Daily #F1 News and Comment: Saturday 28th June 2014

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Previously on TJ13:

#F1 Features: FIA coming to a store near you


OTD Lite: 1998 – Schumacher wins at Magny-Cours

Time to say “good-bye”?


OTD Lite: 1998 – Schumacher wins at Magny-Cours

1998 french grand prix podiumSchumacher took his third win of the season and second on the trot beating teammate Eddie Irvine by 19s and Mika Häkkinen by 19.01s. It was Ferrari’s first 1-2 since the 1990 Spanish Grand Prix with Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell.

Schumacher qualified in second, 0.2s behind Häkkinen but a stall by Jos Verstappen at the start of the race caused a restart. In the restart both Schumacher and Irvine shot past Irvine and this allowed the German to put as much as 1s per lap into title rival Häkkinen while a slower Irvine was holding the Fin and his teammate Coulthard up.

On lap 20 Häkkinen tried to pass Irvine but he failed in is attempt and ended up driving through a gravel trap forcing him to pit. His other opportunity came on the last lap as Irvine was slow through the chicane (final corner) but the Irishman managed to keep Häkkinen behind to beat him by 0.01s.

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Time to say “good-bye”?

It appears time is up for Jenson Button. While McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier seemed keen to keep Button prior to the Canadian Grand prix the same cannot be said for Ron Dennis and the latter may have been starting to whisper in Boullier’s ear.

In Canada Boullier stated, “Since I have joined McLaren I have found out what a great competitor he is and what a good asset he is for the team. I more and more appreciate what he can do. I’m very pleased and when the time comes to sit down then I would love to carry on with him.

K Magnussen & J ButtonIn Austria, when asked about Button and Magnussen’s future he was a bit more coy merely stating, “it is a question where I cannot say yes and I cannot say no. We are lucky to have two drivers who want to commit to us for the future. We have some contractual options we can pick up, so we are not in a rush to decide our future driver line-up. We are evaluating and assessing every strategy for the future.

This hardly sounds like an endorsement for either of them but in an interview with Sky’s F1 Show McLaren boss, Ron Dennis, did not mince his words.

Asked about his drivers he said, “I am happy with the drivers in the sense, I think they are giving their best. I am sure Kevin has given a big wakeup call to Jenson.

Dennis believes this is great because it shows they’ve made the right choice with Magnussen but of Jenson he said he needs to do better, “.. we say ‘come on Jenson’, you are a world champion, absolutely one thing that you can do on a consistent basis, and should be doing is to beat your team mate.

Do I want him to try harder? Of course I do, you know, he is a highly paid Grand Prix driver and yes we’re not giving him the best car, yes it is challenging for him to win in this car to say the least but he’s got to do his bit and Kevin has to make it as difficult as possible.

Asked if he would like to see Hamilton back in the team he said, “We want to win races and we will always hope the best available drivers would wish to drive our cars and I think that the key word is ‘available’. People have contracts and we respect those contracts but I mean, if Lewis would be in a position to drive for us next year as any of the other top drivers, if they were in that position, we would love to have them on board but no one should ever feel threatened, either the driver or an engineer, all we want to do is win, and we have to take considered positions and considered decisions on that process.

Perhaps it is time for Button to say good-bye and accept the inevitable rather than trying to push for a drive that is not there, as Barrichello did.

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46 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Saturday 28th June 2014

  1. Time to say “good-bye”?

    No mention of Honda who will probably be the one’s who actually decide his future. Button does has substantial Japanese connections. It may well be that it’s Magnussen who gets the chop.

    • Maybe but surely Honda want’s to win as well and his connections did not really help Honda stick round for another year.

      I’d not say Dennis will save either of the two though. I think if it does happen and McLaren are the buyers of Caterham as a Honda B team you may well see Jense get a lifeline but it’s up to him to prove that he is not that bad…

        • Well Button leads him in the WDC and he has a dog to drive… But Kev is a rookie in a difficult car.

          Dennis however does not seem to agree Button is pulling his weight all the time… If I understand him correctly 🙂

      • The other factor is the driver market. Unless Ferrari are willing to release Alonso from his contract, M-B the same with Hamilton and Red Bull with Vettel, there really isn’t a big name driver available. 2015 may be viewed as nothing more than a development year for Honda / McLaren and they’ll leave the drivers as they are, and wait until 2016 when Alonso or Hamilton is available.

    • Highly unlikely (!) that Magnussen gets ousted. Magnussen is a product of McLaren, and is still very much a rough diamond with future potential. For someone in that position, he is doing rather splendidly alongside a WDC. (Remember that Hamilton came in after eons of testing, while Magnussen pretty much jumped in the middle of the lake.) There is no way in hell that Dennis disposes of Magnussen so quickly, especially not after such public declarations of love.

