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McLaren legend Ramirez on what Lewis still has to learn and life with Prost and Senna
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Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Sep 2012   |  1:13 pm GMT  |  195 comments

[Updated] Formula 1 sage and former McLaren team co-ordinator Jo Ramirez believes a failure to come to terms with the fact that he had been beaten by team-mate Jenson Button explained Lewis Hamilton’s tweeting of telemetry traces at Spa.

Hamilton endured a miserable weekend in Belgium at the start of this month, becoming embroiled in controversy over several messages posted to the social media site – all of which were ultimately taken down. Ramirez, a mainstay at McLaren for 17 years before retiring in 2001, reckons that the telemetry incident highlighted a general reluctance for the current generation of drivers to willingly acknowledge when they’ve been outpaced fair and square. He also suggested that it showed Hamilton still has to learn that being the quickest driver on outright pace isn’t always enough.

Speaking to the September edition of the JA on F1 podcast (which you can download here), Ramirez said: “Times have changed. I don’t know if it is all the media or the razzmatazz about Formula 1 now that it’s so much difficult for the driver to accept that he’s lost.

“Obviously that decision of who’s going to have the rear wing between Hamilton and Button was discussed among everybody. It’s not that there was only one rear wing, there were two, they were for both. But he decided that he was going to race with that. So he couldn’t live with that and shut up, no, he had to show the world why he’s lost, why his team-mate beat him.

“Perhaps it’s a little bit of political inside fight in the head between them. Maybe Button said ‘well, he didn’t like the other wing so much and he preferred that [high-downforce one] ‘– which was the wrong one – because I think Button is probably more clever on the car than Hamilton is.

“Hamilton is without a doubt much quicker but Button has shown many times, especially last year, that [it’s] not simple to be the quickest one is going to win races. So you need to have everything. “

Although the level of on and off-track the rivalry between the British pair hasn’t come close to that of McLaren’s previous all-world champion line-up of the late 1980s, Hamilton and Button’s contrasting individual driving styles and approaches do bare resemblance to those of their respective childhood heroes Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

Ramirez was at the centre of extraordinary two-year Senna/Prost era at McLaren and reminiscing about their first season together on the podcast – when together they won 15 of the 16 race in 1988 – he told a great tale of how when his car was perfect, rather like Button, Prost was unbeatable.

“Senna was absolutely unbelievable on a qualifying lap, nobody could race that much of the car in a single lap like he could. Taking a second out of Prost in places like Spa or Monza where Prost used to set the standard was absolutely unheard [of] – incredible,” he recalled.

“But when you gave Prost a car that was completely to his liking no one could beat him, not even Senna. But how many times you have a car that is 100% to how you like it? Very seldom. But Senna used to adapt to the car. Whatever the car was doing, if he couldn’t change it, he would just adapt himself and that’s why he was so much better than Prost in those situations.

“The things like the French Grand Prix, when I’m saying about having the perfect car, Alain had the perfect car in the circuit at home where it gives you an extra adrenaline being at home. He took the car, put it on pole, came back, got off the car, took his helmet off and put his jeans and his T-shirt on and I said ‘you’re crazy, what are you doing? There’s still half an hour to go. We still have two sets of qualifying tyres.’

“‘No, no,’ he said, ‘I done the perfect lap. If he [meaning Ayton] can do better than that he deserved the pole. I cannot do any better’. The more Senna tried [to beat him] the slower he got and Prost got the pole. That was fantastic and Senna did the same to him in Portugal. To live that together it was an indescribable year.”


To hear the full interview with Ramirez and a host of other star F1 names check out the latest JA on F1 podcast, available to download directly here now or via iTunes.

 

* Hamilton was in India at the weekend for a promotional event ahead of the Indian GP next month.He said that his focus is on winning this year’s championship, which he feels he is in a strong position to achieve,

“The important thing is I’m 100pc focused on winning with this team. I don’t have a timeline. My focus is on trying to win this world championship. Of course I do have to have those things (contracts) sorted out, but I do have people in the background working on those contract negotiations.

