Tag Archives: Jenson Button

F1 paddock divided over unpredictable season

The unprecedented start to the 2012 F1 season has put F1 in the spotlight for many different reasons. With 6 different winners from 6 races, we still have absolutely no idea who will be leading the championship by the next race.

However, with such excitement comes plenty of controversy, as F1 followers are used to.

Over the past few weeks, complaints have grown about the “unpredictability” of the season so far. Die-hard purists have been disappointed with the topsy-turvy grid order, and some have speculated that this may turn fans away from the sport.

Mark Webber was one of several drivers to note the “random” nature of this season, saying:

"It's very unusual, normally in seasons gone by you had a clear break of people who 
were going to be favourites for the Championship but it's very difficult to know 
which teams or drivers are going to be in the best position with three or four races 
to go.

I think for the fans it's interesting for them, but I don't know if they will get 
sick of seeing so many different winners.

It's nice to have so many different winners but also it's always good to have 
rivals, people fighting for the Championship and having lots of different people 
always fighting."

Interestingly, this comment was made before his win at the Monaco Grand Prix, and he has not repeated this statement since. However, McLaren driver Jenson Button has not backed down, claiming that numerous different winners will turn fans off from the sport:

"Clearly everyone is excited about so many different winners, which initially was 
great for the fans and great for the sport.

But there will come a time when the fans will say, 'So anyone can win a grand prix, 
everyone can lose a grand prix like that?' (snaps his fingers). I think they're 
finding it a little bit strange now."

Button has of course suffered a drop in form in recent races, and has not competed for a race win since Melbourne.

Former world champion Niki Lauda has been the most vocal of all:

"We have been surprised. But if it continues, we’ll lose spectators as the main 
public wants to see world champions winning.

We need two races with known winners and then the crazy stuff can start again."

It should be noted that when he won the world championship in 1984, there were only 5 race winners in the entire season. Also, I feel the need to add that 4 of the 6 race winners so far this season are “known winners”.

However, it has not been all complaining from the F1 paddock. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh attacked what he called the “180 degree change” of opinion from many people:

"If people now say randomness is unattractive, then that is a 180 [degree change] 
from what people felt a few years ago when it was very predictable.

On balance I am sure that people want a lack of predictability. You want to go to 
each event not knowing who is going to win. You want to go through the course of 
the weekend not sure what is going to happen in each session, and you want to go 
through the race not knowing what is going to happen. Every one of our races this 
year has been tremendously exciting."

Pirelli, who are the cause of much of this unpredictability, were adamant that their tyres provide a well-needed shake-up of the F1 grid. Motorsport director Paul Hembery claimed that this type of racing was exactly what the fans wanted to see:

"The vast majority of feedback we get is that people are enjoying the races. At 
the start of the year, if we had said five different winners and five different 
cars then everyone would have suggested you had been smoking something - but we 
have got it.

And I think the vast majority of fans will be pleased to see exciting races. 
Anyone who begrudges Maldonado's win in Spain with Williams is someone who needs 
to get out a bit more, because the whole paddock was delighted. I think for a 
lot of people's views, that is what they want to see."

Obviously, there will be many different opinions on any debate in F1. However, I feel that the most important quote from this debacle comes from Sebastian Vettel, the driver who effectively flattened the 2011 title race. After a processional battle for the title last year, Vettel came out in full support of the 2012 formula:

"If you look back ten years there was heavy criticism of a boring F1 because 
of Michael Schumacher winning all the time. Now we hear F1 is unpredictable 
and a lottery.

You cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time. But I think we have a 
good show, a lot of overtaking, good action now.There is more tension – for 
people who watch and for us inside the cars. I think I like the way it is 
going. However, we have to be careful not to create something artificially."

Monaco GP analysis: Historic season can only get even better

With 6 different winners in 6 different races, we have never before seen such a varied an unpredictable grid. Every race, there are 7 or 8 drivers in with a chance of winning, and nearly as many are in the battle for the championship.

