Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula One World Champion, has revealed to F1 blog GPFans the competitive tactics he used against his then teammate Lewis Hamilton during their time at McLaren.
In a candid admission, Button underlined the ‘cut-throat’ nature of relationships within F1 teams, in stark contrast to the camaraderie often portrayed.
Competitive undercurrents at McLaren
Speaking exclusively to GPFans, Button discussed the inherent competitiveness that defined his relationship with Hamilton from 2010 to 2012. Despite being teammates, Button admitted that the intense environment of Formula One often meant that one driver’s weakness became the other’s opportunity for gain.
Buttons’ surprise move to McLaren in 2010
Jenson Button, whose career took a remarkable turn after winning the 2009 World Championship with Brawn GP, decided to join McLaren in 2010, shortly after etching his name into the annals of F1 history. This was a move that captured the attention of the motorsport world, probably because of it’s audacity to attempt to ‘muscle in’ on the ‘highly focused on Hamilton’ McLaren team
A championship crown with Brawn GP
Jenson Button’s rise to the pinnacle of Formula One with Brawn GP has been nothing short of a fairytale. The 2009 season was a year of unexpected triumphs, with Brawn GP, a phoenix born from the ashes of the defunct Honda Racing F1 Team, winning the World Constructors’ Championship. At the heart of this success was Button, whose consistent performances and tactical brilliance on the track saw him win six of the first seven races, ultimately securing the Drivers’ Championship title.
The surprise move to McLaren
With a world title under his belt, Button was at a crossroads in his career. His success with Brawn GP had put him in high demand, and amidst the buzz of potential team changes, Button made the surprise decision to join McLaren, signing a multi-year contract. The move was unexpected by many, as drivers usually stay with the team they win the championship with, at least for the season immediately following their victory.
The motivation behind the move
Button’s move to McLaren was driven by a number of factors. Firstly, Brawn GP was undergoing a significant change, with Mercedes buying the team and renaming it Mercedes GP for the 2010 season. The lure of McLaren, with its rich history and reputation as one of the most successful teams in F1, presented Button with a new set of challenges and opportunities.
McLaren offered Button the chance to prove himself against Lewis Hamilton, then a rising star and already a world champion in his own right. The competitive environment at McLaren, known for fostering some of the fiercest teammate rivalries, appealed to Button’s racing spirit. He was keen to prove that his championship win was not a one-off, but the result of his innate racing talent.
Button’s tenure at McLaren began on a positive note, with the Briton taking two wins in his first season with the team and finishing fifth in the Drivers’ Championship. In the seasons that followed, Button became an integral part of McLaren, often matching or outperforming his teammate Hamilton, most notably in 2011 when he finished runner-up in the championship, beating his teammate in the process.
No room for teammate tutoring
When recently asked by GPFans if he had offered Hamilton any advice following his championship win, Button’s response underlined the individualistic approach prevalent in F1: help was off the table.
“You’re never going to help your team-mate in that situation,”
“Just the way it is in the sport. You use their weaknesses as your strengths. That’s the way it is.” says Button, explaining how he exploited any of Hamilton’s vulnerabilities he could find.
Button: Endurance racing is ‘completely different’
Reflecting on his experience, Button contrasted the individualistic culture of F1 with the more collaborative spirit of endurance racing. In the latter, he found a refreshing change, where sharing insights with teammates was encouraged to boost collective performance as they shared the same car and chased victory together.
“It’s funny because I’ve been doing some endurance races around the world,” says Button,
“And it’s completely different, you know, you’re so open with your team-mates, because you want them to be as quick as they can, because you’re in the same car and you’re going to win the races together. So it’s very different.
“I have to say, I enjoy that a lot more than the cut-throat sort of, try to mentally hurt your team-mate and get one over on them as you as you do in F1.
“Maybe not everyone’s like that. But a lot of people that do end up going on to fight for a world championship, that’s the approach they have to take.”
The psychological battle within
The psychological warfare of trying to outdo your teammate in F1, as described by Button, may not be universal, but it does seem to be a common trait among those vying for the championship. This approach, says Button, is a necessary edge for those who want to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
Button’s revelations offer a fascinating insight into the high-pressure world of Formula One, where the battle for supremacy extends beyond the track and into the psyche of the drivers.
As the F1 narrative continues to evolve, with drivers like Hamilton now advocating for a more inclusive and supportive paddock, it remains to be seen how the team dynamic will evolve. Will the future of F1 see a shift towards a more team-oriented ethos, or will the ‘cut-throat’ legacy continue to dominate?
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