Thursday, 22 December 2011

Team Season Review: McLaren

Button got ahead of Hamilton, in an unusual season for the Woking team in which they were 2nd again.

Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button
Best Finish: 1st (China, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Abu Dhabi)
Best Qualifying Result: 1st (Korea)
Points: 497
Constructor's Championship: 2nd

What an amazing season for McLaren. They certainly had their ups and their downs, but they were pretty much always Red Bull's closest challengers. And yet they looked so poor in winter testing. Red Bull and Ferrari looked a million miles away from them in the tests, but come the first race in Australia, they were great. Qualifying second and fourth was really impressive, and unexpected. Both drivers had eventful races, with Hamilton's floor detatching, and Button handed a drive-thru' for an illegal overtake, as they battled to 2nd and 6th. Impressive for a team in a crisis. McLaren were second again in Malaysia, but this time it was Button's turn to be on the podium, and Hamilton's turn to be awarded a time penalty. Weaving while defending from Fernando Alonso earnt him twenty seconds to be added to his race finish, meaning he was classified eighth. China, and a race win for the Woking based team. Hamilton drove one of the races of his life, making a beautiful overtake on his team mate as McLaren celebrated their second straight Shanghai victory. The drivers battled once again in Turkey, but this time it was only for fourth place, with Hamilton coming out on top. Spain was their return to the podium, with a 2-3 finish continuing their very impressive start to the season. Button came 3rd in Monaco, while Hamilton had arguably one of the worst races of his career, making contact with Michael Schumacher, Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado. He was given a drive-thru' penalty and a time penalty, but still salvaged sixth place. Canada was a very important race for McLaren. They took a one-two finish in 2010, and knew they could be faster than Red Bull. However, it didn't help when on Lap Seven, the cars came together, and Hamilton was out of the race. However, Button drove the race of his life, as he came from last, to winning the race, passing Sebastian Vettel on the very last lap. McLaren were well beaten by Red Bull and Ferrari in the next two races, as they were off the podium in Valencia and Silverstone. Germany was a wonderful race for Hamilton, winning in one of the best drives of his career. In Hungary the McLarens battled for the win, but a mistake by Hamilton meant Button was to take the win, in a real McLaren resurgence. Hamilton made another error in Spa, and crashed out while battling with Kamui Kobayashi, whereas Button drove a brilliant race to 3rd, after starting 13th. Then came Monza, and another podium for Button as Hamilton struggled to 4th. Button really asserted his authority over Hamilton in the championship table with a 2nd in Singapore, as Hamilton struggled to fifth, after another collision with Massa. Button cooly won in Japan, as Hamilton suffered a race he described as "awful," making contact with Felipe Massa on his way to a distant fifth place. McLaren became the first team to break the Red Bull streak of poles, with Lewis Hamilton driving a wonderfil lap in Korea to take pole. He finished 2nd, while Button finished 4th. Hamilton collided with Massa again in India as Button took second, before finally a return for Hamilton in Abu Dhabi. Winning the race fantastically, and holding off Fernando Alonso as Button came home 3rd. Button confirmed 2nd in the championship in the final race, a brilliant achievement, as Hamilton finished fifth in the standings. This was the first season where Hamilton lost to his team mate, and Button's driving was impeccable, while Hamilton's was mixed to say the least.

Best Finish: 1st (China, Germany, Abu Dhabi)
Points: 227
Driver's Championship: 5th

Hamilton brilliantly wins in Germany
It was an incredibly unusual season for Lewis Hamilton. The overtaking star, the wet master and the genius of the track. He won three races this year, all of which were amazing, and would be ranked high in Hamilton's race wins, but it was a very very difficult year for Hamilton. It started very well though, with a brilliant drive to 2nd in Australia, with a damaged car. Malaysia was a tough race though, Hamilton awarded a time penalty for over defensive driving when battling with Fernando Alonso. China, and a phenomenal drive from Hamilton. He qualified 3rd, and was 2nd at the end of the first lap, but it still looked like Vettel would beat him. He wasn't going to let that happen, and put a magnificent move on his team mate into Turn One, which is currently one of the leaders in the overtakes of the year vote. He than passed Vettel with five laps to go, using his KERS in an unusual place, and surprising Vettel to take a marvellous race win. He was distant in Turkey though finishing fourth. Hamilton was back on the podium in Spain, challenging Sebastian Vettel all the way, finishing 2nd, before a disaster of a race in Monaco. After qualifying ninth, he made a good start, but was passed by Michael Schumacher. Hamilton repassed him a few laps later into Turn One, but made some contact. Then came the stupid mistake: he attempted to pass Felipe Massa into the Loews hairpin. Inevitably they collided, and Massa was out of the race. Hamilton was given a deserved drive-thru' penalty for the move, but his bad day wasn't going to finish there. With a couple of laps left, Hamilton went to overtake Pastor Maldonado, instead shunting the Venezuelan into the barrier. Hamilton was handed a time penalty for this, and was classified sixth, in one of the worst races of his life. He retired again in Canada, after a very controversial collision with his team mate on Lap Seven. Hamilton was better in Valencia, taking fourth. His home race was going well, brilliantly passing Alonso at one point, before he began to run out of fuel. Hamilton tried to conserve it, and on the last lap, was passed by Massa. In an attempt to re-pass the Brazilian, they made contact, but still Hamilton got the job done, and finished fourth. Germany was one of Hamilton's finest ever drives. Qualifying second with, in my opinion, his best ever qualifying lap, he beat Mark Webber at the start to lead. He stayed there, and deservedly won the race, making two glorious overtakes, first on Webber, and then on Fernando Alonso, which featured in my overtakes of the season. Hamilton led the majority of the race in Hungary, but a spin at the chicane, followed by stupidly forcing Paul di Resta off the track meant he incurred a drive-thru' penalty, finishing fourth. Next was Belgium, and after qualifying 2nd, he was battling with Kamui Kobayashi on Lap 13 when they came together, and Hamilton was in the barriers and out of the race. Monza was next, and Hamilton was on the front row for the fourth race in a row. However, he was passed by Michael Schumacher early on, and simply couldn't get back past, despite being faster. Finally he got past at the pit stops, and finished fourth. Hamilton was the subject of more controversy in Singapore, as he yet again came to blows with Felipe Massa, the pair coming together when Hamilton tried an overtake. After a drive-thru' penalty and a front wing replacement, Hamilton was fifth. Next was Japan, a race Hamilton described as "awful." Yet again he came into contact with Felipe Massa, and he was invisible as he finished a distant fifth. Korea, and Hamilton drove an awesome qualifying lap to take pole position - the first non Red Bull pole of the season, before losing the lead on the opening lap. He stayed in 2nd place though, defending excellently from Mark Webber. India was another tough weekend though, Hamilton had a 3 place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags in practice, before yet again colliding with Massa in the race. Although Massa was given a penalty this time, Hamilton finished seventh. After narrowly missing out on pole in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton inherited the lead after Vettel spun after a few corners. The McLaren driver never looked back, and drove a brilliant race, defending from Fernando Alonso, to win with a superb drive. Brazil was a bit of a nothing race for Hamilton, he qualified fourth and retired with a gearbox failure, while battling, who other but Felipe Massa. Hamilton's season was extraordinarily mixed, he drove wonderfully at times, but other times, he drove the worst year of his career. Lets hope Hamilton is back to his best in 2012, and can mount a title challenge.