“There’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of stories that aren’t true. We’re all wise enough to understand that what is written is not necessarily true,” Hamilton said.

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1

James, this interview is absolutely stunning! Thanks!

2

Just listened to my first podcast by you and it was from the GPMT. I couldn’t make the event this year (I live in NZ) but good to hear some very familiar voices. I talked, and listened, to Jo for many years at McLaren and we had some good discussions. Good to hear that he still talks with his Latin heart backed up by unparalleled insight. You can’t say he is wrong either!

3

Cheers Bob

4

Rosberg confirms he will DEFINITELY stay at Mercedes next year

http://www.spox.com/de/sport/formel1/1209/News/michael-schumacher-soll-in-zukunft-teamkollege-von-nico-rosberg-bei-mercedes-bleiben-verbleib.html

which means a Schumi+Lewis combo won’t happen

basically, it’s all down to whether Mercedes can now agree terms with Schumi or not

German media report that Schumi is not ready to retire yet

you also cannot see Mercedes KICK out Schumi, not least since he is driving very well, has a massive fan base in Germany/the world over, and is already penciled in as a BRAND ambassador, maybe even as a potential Mercedes team-(co-)boss in the future

still

out of interest

@James

do you think there is ANY possibility of Schumacher joining a team like McLaren in a direct swap with Lewis ?

a return to Alonso’s Ferrari is unlikely

are there any other teams that see a chance to snatch Schumi ?

5

I thought this year Hamilton started with mature wise mindset. Qualify well and so on. So, it would be natural to expect him to continue this momentum.

In SPA, he didn’t do well because he couldnt get use to the low Drag wing. But his reaction where he publish the telemetry is just unprofessional.

It reminds me of Webber whining about his lost front wing when on hindsight, it was clearly unprofessional. I see RedBull is a fair team as seen with 2011 and 2012. But Webber’s complaints in 2010 created a bias impression.

Hamilton is still a child inside who can’t deal with many things.

6

JB, I understand your point, but we dont know the truth of why he published the telemetry on twitter, although even the main article here provides speculative commentary on this. But no one other than Lewis and Mclaren know the full story of the wing, how it was allocated and why.

Should Hamilton have published the trace? Obviously not, but he is not the only driver on the grid to make his feelings known in a very direct and perhaps unedifying manner.

Alonso for example, his most recent outburst at Monza has him publicly demanding over team radio for a penalty against Vettel and it did not look very good when he got it at Ferrari’s home race.

The Alonso incident for me had echoes of the good old bad old days of F1/FIA stewarding and the special relationship between the red team and the governng body and would have been the basis for a more interesting and worthwhile article.

Both incidents do have a ring of petulance about them, but I note that it is only Hamilton who draws so much neagtive comment, and for this I cite one-sided articles like this one here as a prime instigator.

Incidentally, I found the trace fascinating, and I would like to see more telemetry published as a matter of course in F1 as I think that it can explain a lot more about how drivers get the edge, notwithstanding team rivalries and the need for secrecy. It would be fascinating to overlay his stuff on quali laps as well.

7

on the senna prost thing he says senna is more adaptable but while team mates prost out scores senna over the 2 seasons.

Infact he outscores him both seasons but due to the bizzare points system we had at time he lost one title.

infact if it was the current points system(or at least the 90s one) prost is pretty comfortably no.1. over 2 seasons he scored 29 more points than senna. that in them days is alot

8

I suspect Hamilton is being pushed – by more than one party. http://wp.me/p2HWOP-22

9

James, do you think it is unjustified that Jenson has been so heavily criticised this season with regards his qualifying times and race pace compared to Lewis?

Compared to the time difference between Webber and Vettel throughout all of last season where Webber was often a second a lap slower Jensons pace relative to Lewis hasnt really been that bad and is merely being exasperated by the close field. Furthermore Mark has been comprehensively outpaced and out raced in the Monza and Spa yet very little had been made of it.

Despite this Webber is often seen as the quicker driver of the two.

