Lewis Hamilton’s final race for McLaren in Brazil represented a clear closing of an era for the Woking squad both in terms of its long-standing relationship with its one-time protégé and, after three season and 58 races in tandem, the team’s high-profile all-British world champion driver line-up.
While Hamilton’s hopes of saying farewell with an Interlagos victory were scuppered when Nico Hulkenberg slid into him at turn one, Jenson Button was able to pick up the pieces and lay down a marker for 2013 when he will inevitably assume additional responsibility and expectation at the team given the relative inexperience of the incoming Sergio Perez.
The other significant thing about Button’s win, and Hamilton’s no-score, was that it ensured that it was the elder Briton who ended the pair’s three years as team-mates with the higher overall points tally – 672 for Button compared with Hamilton’s 657 points.
While points alone certainly can’t reflect the whole picture of their time together at McLaren or act as conclusive evidence of which of the pair ‘won’ their team-mate battle, as the wider statistics we have gathered below will demonstrate, outscoring Hamilton over a three-year period certainly still reflects better on Button than many would have expected when he joined the team, Sir Jackie Stewart at the time famously remarking that the then newly-crowned world champion was entering the “lion’s den” in going up against Hamilton in the same machinery.
In terms of a per-season head-to-head tally, Hamilton finished with more points in two of their three years together (2010 and 2012) but in the middle season, when he finished as runner-up to Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ standings, Button outscored his countryman by a significantly bigger margin, 43 points, which in the end told in his final overall advantage.
Button’s win on Sunday was his eighth for McLaren in those three seasons but it’s Hamilton, with 10, who shades that particular head-to-head there, although Button claimed marginally more podium finishes, both in real terms and as a percentage of the races he finished (50% to Hamilton’s 48.9%), and top 10 results.
Interestingly however, in the races they both made the chequered flag (37) Hamilton finished in front 65% of the time with his advantage on Saturdays, unsurprisingly given the pair’s well-established relative strengths, even more pronounced.
Discounting grid penalties, Hamilton ended qualifying with the better lap time on 44 occasions compared with Button’s 14, giving the 2008 champion a 76% success rate. Indeed Button’s pole at Spa in the summer remains his only one for McLaren, while Hamilton has added nine more to his career tally since the start of 2010.
In terms of race retirements, Hamilton failed to finish more often (13 v 8 ) but the majority of that difference can be explained by accidents or incidents across the three years, rather than car-related or reliability issues, despite the fact the 27-year-old arguably lost three additional wins through failures this season alone.
The statistic that will of course most disappoint and frustrate McLaren is the lack of drivers’ or constructors’ world titles the partnership yielded despite the consistency which saw Hamilton and Button, between them, win nearly a third of their 58 races together and finish in the points at every grand prix – the latter being a new F1 record for a team.
Hamilton v Button stats compared (highest respective tally in bold)
Faster qualifying time: Hamilton 44 / Button 14
Poles: Hamilton 9 / Button 1
Front rows: Hamilton: 23 / Button 9
Wins: Hamilton 10 / Button 8
Podiums: Hamilton 22 / Button 25
Points finishes: Hamilton 45 / Button 47
DNFs: Hamilton 13 / Button 8
Best race result (inc DNFs): Hamilton 32 / Button 26
Ahead in two-car finish: Hamilton 24 / Button 13
Overall points: Hamilton 657 / Button 672
Seasons finished higher in standings: Hamilton 2 / Button 1
Highest championship placing: Hamilton 4th (2010, 2012) / Button 2nd (2011)
You can read all about both McLaren drivers’ seasons in the JA on F1 2012 yearbook – The Year of Living Dangerously, which is published on December 7th priced at £10.99; it’s a 256 page large format paperback with stunning Darren Heath images and signed copies are available to order via our online shop now.