      Also if you take into account our beloved Victims of Circumstance, after you control for (un-)luck Kevin is is very close indeed to the old dog Jenson:
      http://thejudge13.com/2014/06/25/f1-victims-of-circumstance-spielberg-2014-austriangp/
      Jenson Button 11 23 -20
      Kevin Magnussen 12 19 -10

      Whether you believe the methodology or not, this still a useful metric is.. 🙂

      • “Magnussen is a product of McLaren”

        I doubt that makes a lot of difference to Honda.

          • They had less pace than Force India…. my days. FI are also on half the budget of McLaren….. it seems McLaren are poor on the supersoft tyre.

        • Mayhaps, but McLaren Honda != Honda. My feeling is that given the 1st half of the season, Magnussen isn’t going anywhere.

          • Indeed. They are pretty much equal at this point, K-Mag had some scrapes which lost points and Button has collected some more with 0 mistakes.

            But the thing that’s worrying Dennis is there’s not been much speed either… and as he points out, he pays him a lot of money to lead the team forwards, on track and off it. But these last 2 years they’ve fallen backwards a long way.

            If Jenson gets a reprieve, perhaps Honda will be paying a significant chunk of his salary for 2015..

      • Especially when you consider I was very harsh on Magnussen for Monaco….he could have been even higher.

        This was a similar story between Hamilton and Rosberg last year, as the German had all the bad luck then.

    • Nope. Hamilton is going to NASCAR after this season when Rosberg wins the WC.

      • Lol. I can just imagine it now.

        Oval… Side by side… Crash… Tony Stewert gets out… Hamilton gets out… They punch on… Stewert eats Hamilton…

  2. I have little or no time for Dennis. It was his disastrous decision to let Whitmarsh run the team that has led to such a lousy car. He also doesn’t seem to realise Button has beaten Magnussen six times. Magnussen has only beaten Button twice. Dennis should go. He’s a nasty piece of work.

    • The ‘succession plan’ has failed, so he’s come back to fix to whole shebang.. TBH, Jenson has been lucky to be ahead of Magnussen in the standings.. so if you can’t beat a rookie, is it time to call it quits? Or take one more chance.. I can see the same applying for Massa, Raikkonen etc.

      Adjusting for engine at Austria (e.g. -0.75s Ferrari, -1s Renault), it could be said that Jenson was the worst driver there apart from the last 3 teams.. he couldn’t even beat a handicapped Kimi. Now, we know the McLaren car is appalling, but Magnussen still managed to bring some points home.

      This hints at the future direction of the team, IMO. We already know Vandoorne is pretty much equal with Magnussen.. they could bring him in gently as part of a B-team, to replace the outgoing lead WDC driver when they retire in a few years time.. but the priority will first be on which WDC driver leads the team in the next few years.

  3. McLaren are playing their cards close to their chest about the lineup of drivers for next season.
    Both Button and Magnussen have contracts until the end of this year. Button will be 35 next year and must be coming to the end of his career soon. Magnussen will be only 22 and with a year of Formula1 racing experience behind him. He seems a good prospect to stay. If McLaren is going to replace either of them then who is available amongst the top drivers?
    Vettel will be 27 next year and is contracted to Red Bull until the end of 2015. His preference, we are told, is to move to Ferrari, but surely only if they have a car that is better than a brick on wheels.
    Alonso will be 34 next year and is contracted to Ferrari until end of 2016. I am not sure he would be welcomed back at McLaren with open arms.
    Raikkonen will be 35 next year and is under contract with Ferrari for 2014 and 2015 seasons. He too must be nearing the end of his career and may not want to start over with a new team.
    Hamilton will be 30 next year, and is under contract until the end of 2015. Hopefully he and McLaren have put their differences behind them. But he is unavailable for next year.
    Hulkenberg, another top driver, will be 27. He is under a multi year contract with his current team, which started this year, so he will be unavailable.
    Maybe they will take a risk with Belgium Stoffel Vandoorne, 23 next year, their reserve driver. McLaren seem to have a lot of faith in, and support for him.
    One other consideration is the wishes of Honda and who they are likely to support. Button is well known in Japan, and with an Argentine-Japanese fiancee, Jessica Michibata, it may well be that which decides in his favour for next year. However, after 2015 there are at least 3 drivers, Vettel, Raikkonen and Hamilton, whose contracts are up for renewal, so McLaren could have the pick of the crop.

    • I’m wondering if, short of Vandoorne in for Button, next year we won’t see either Hulkenberg or Grosjean in the other McLaren. Both are relatively proven speed-wise. And nevermind Hulkenberg’s contract with FI: it wouldn’t be the first time that McLaren buys out a driver they have faith in.

