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Bemused Button: Badger’s Take

Published 16th June 2012 - Written by Grant Ruetemann
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Our very own Craig Normansell caused a wee bit of a ruckus in the Sett earlier this week when he accused Button of being the “new Massa”.  Shame on you Craig – Felipe is plain slow, whereas Button is just going through one of those phases that all true Champs encounter.

But, one must avoid backing into a corner with Badger’s Quiz Master – particularly where the corner is a cyclical debate about whether Button would do better in the Ferrari than Massa, and whether, generally speaking, Button is quicker than the Brazilian.  Corners and Badger’s don’t mix.  Maybe later Craig, in an open space – I think there’s the Badger Summer BBQ later this month? Although with the way June has been so far…

Digression and hyperbole (sorry Craig) aside, what has been going on with Button lately?  Jenson claims to be “confused”.  So, in a bid to acquire employment with Jenson I am going to present my (quite well constructed) thoughts for explaining his sudden lack of speed.

For those F1 fans not familiar with Button’s results over the last few races – due to whatever preposterous reason – I shall recap; since China (round 3), he has scored 2 points out of a possible 100, not due to bad luck, but simply down to a lack of pace.

The dominant thought knocking around my noggin for explaining this revolves around – surprise surprise – how he uses the Pirellis. Jenson Button is not getting enough heat into the tyres and is therefore wearing them out too quickly.

In Canada, Button stopped three times for tyre changes – more than anyone else – and usually he is ‘easy’ on tyres.  He declared that he had to do this [pit so often] because he had worn through the tyres so quickly, whilst at the same time not managing to get any heat into them.  I am left only to conclude that if you don’t get the tyres working in the ‘optimum temperature range’ that they slide all over the place.  In effect, you are wearing them out without gaining any performance.  Driving more aggressively to get the heat you need apparently doesn’t work for Button, it just wears rubber out even more quickly without giving performance.  ‘Nicely nicely’ on that rubber and you’re one really slow billy goat.

As the McLaren has developed, the situation that has befallen Button has not occurred to Hamilton.  Button has stood still in qualifying – still managing to get those fresh rubber laps – but can’t make them work on longer stints.  Hamilton’s driving style is working the updated McLaren in a way that gets the tyres into the ‘optimum’ range.

To declare – quite earnestly it has to be said – that he is “confused and truly lost” about where his pace has gone suggests Button is also not able to provide substantive or useful development direction tips to his team.  This, of course, means that development is being defined by Hamilton.  Jenson is left playing the reactionary-catch-up-fiddle every weekend in a bid to adapt sufficiently.

Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Even though I’m sure McLaren are doing their level best to get to the bottom of all this, Hamilton now leads the championship and the update direction has worked for him.

But don’t despair Button fans! Martin Whitmarsh’s comments after Montreal indicate that McLaren do have some idea about why the team had such mixed fortunes this past weekend.

“With Jenson we had different suspension and we weren’t able to long run that on Friday, so his rear left tyre was shot”, said the Woking team’s Principal, “We will do the analysis but Jenson is a smooth driver and if he is doing that [wearing out the tyres] then we didn’t get the set-up right.”

So maybe it’s just the suspension set up to blame and the tyre temperature thing is not nearly as bad as my over active mind is imagining?  Jenson can certainly claim to have suffered bad luck as much as quite bad pace at the other 3 races since he finished 2nd in China.

But he is now 43 points behind his team mate and hasn’t had a run of form this bad since he drove that dog of a Honda back in 2008. With the heat of Valencia around the corner, let’s hope McLaren can help clear the haze around their driver and return him to his rightful place – ahead of Massa.

Will Jenson smile again? Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
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