10

He had problems early summer but he looked pretty fast from Germany onwards and was untouchable at Spa

11

Where do you based upon that Hamilton is insecure ?

12

Lewis “Hamlet” Hamilton, silent and brooding even after victory. What is to become of him?

13

As a McLaren fan:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” Hamlet quote (Act II, Sc. II).

I like both Hamilton and Button!

14

Nice quote, not had one from Hamlet here before!

15

Before Italy, I remember reading that Button and Hamilton had scored more or less identical amounts of points during their joint tenure at Maclaren, with Button a fraction ahead (although Button’s DNF as against Hamilton’s 25 points will now have wrecked that). Factor into that a short period of readjustment which Button as the newcomer to the team should be allowed, and the numbers suggest that Button may have outperformed Hamilton.

Look on the other hand at qualifying: Button has been convincingly spanked by Hamilton. Hence, the statistically attractive proposition that Hamilton has more ‘natural speed’ than Button (although these things are not always so straightforward). Let’s grant Hamilton his greater ‘natural speed’. The corollary of that is that it must be the case that Button is substantially the better driver over the course of the race, whether this is due to Hamilton’s propensity for incidents, worse car management, worse strategic instinct or simply that he cannot reproduce that one-lap speed consistently over the course of a race. One would have to conclude that Button outperforms Hamilton in races *by a substantial margin* given the sizeable disadvantage that grid position imposes – not only is Button, on average, overhauling Hamilton but he’s doing so at the same time as having to overtake other cars and/or losing time behind slower cars etc. etc.

Feed this back into the salary debate: can Hamilton, for all his ‘natural speed’ justify pay demands which are likely to dwarf Button’s when he is struggling to bring more points home? Especially when, to put it at its lowest, he does not seem to bring much to the team in terms of his out-of-the-car behaviour.

Hamilton’s strongest card is in reality that there are not many decent alternatives to partner Button if he goes and, moreover, Button does not have many more years in him. But most people with any sense seem to realise that Maclaren is the likeliest prospect to give him a consistently competitive car. Maclaren do want him to stay, it seems, despite any bad feeling that has broken out. Hamilton will only have himself to blame if he squanders some of his best years in an uncompetitive Mercedes.

16
DanWilliams from Aust

The Hamilton rubbish aside (refering to the comments, I don’t mind the article).

Enjoyed Ramirez’s comments on Senna/Prost. Something that many of us would’ve assumed, but interesting to hear about from within McLaren.

I respect both Senna and prost equally for their approach to motorsport, competativeness, and how they handled themself on and off the track with such passion and intensity. And yet they did so so extremely different to one another. Absolutely one of the greatest battles in sporing history!

17

A really great podcast, with some priceless comments.

A bit off-topic, but could we have a downloadable versions of the videos please? I would love to see the Texas track but I can’t watch it online over this slow connection.

Thanks James 🙂

18

Hi James, I think you are a great journalist and very knowledgeable however you need to stop with this propaganda thing. Anyone who has a car to their liking is unbeatable. Not just button so stop with those tired lines. Button alos gives excuses when he is out qualified with wea lines such as ” i had no grip, or the balance changed or i could not get any heat in the tires blah blah” but you never pick up on it however when its ahmilton everyone goes crazy.

I really do think sometimes if hamilton was a a white english man then he would not be getting this heat. American media would not be given him this heat. only english media who hate successful ambitious 1 track minded sports men and women.

19

Can’t speak for anything produced in the American media, but as regards UK, utter rubbish.

20

Rubbish in the U.S…also

21

I think you need to read the stories more carefully

I didn’t say any of that.

22

No you did not James, that is true, you just lit the blue touchpaper and stood back. Hence a torrent of largely critical anti-Lewis commentary, a lot of it gratuitous and a lot of it uninformed and highly speculative.

For my part I think Lewis has shown remarkable strength of character in uncertain times, amidst a barage of media attention, and yet still remains totally focussed on winning.

Its not just that Hamilton can win in an unfavourable car, he can win in an “unfavourable” team and an unfavourable climate, something his detracters always claimed he could not.