This time last year, we were already becoming certain who was running away with the title. In 2012 however, there is no doubt that it is shaping up to be one of the closest seasons in history.

Heroes to zeroes, and vice-versa

For Felipe Massa, criticism is due where it’s due, but praise equally so. Under massive pressure from the Scuderia after a dismal start, the Brazilian impressed by keeping Fernando Alonso honest on the streets of Monaco.

His pace may have been complimented by Alonso’s conservative driving, but it is still a massive improvement from what we have seen so far.

It’s clear what Ferrari want from him – good, but not great, performances. A driver who can pick up points where Alonso slips, but is otherwise content to finish 5th or 6th. A few more races like Monaco, and Felipe’s season will be back on track.

Pastor Maldonado, meanwhile, has completely wiped out his form from Spain. A thug-like swipe at Sergio Perez in practice left him near the back of the grid, then the Williams driver punted Pedro de la Rosa at the start, ending his race.

It’s hard to imagine that the same driver took the top step of the podium only two weeks ago.

Reputation is a fragile thing in Formula 1, and Pastor may have gone and thrown his away with a single burst of anger. Like the BBC F1 crew commented, to use your car as a weapon is nothing less than disgraceful. After years of safety campaigning, the FIA has thrown it away by allowing such reckless behaviour to go on.

McLaren continue to throw away valuable points

Yet another shocking race for the McLaren team

Yet another shocking race for the McLaren team

Only a quarter of the way into the season, and it is clear that even single points are precious for the frontrunners. With a single race win covering the top 5, the title race could go to the wire.

In such circumstances, McLaren’s dismal form makes them stand out even more. Starting the season with one of the fastest cars, repeated mistakes and slip-ups have cost the team in nearly every race.

Monaco was no exception – Lewis Hamilton was livid after his team lost him a place in the pit stops. He was not informed of Sebastian Vettel’s searing pace up front, and subsequently dropped behind the Red Bull. He claimed afterwards that he could have pushed and stayed ahead, if he was told the information.

He has gone on and stated: “We haven’t had a grand prix weekend where something hasn’t gone wrong” which pretty much sums it up for McLaren.

While Jenson Button’s failures this weekend were largely his fault, Hamilton was frustrated by everything around him, and suffered as a result. It’s so early into the season, and the title may already be slipping away.

Meanwhile, at Sauber…

Just another normal start for Kamui Kobayashi

Just another normal start for Kamui Kobayashi

At the start of the Monaco GP, replays showed Kamui Kobayashi having a more frenzied start than usual. After being clipped by a flailing Romain Grosjean, the Sauber was launched into the air, before bouncing back onto the tarmac, nearly knocking Jenson Button into the barriers in the process.

The replays made it seem spectacular, but the photo attached even more so. That alone was why this extra section was added!

Button leads rain-hit Monaco second practice

Jenson Button was fastest in second practice for the Monaco Grand Prix.

All of the fastest times were set in the first 15 minutes, though, as showers of rain throughout the session disrupted the running.

An early dash on the super-softs resulted in a 1:15.746 for the McLaren driver, ahead of Romain Grosjean and the two Ferraris.

There was a small dry period in between the showers, but it wasn’t enough to encourage much running on the super-softs. The final half hour saw the track being sufficiently wet to require intermediate tyres.

Mirabeau proved to be treacherous – Bruno Senna, Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa and Heikki Kovalainen all going off there.

Times from FP2:

 1. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:15.746           14
 2. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:16.138  +0.392   17
 3. Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:16.602  +0.856   19
 4. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:16.661  +0.915   21
 5. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:16.820  +1.074   18
 6. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:17.021  +1.275   13
 7. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:17.148  +1.402   21
 8. Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1:17.153  +1.407   20
 9. Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1:17.293  +1.547    9
10. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:17.303  +1.557   19
11. Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1:17.375  +1.629   17
12. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1:17.395  +1.649   19
13. Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1:17.655  +1.909   18
14. Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1:17.800  +2.054   23
15. Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1:18.251  +2.505   22
16. Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1:18.440  +2.694   23
17. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:18.522  +2.776   20
18. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:18.808  +3.062   24
19. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1:19.267  +3.521   23
20. Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1:19.309  +3.563   27
21. Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1:20.029  +4.283   13
22. Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1:20.240  +4.494   19
23. Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1:20.631  +4.885   12
24. Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1:20.886  +5.140   10

