark consumption for each engine(x revs, x lap time, something)to be reviewed whenever a car is updated. This still provides an incentive to design for fuel efficiency (carrying less fuel weight throughout) whilst discouraging race fuel saving (carrying unnecessary fuel to the end)- just need to ensure that the plus x laps amount is enough to counter going flat out for the full race distance. Not particularly well thought out but just a quick thought.


So things are beyond the control of the teams. Excellent. Keeps me interested until the final lap.


To me the event seems pretty clear, both dirvers were given laptimes to stick to. JB stuck to his; lewis had a bad lap nearly 2 seconds down on target. JB caught him, and over took him. Least thats how i read it given the weeks news.

I think the presser is largly for the FIA’s benefit; will be interesting to see what happens in canada.

I think all this “mclaren want LH out is frankly a bit much”. If anything JB was a little naughty, but in his defense whats he gonna do if the target he is running to puts him right on LH’s bumper.


Hi James,

Wouldn’t F1 be more interesting if they just banned radio communication?



Had this been involving Alonso and all of you guys would be spitting fire against the FIA and Ferrari for “obvious team orders”. That’s what happened. Sorry we are not stupid.


I liked the way Hamilton stamped on the snakes head…


@ C Pitter: Don’t be ridiculous, don’t play the race card as it’s just BS. But if you really wanna play that game, go onto http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk and summon a blogger by the name of S Hughes. You two would get on a treat!!

Very sad…


When Whitmarsh actually gives a team order next time, Hamilton won’t give a sh*t.


Seems like a good case for reintroducing fuelling during races? Perhaps banning re-fuelling has been a bit of an own goal by the FIA?

How can drivers be expected to race if they are told to conserve fuel?

Although drivers are required to look after their tyres during a race, at least they can pit to change them if required.

Maybe they should be using diesel engines! Perhaps Toyota could re-enter F1 with a race-ready version of the Prius!


I agree – when did “saving fuel” become conducive to F1 racing? Why not give them a Toyota Prius each and the winner is the one with the most fuel left at the end of the race!


🙂 There would hardly be a race as the best way to have the most fuel at the end would be not to move at all


‘Formula Prius’. What a great idea. I would think that Bernie will be making a call to Mr. Toyoda as we speak!


Teams screw up quite often. It is interesting to read how they now explain the actual event !


I have a simple solution to end all this speculation about what various radio messages may or may not mean. Ban the use of pit to car radio altogether! Leave the driver to drive the car and make his own decisions. On things like fuel management, some form of display should be given so that the driver can make his mind up on whether or not to adopt fuel saving modes.


This reminds me a little of San Marino, 1982. The drivers are told to save fuel, the following driver overtakes… except this one ended with the original leading driver winning and only feeling slightly put-out, rather than being beaten and feeling betrayed.

I hope this doesn’t play out in a similar fashion… but I am sure McLaren will be doing all they can to calm any rough waters.


Lewis is going to walk Montreal. I don’t care if RBR bring an F-Duct or whatever -Duct they want. McLaren was clearly faster in Turkey in race configuration. There is no way they will not be at least 3 tenths per lap quicker than RBR on the island. In fact, I suspect Ferrari might be as quick if not quicker than RBR here (and I also wuold not discount Mercedes).


Lewis Hamilton, pls bring your dad back into the paddock am pleaaadding! cos trust me you are all alone in there. its not too late to say dad i was wrong. weve not heard the last of this rumble. i see trouble ahead at mclaren!


What a pile of b*s*. Bring back team orders, at least everyone would know what’s going on.

Team orders were specifically banned at a time of blatant abuse of them by one team in particular (Ferrari) at the expense of one of their drivers (Barrichello). That’s not the case anymore with the strong driver pairings we have now.


There’s one part of the f1.com race edit that hasn’t been mentioned much and that is when Jenson is alongside racing Lewis he’s told very sternly to ‘save fuel Jenson’. Looks very like code for ‘don’t race lewis’.

Jenson then backs off for the rest of the race. My thoughts were he was told not to overtake Lewis, keep a safe 1-2 and bring it home. However when he saw the opening he went for it, maybe because he’s just a racer but mostly just to show Lewis, the team and us that he could.


I don’t think the team order rule should have ever been put in place. The backlash from Austria 2002 was already sufficient to prevent future blatant incident like that. Forms of team orders have always occurred and teams will make up excuses in order to enforce them anyways. Furthermore, team orders are probably desired in certain situations like if one driver needs to move over to secure the WDC.

Although it would be nice to see more overtaking and racing among teammates, I honestly think it should be the team’s decision on how to manage this issue.


It is a team sport and in the grand scheme of thing the Drivers’ Championship means nothing, it’s just a side show. It is the Constructors title that is the most important and determines the teams payout from the F1


Whitmarsh is covering his butt. Of course there are no team orders, as in over the radio “Jens hold station, don’t pass Hamilton, you need to bring the car home as you are both low on fuel”. Whitmarsh said that chief engineer Phil Prue’s statement was an opinion, that’s how you get out of hot water with the FIA, you just call orders, “opinions”. That is laughable to anyone who’s been around F1 for awhile.