      • RoGro in a McLaren?? Imagine that! 🙂 However his personal sponsors are TOTAL so not sure MOBIL would be too chuffed with that 🙂

        Am sure McLaren can do FI a good deal on some tech (if they will still be using McLaren tech that is – no Merc) for Hulkenberg… or jsut clear some debt you know 😉

        • Last time they could have cleared some debt… they picked up Perez and $10m+ instead. This paid back the debt and gained them some more money… hence I can see Gutierrez turning up along with more Mexican cash (to replace missing Indian cash)… maybe only results could keep Hulk’s seat there, with Esteban taking the ‘reserve’ role..

    • McLaren will only have their pick of the crop if the McLaren-Honda MP4/30 isn’t a steaming pile of failure. Otherwise, why would any top driver sign with them?

      Once they switched to the high nose configurations to ape Red Bull they utterly failed to produce a competitive car. I guess we will find out next year exactly how much Prodromou has learned under Newey. Though TBH Ron is the real problem, so hopefully he learned more than just aero under Adrian’s tutelage.

  4. Just to say, I am a great fan of Jenson, he’s a great driver when he is in his days, and appears to be a fine guy to hang out and drink

    and if he does heavy politics at the backstage, it doesn’t matter, hopefully, if he stays, he will have a better car to perform and complete his career on a high note, he deserves it

  5. It may look like Jenson hasn’t been giving his best the past season against Perez and in this season with Magnussen as a team-mate, but I believe otherwise. Let me tell you why:

    In 2013, Button had 50 percent more points than Perez (PER 49 vs BUT 73). In 2014, Button so far has 50 percent more points than Magnussen (MAG 29 vs BUT 43). That’s no coincidence.

    While Button may require a top three to show stand-out performances – like he did in the past when Lewis was still with McLaren – he is one of the most consistent drivers in the recent past. Only the Kimi Räikkönen of 2012-2013 could prove better, since he regularly put his Lotus in the points, come what may.

    I would find it quite a sad thing to see Button forced to retire because McLaren didn’t want him for 2015. Given the mediocre car they produced in these two most recent seasons, they should be grateful to even have a former world champion soldiering on like that. If a downhill slide like that had happened at Ferrari, Alonso would have already tried his best to leave the team and I’m sure Vettel won’t be happy with an under-performing Red Bull for too long either before he starts looking for alternatives.

    • I meant to write “While Button may require a top three CAR to show stand-out performances” in my post.

    • I agree with you on 2013; Button was very consistent, and had more pace than Perez. But Perez is now starting to get in tune with matching Hulkenberg, as the Force India looks easy on the tyres, which matches his style. Hulk is almost too aggressive for that car now, like Hamilton was compared to Button in 2011, as the season wears on.

      But in 2014, Button has been roughly equal with Kevin, 4-4 in my book, but has benefited from keeping his nose clean, to score more points so far, moving it to 6-2 in his favour. But the underlying issue is pace – Kevin is 0.3 sec faster on average in qualifying. So perhaps Jenson is still smoother over long runs, to make up that deficit.

      If Jenson’s pace is starting to drop off, there are many cheaper and faster drivers now available… no shame in that, as it is, to have an F1 career over ten years now, you have to be one of the best (or eventually have insane amounts of money backing you, as we’ll no doubt see in the next few years).

      • Kevin – Australia, Malaysia, Monaco, Austria
        Jenson – Bahrain, China, Spain, Canada

        Lengthy careers with backing: Sutil, Maldonado, VDG..

        • Sutil until his break was also a good driver.. just a shame now that it’s not Paul di Resta still in F1. But it looks like Sutil’s pace is returning this year.

      • Perez never settled at McLaren, for one reason or another. That was never a fair fight when compared with the ‘golden’ child that Magnussen is to the team.

        • I can agree with that.. but we also see his inconsistency at Sauber and Force India. If he could always be at his best, he’s definitely a top-draw driver. But, I feel that McLaren of 2013 was even more panicked than this year, despite having slightly more pace.

          Jerez’s first day of testing has summed up McLaren’s last two years… putting the suspension in the wrong way around (illegally) and going faster than when your car is set up with everything the right way around… and amidst that, the pressure of competing with a favoured WDC.

          But the odd scrape aside (losing points at Monaco for example, once into a position ahead of Jenson.. same happened to K-Mag), Perez didn’t do too badly, considering the car they were using. I have a feeling that Perez can move the car in his direction (Sauber, Force India), but couldn’t at McLaren as the focus was with Jenson/trying to work out the car at all… despite this, Checo still was more competitive in the second half of the year relatively speaking.

    • I agree, but because in the future we will have the technology to sort out the mess we create now.

      Also, if we can prolong this ‘warm period’ as long as possible, this delays the onset of the next ice age, which in global time terms, is just around the corner….