Best Finish: 1st (Canada, Hungary, Japan)
Points: 270

Driver's Championship: 2nd

Button on his way to victory in Suzuka
Jenson Button: Sebastian Vettel's closest challenger. He drove beautifully, and many believe he drove better than the year in which he won the World Championship, which is testament to his great driving. It didn't start particularly well though, enduring a tough race in Australia, after being handed a drive-thru' penalty for cutting a corner when trying to pass Felipe Massa. Malaysia was a better race for Button though, driving excellently on his way to 2nd place, and finishing just three seconds behind Vettel. China, and Button qualified 2nd, and took the lead at the start as Vettel was slow away. However, it wasn't to last, he made a terrible mistake at his first pit stop, driving into the Red Bull box instead of his McLaren one! He was then superbly passed by his team mate, and on the last lap by Mark Webber, meaning Button finished fourth, when a race win was possible. Button qualified and finished sixth in Turkey, after his tyres degraded massively in the last stint, despite Button's recognised talent for managing his tyres well. Button was on the podium in Spain, after using a three-stop strategy when others used four to take third place. Monaco was a great drive, leading at one point, after qualifying 2nd, before he finished 3rd. Then came probably Jenson Button's best ever drive: Canada. He qualified a disappointing seventh, and the race was wet. Going across the start finish line on Lap Seven, Hamilton tried to overtake Button, but the pair came together, and Hamilton was out of the race. Button later stated that he couldn't see his team mate in the spray. The team changed him to intermediate tyres, but he was handed a drive thru' penalty, for speeding behind the safety car, which dropped him to eighteenth place. After the race was restarted after a two hour red flag period, almost instantly Button tried to pass Fernando Alonso. However, they came together, Alonso crashing out of the race, and Button picking up a puncture. Button then began to charge up the field at enormous speed, and was soon up to fourth after pasing Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld. He was soon on the back of Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber, who were battling for 2nd. He made one of the overtakes of the year on Webber, before swiftly passing Schumacher. He was a second behind Vettel with one lap to go, and when Vettel put two wheels on the wet grass at Turn Six, he took the lead, and won the race brilliantly, with an absolutely phenomenal drive. Button qualified and finished sixth, after making a brilliant move on Nico Rosberg early on. He made another great overtake at his home Grand Prix on Felipe Massa, after qualifying fifth he was running well, until at the pit stop, the team made a silly mistake and failed to put his wheel on properly, meaning he retired. He was driving well in Germany again, but his bad luck continued, and he retired with a hydraulics failure. Button drove magnificently in Hungary, managing his tyres and the wet conditions to take his second win of the year, and his fourth for McLaren. Then came Belgium, and despite qualifying a disheartening thirteenth, he drove excellently, finishing 3rd and on the podium after passing Fernando Alonso with just a few laps left. Button was second at Italy and Singapore, driving two very nicely controlled races. This came before his next win: Japan. Button drove wonderfully, and after qualifying second and being squeezed onto the grass at the start, he came back, driving a very fast in lap to inherit the lead from Vettel, a place he kept for the race as he asserted himself in 2nd in the Championship. He wasn't on the podium in Korea, for the first time since Germany, but he was very close to the top three. In India, he started fourth but passed Alonso and Webber on the opening lap, and kept second for the whole race, before a third place in Abu Dhabi, and another third in Brazil ended a brilliant season for Button, in which he improved greatly. He is surely one of the contenders for the 2012 championship.

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