I have the feeling that whatever Hamilton does he will be criticised, and its time for influential bloggers like you James to set a more mature example. You are less mischeivous when you commentate for the Beeb, and a bit of balance would not go amiss here either, I hope you will agree.

23

Well said.

Its no accident that Ramirez gets wheeled out to validate a particular narrative (pro Button, not so subtle anti-Lewis) that gets published by arguably the most influential if not the most read f1 blogger.

As a longtime fan McLaren, I feel its best for Lewis to vacate the team; it would do wonders for his psyche and expose the team’s weaknesses moving forward. It may end up being a win-win situation.

24

What?

We don’t have an agenda, and we didn’t tell Jo what to say!

25

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the drivers hate each other or are best friends, its up to the team to deliver the best car and driver combination. Its hard to point to any other driver, outside of Vettel or Alonso, who could deliver the raw pace Hamilton has. I’m not a Hamilton fan, but I can appreciate what he brings to a team. There are plenty of rookies or journeymen out there that could deliver a respectible showing, however if you’re one of the top few teams, thats not good enough to win a title.

26

When Ramiriez suggests Hamilton has some learning to do, he’s absolutely on the button.

By the end of 07 it was painfully obvious Hamilton had a serious issue in learning from his mistakes. He was prone to repeating basic errors and in the midst of the mitigation of youth, rookieism, and inexperience he’s continued to repeat the basic errors a child of 6 six would have learnt from.

This latest faux pas is just another in the litany of those past and to come.

I made the point in 2007 he’d never learn, nor would he achieve the multiple WDC’s he crave’s and he’d be fortunate if he won a single drivers crown.

To date I’m still right on the money.

27

Ha ridiculous JamesR and the irony of this whole situation is that Lewis may even win this year !

28

And pig’s may fly!

29

But Mclaren the team was using different downforce levels for both cars. Isn’t it thus understandable that one of the setup will be the faster one. So Why does Ramirez wade into the matter like they had identical cars and one driver was massively faster. Or does he belong to the Perez for Mclaren movement?

30

Given those close 50/ 50 callls with weather or downforce – yeah Jenson gets that right but to say he’s better on car set-up is completely wrong because if that were the case Jenson wouldn’t have been languishing outside the top 8 so often before Germany and constantly struggling with his tyres during a race !

Jo is right about Lewis desires to explain why he was beaten by his team mate is pretty accurate. No top driver likes been beaten by his team mate especially if your teammate is quite often beatable like Jenson. Not that what Lewis did was bright or anything..lol

What I loved about your podcast is Jos recollection of Senna / Prost . Prost is my all time favorite and let’s face it, even when the cars weren’t perfect there was very little in it on race day. He was more consistently quick than any driver I recalled and made very few mistakes. I actually still miss watching him drive.

31

Hi James,

If you happen to be reading down this far, I’d be intrigued to know whether F1 insiders like Ramirez think there was any validity to Prost’s claims that in 1989 he was being given dud engines by Honda.

It seems an odd thing to do, yet some of the qualifying gaps between Senna and Prost seemed enormous (over 1.5 seconds at Monza, for example). I would think that telemetry would have cleared up or confirmed the accusation pretty quickly, but to my knowledge it was never made public.

I do rather suspect that Prost was lashing out at everyone by this stage, as Senna had caused his alienation from McLaren. Monza, of course, was where he famously dropped Ron Dennis’s prized trophy into the sea of tifosi from the podium.

32

As a noon British citizen, we don´t get to much additional Hamilton press then what I personally search for on the Internet so I am happy about what ever comes up on this site since it is backed from someone who knows and someone who cares. Unless he is the biggest con man in F1 (which I seeeeeriously doubt) James is the best ever which happend to F1 fans who does not have any other insight into F1. Thank you James for this. Your homepage and your podcast. Its just great.

To your article. It is one of the most interesting, at least for me, following the Hamilton/Button vs. Senna/Prost thingy.

Great article. It really puts the finger on the point of the problem for both Hamilton and Button.