  6. RE: Button.

    Without discussing the pro’s and con’s of JB, if I were him and/or his manager, I’d be actively and publicly pursuing alternative options in F1. McLaren probably have an option on him they can excersise, but I’d send the message that, a) while I want to remain at McLaren, I don’t want to be there by default or unwanted. I am happy to go as well. And, B) I can, and will, help a mid field team improve with all the little secrets from Woking HQ.

    You know, sure, a Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari are unlikely BUT a Williams, Force India or Lotus might snap him up, and all have over the past 24-36 months made good cars at one stage or another. Cars that upset the apple cart. All are well resourced and have good infrastructures to make decent cars. He’ll move and still probably beat a McLaren.

    I think actually JB holds the cards and not Ron.

    That being said, I’m not a fan. I think he’s ‘snuck’ through in his career, and frankly is one of the luckiest WDC’s in the sport. Maybe next to Hunt and Jacques. But still, he has exp to offer, reasonable speed, great PR capacity, intimate macca knowledge, and marketability as a WDC. He could pull sponsors.

    • “Williams, Force India or Lotus might snap him up”

      No sane WDC would go to Lotus right now, even IF they switch to Mercedes PU in the future. Enstone is currently a shipwreck, and only desperate drivers would land there. I’m not sure that Button wants his career to end that way.

      As for FI, well, never say never. They are currently nicely loaded though, with Perez and Hulkenberg. Also FI has always been rather pragmatic about their driver choices in the past, and have always preferred young consistent drivers with potential. Button is very much a spent quantity, and not a universally appraised quantity if truth be told. And FI would be a clear downgrade for Button, and not sure he’d tolerate that. All in all, Button at FI somehow doesn’t click.

      As for Williams, well, that’s a different story. I can see Williams taking Button, just as they took Barrichello in the past and more recently Massa: mostly spent quantities, but still with experience and name recognition to offer. And I can see Button accepting a switch to Williams. But that will entirely depend on whether Williams has a seat available. Bottas isn’t going anywhere, and Massa—apart for the odd shunt or subtle inconsistency—is faring acceptably well next to his teammate. So I can see Williams keeping with Massa for at least one more year.

      Bottom line: Button would either stay at McLaren (if Big Ron/Honda allow it), or go to Williams (if something odd happens with Massa’s contract). And bar seismic shifts in the driver market (Hamilton walking out of Mercedes, Ferrari sending Raikkonen on a cruise, etc.), Button is pretty much with one foot out.. And not holding many cards, if any..

    • JB only holds one card now.. Honda likely to want his WDC status.. but he also has a stake in his own McLaren replacement, Vandoorne, who he helps to manage. Conflict of interest? He needs to retire, to get Vandoorne into the team :p at least he can still pick up the manager’s cheques.. Unless there is a second McLaren/Honda team of course.

      Maybe he can get a swansong 2015, with FP1s for Vandoorne.. none of the WDCs will want the 2016 McLaren-Honda, unless it really ‘upsets the apple cart’..

  7. “BUT a Williams, Force India or Lotus might snap him up”

    Sure they would if he had millions he could bring in sponsorship – which he doesn’t.

    • It’s the opposite… he’d be asking for millions in salary.. 😛 Even Hulk and Raikkonen were struggling to get paid at a non-top team…

  8. “.. we say ‘come on Jenson’, you are a world champion, absolutely one thing that you can do on a consistent basis, and should be doing is to beat your team mate.“

    Funny how last year the discourse from McLaren towards Perez was in reverse:
    “Come on Checo, you have to beat your teammate Button..”

  9. “Asked if he would like to see Hamilton back in the team he said, “We want to win races and we will always hope the best available drivers would wish to drive our cars and I think that the key word is ‘available’. People have contracts and we respect those contracts but I mean, if Lewis would be in a position to drive for us next year as any of the other top drivers, if they were in that position, we would love to have them on board but no one should ever feel threatened, either the driver or an engineer, all we want to do is win, and we have to take considered positions and considered decisions on that process.“”

    Hardly an indication that Big Ron is prepared to accept Lewis back..

    • I think that means that if they can have the best car and win with a cheaper driver, then who wouldn’t take that option? That’s the rationale behind a Magnussen-Vandoorne “Man Utd kids” option.. i.e. plough the extra tens of millions saved from driver salaries into the car and engine and ‘do a Mercedes’.

      • This was also the thinking of Williams in the mid-90s.. Hill, Coulthard etc. and Button even got his big break from this while they waited for Montoya to come back to Europe to ‘do a Villeneuve’.

        • Although, Montoya would have been wasting his time in the ’99 and ’00 Williams.. instead he won the Indycar title and Indy 500.

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