I think Button knows how devoted Hamilton is to McLaren, after all it’s been a boyhood dream of his. Button on the other hand has no long term alliances with the team, he is in it for himself. So Button can say he didn’t get the orders to save fuel and stay on target with lap times, it doesn’t serve his purpose, to win at all costs.

In the end Whitmarsh can attempt to explain all he wants, but for sure Hamilton no longer trusts Button. The question is, does the team feel the same way?


I was under the impression that Button said he was told to save fuel, but was not given target lap times.

Overall you are right though. Why do so many British journalists put so little thought into the contents of McLaren press releases?


Not according to the quoted text from above.

“There is still plenty of confusion about how the incident occurred with McLaren engineer Tim Goss saying that the drivers were given identical lap times to stick to, while Button says he was not given any specifics.”

Looks like Button may be telling stories out of school? For sure the Canadian GP will be interesting.


Yet more spin from McLaren. Once again the blame has been shifted from one of the sollipsists who drive their cars to an overworked, underpaid employee who gives his all to the organisation.

We saw at the Hungaroring in 2007 that Hamilton will ignore orders from the team if he feels that he has something to gain from doing so. In Turkey we were given a glimpse into the psyche of Button. (I have no doubt that the Button brigade will try to spin the latter comment to Jenson’s benefit.)

I can imagine how the British media would be covering these events if the roles of Hamilton and Button had been reversed.


No big issue for McLaren, as a team it was a 1-2 finish, what more can you ask for?. Big issue for Lewis as team mate overtook him during save fuel orders. That’s complicated unless Jenson speaks up. For fans like myself, they were told not to race each other. Was hoping for them to push and watch the cars stall after crossing the finishing line. Then we’ll have 2 Professors. We need a thrilla!


I agree that a wholesale ban on pit to car radio would be a bit extreme, but I certainly think that the idea has merit. Discussing what lap to pit on is one thing, but the pitwall instructing drivers to make brake balance adjustments, is another thing entirely and is something that I would like to see removed from the equation.

As PGJ so elequently put – Let the driver be the sole arbiter for decision making about the car and its performance.


They don’t really need pit radios, they have pit boards.

They banned radios in Moto GP and that’s just fine.


Don’t believe it for a second. This is simply backpedaling, because they can’t admit they issued team orders.

The one place you can guarantee won’t contain the truth is any public statement from McLaren. Their hand is forced by a lousy rule against something that’s a fundamental part of a team sport.


Once again just like Australia 2009 Whitmarsh has promptly found an engineer to blame! The last time he did that, somebody got fired so he should be careful with this blame thing – it can affect somebody’s career and family. However one has to take cognizance of the fact that the FIA video edits went as far as providing subtitles on the McLaren conversations suggesting that somebody is looking to stir trouble between McLaren and FIA? So its in the interests of all McLaren fans to accept Martin’s explanation at face value and move on.

Best news is that the McLaren drivers in this new era are free to race – no more backing off by Lewis like in China. Hopefully the question of whether Button’s safety-first style stands upto Hamilton’s aggressive overtakes can be finally answered on the track rather than on blog posts!


Lewis backed off in China?


i totally agree with this post let’s see who’s the best pound for pound at Mclaren and stop the talking.


I think the rules should be changed to allow official team orders, it is after all a team sport.

The army of design, development, test, etc engineers together with a room full of guys (worthy of a space shuttle launch) monitoring every aspect of the car’s performance parameters and reactions, all do their utmost to ensure both cars are at the zenith of possible performance, but then they have to hand them over to the drivers.

Everything has been fine until the drivers got in the car, then immediately there are problems, things need adjusting, or break or leak or short out or overheat or simply wear out.

Thus the rest of the team must be on tenterhooks the instant the driver takes their baby away and starts abusing it, going off track, picking up foreign bodies, knocking bits off.

The least the team should be allowed is to give instructions to hold position after say 80% of race distance, at least this would avoid clashes of team mates such as we have seen recently and give the team some semblance of control over the drivers.


Thats not racing as I understand it


I don’t believe a word that Withmarsh fellow is saying, the plan was for button to win the race. it didn’t work out, Lewis won, at least he now knows he is dealing with snakes. And I believe there’s a good reason why the FIA has decided to play the tape. Affaire a suivre.

The Scrutineer's Cousin

Exactly. It’s all ‘Ron Speak’ and spin. I thought Martin Whitmarsh was a better man than that.

As you said, Lewis has now realised what he’s dealing with … and he can play by the same rules.

Admittingly, I was Anti-Hamilton in his first year and thought he was receiving favoured treatment at McLaren. But this year, I am recognising that he is a true talent.

Bello form Nigeria

I totally agree with you mate.. He is a very amazing driver. He fought his way up into formula one tooth and nail with one the so called best drivers. He deserves much more than this.

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