Button back on top in Spanish second practice

Button beat Sebastian Vettel to top spot

Button beat Sebastian Vettel to top spot

Jenson Button put his McLaren on top of the timesheets in second practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

When on the harder tyre, he complained of “unbelievable understeer”, but was much faster on the softer compound. Sebastian Vettel was again 2nd, leading Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.

Fernando Alonso abandoned his run on the softer tyre, leaving him 14th by the end of the day.

Running race-fuel simulations, Lotus had an impressive day, finishing 5th and 6th. Romain Grosjean was set to go faster, but was caught up by slower traffic, Felipe Massa and Charles Pic being the culprits.

Mark Webber and Kamui Kobayashi both speared into the gravel trap at turn 4 during the session. Lewis Hamilton and Bruno Senna also slipped off the track near the end.

Narain Karthikeyan did no running in second practice, as the HRT team fixed an electrical fault from FP1. He emerged from the pits with half an hour to go, but quickly coasted to a halt.

Times from FP2:

 1.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:23.399          38
 2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:23.563  +0.164  38
 3.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:23.771  +0.372  41
 4.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1:23.909  +0.510  32
 5.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1:23.918  +0.519  32
 6.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:23.964  +0.565  37
 7.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:24.065  +0.666  34
 8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1:24.080  +0.681  36
 9.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1:24.214  +0.815  41
10.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1:24.365  +0.966  22
11.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:24.418  +1.019  35
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1:24.422  +1.023  32
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:24.468  +1.069  40
14.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:24.600  +1.201  33
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1:24.688  +1.289  30
16.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:24.733  +1.334  34
17.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:24.769  +1.370  37
18.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1:25.047  +1.648  42
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1:26.296  +2.897  36
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1:26.740  +3.341  35
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1:27.314  +3.915  27
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1:27.664  +4.265  30
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1:28.235  +4.836  26
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          N/A       N/A      2

Hamilton leads McLaren lockout in Malaysia qualifying

Lewis Hamilton ensured a 100% record so far in 2012, taking pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Teammate Jenson Button was a tenth behind in 2nd, while everyone back to 8th was separated by 0.4 seconds.

Michael Schumacher went 3rd, while Sebastian Vettel has chosen a different strategy for tomorrow’s race. Here is what happened:

Q1

Jean-Eric Vergne was knocked out of Q1

Jean-Eric Vergne was knocked out of Q1

The two Mercedes drivers set the early pace with mid-1:37  times. They were soon split by Jenson Button, with Lewis Hamilton 4th.

Felipe Massa’s initial pace was very poor, leaving him only 18th. While he stayed out on the options, his teammate decided to use primes for Q1. Massa eventually improved to move out of the drop zone.

Mark Webber soon smashed the best time, setting a 1:37.1.

Within the last few minutes, the midfield began to move past Massa again, but not by enough. Jean-Eric Vergne aborted several laps, and failed to progress to Q2.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:39.077

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:39.306

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:39.567

21) Timo Glock – 1:49.903

22) Charles Pic – 1:41.250

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:42.914

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:43.655

Q2

Massa once again failed to progress to Q2

Massa once again failed to progress to Q2

Sergio Perez was the first car out of the pits for the start of Q2. He set his benchmark time of 1:39.043.

Pastor Maldonado went massively wide at Turn 11, almost hitting the barriers. Kimi Raikkonen went on top with an impressive 1:37.715.

Teammate Romain Grosjean made a mistake on his lap, but still went 4th, setting a sector best as well.