Hamilton with his “almost” unparalleled talent, can race anything. If he would have been an F1 driver 20 years ago, he would today be remembered as one of the fastest and best ever. BUT racing is not only about being the fastest. Its not. Prost and MOST of all, Schumacher proved this. You need to win during a season. Button (who of course can not be compared with Prost since Button only won WC title 1 time in a car which was superior and will never win a WC title again) is however very good in this aspect. Since his talent (raw speed talent that is) is not as good as others, he needs to work extra hard on getting the car working the way he wants/needs it to be (Schumacher/Vettel the same, but they are/where more talented that Button, not Hamlton, and gets the whole picture in a better way which is why those 2 have 9 titles, same as Senna,Prost, Hamilton and Button together) if he gets this done, he wins, or finished on the podium. The problem is that he cant get that done today during a complete season. Hamilton can do it abit more. When he has the car to it…he wins even easier (the last 2 races are great displays of that).

So what is the conclusion.

Button needs to get the car and the team where he needs to and fast. Otherwise he wont win it over a season.

Hamilton need to work less with his pure talent and over drive the car and instead getting the car to work FOR him (like Schumi/Vettel did/does). If he manages this, he has more talent than any other and can win many more titles and become one of the greatest ever. If he does not get this, he will never win a WC again.

33

Hi James,

A small website-housekeeping point:

May I make the suggestion that you don’t attach the podcast files directly to the RSS feed? For those of us on slow connections a 50MB file clogging up my bandwidth when trying to get at my mail is somewhat vexing! Perhaps a link to the file (whether for download or stream) might be a better option?

Enjoying the content of both the blog and podcast though – keep up the good work.

Jo

34

Thanks for that will look into it

35

Jenson Button is No Alain Prost.Ramirez is not comparing like with like here.The current F1 zeitgeist pits Fernando against Lewis. Fernando has already succeeded in securing a team where he is top dog and will not be under any pressure from any teammate in his dogged pursuit of WDCs unlike during his tenure at Mclaren.I hope that Lewis does not re-sign for Mclaren for this reason and seeks a similar top dog status (denied him at Mclaren)at Mercedes or other so that we can see proper non team politics limited racing from these two Titans of the modern era. The only such place available is at Mercedes Lewis.

36

While I agree Hamilton does sometimes have a bit of an issue with his attitude I find it quite sad how so many journalists and bloggers seem to completely ignore or add as a mere footnote the fact Hamilton lost a beloved family member after a horrible illness only days before Spa. I understand this has all coincided with the speculation over his move to Mercedes which is obviously a very big news story, so to delve into speculation over mental states and relationships is very appealing, but come one cut the man some some slack for that weekend!

37

Hamilton’s tweets show a tremendous lack of maturity and judgement.

If the intra-team battle between LH and JB has such an effect on the former’s decision making that he feels compelled to tweet technical data then I would say that Jenson has already won.

Hamilton is undoubtedly faster than Button over a single lap and has had more success in the 3 seasons they have competed together, but I believe that Lewis feels more threatened by Jenson than by any other team mate. This year it is coming to a head but I think it is fair to say that JB won the head game last year and even in their first year there were a couple of weekends where Jenson took a different direction on set up and beat Lewis, with the latter clearly struggling with that (Monza 2010?).

Whether you think that is two faced on the part of Jenson or the sign of a driver building a team around himself to give him the best chance of victory is immaterial; this is what a driver needs to do to ensure the best chance of victory, and it is clearly a weakness that Lewis cannot do this.

38

It seems to me senor Ramirez cought Mark Hughes flu.

39

James—Is there a reluctance amongst F1 journalists to be bluntly honest about Hamilton and his maturity? I realize that because journos have to maintain relations with teams in order to do their job that they can feel difficulty expressing what an outsider would notice immediately. If journos weren’t bound to keep these relations, would Hamilton have a different media persona than the bad-boy who’s fast but mentally fragile that he has now? Seems to me writers often try to subtly hint that the guy’s just not as sharp as many of the others.

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