[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.