Felipe Massa went 9th, but Fernando Alonso quickly beat that, going 6th. Maladonado and Perez jumped into the top 10, pushing Massa out of Q2. The Mercedes drivers left it until their final laps to move back into the top 10, going 3rd and 4th.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Pastor Maldonado – 1:37.589

12) Felipe Massa – 1:37.731

13) Bruno Senna – 1:37.841

14) Paul di Resta – 1:37.877

15) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:37.883

16) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:37.890

17) Kamui Kobayashi – 1:38.069

Q3

Schumacher appeared in the top 3, alongside the two McLarens

Schumacher appeared in the top 3, alongside the two McLarens

Kimi Raikkonen was the first out of the pits, setting a 1:36.833 after a scrappy lap. Jenson Button and then Lewis Hamilton beat that time, setting a 1:36.219.

Sebastian Vettel’s time was a second off Hamilton’s, though he set his time on primes. Nico Rosberg made a mistake on his lap, going 3rd. Teammate Michael Schumacher moved up to 2nd.

Fernando Alonso took 9th, while Mark Webber jumped up to 4th. Sebastian Vettel moved up to 6th, while Kimi Raikkonen could only go 5th. Rosberg did not set a final lap, and was a disappointing 8th.

Jenson Button was within a tenth of a second of Hamilton, ensuring another McLaren lockout of the front row.

Button was “more than marginal” on fuel

Button's impressive victory could have been ruined by a fuel error

Button's impressive victory could have been ruined by a fuel error

It has been revealed that Jenson Button’s Australian GP win was not as easy as it looked – the Briton was running extremely light on fuel.

Jenson took the lead at the first corner from his teammate, and controlled the race from there. However, team principal Martin Whitmarsh revealed that a fuel miscalculation almost ruined his race. He worryingly stated that Button was in “severe” fuel saving mode by lap 8:

"We were more than marginal. Had we raced unfettered we would not have got to 
the finish line with either car, so from lap eight we were in severe fuel 
saving mode."

With this, the safety car appearance during the race surely saved Button and McLaren from an embarrassing retirement.

Whitmarsh also said that he felt a 1-2 finish was within reach, following the team’s front row lockout on Saturday. Despite this, he praised Button’s driving style during the race:

"He drove a really beautiful race: smooth, controlling, and he pressed when he 
needed to - just like a champion would."

Button storms to Australian Grand Prix win

The drivers pose before the start of the race

The drivers pose before the start of the race

Jenson Button has won the first race of 2012, leading the Australian Grand Prix to the final lap. He inherited the lead on the first lap, getting by teammate Lewis Hamilton, who eventually finished 3rd. The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were 2nd and 4th. Here is what happened:

At the start, Button squeezed past Hamilton to  take the lead, while Fernando Alonso tore up to 8th. Romain Grosjean slipped to 6th, and Bruno Senna spun to the back.

Button slices past Hamilton at the start

Button slices past Hamilton at the start

Sebastian Vettel made an incredible move around the outside of Nico Rosberg, while Pastor Maldonado clashed with Romain Grosjean, leaving the Frenchman on the sidelines.

Vettel began to close on Schumacher in 3rd, but a slip at Turn 1 lost him time, and put him under pressure from Rosberg behind. However, a failure on the Mercedes car allowed Sebastian to slip into 3rd place.

Felipe Massa suffered serious tyre degradation, and stopped at Lap 12. Rosberg, who began to hold up Fernando Alonso, stopped a lap later – whose on-track rival took on mediums.

Webber had had enough of his tyres by Lap 15, and switched to the primes. Button and Vettel pitted on Lap 16, with Hamilton stopping a lap later. Good pace from Fernando Alonso on the primes prompted the leaders to follow his strategy, with only Vettel using the option compound.

Hamilton’s race was quickly being torn apart, as he was held up by a 1-stopping Sergio Perez. He eventually got past, but the gap to Button was now 11 seconds.

Schumacher suffers a car failure under braking

Schumacher suffers a car failure under braking

Perez finally pitted on Lap 25, as Lewis began to repair the gap to his teammate. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa was trounced by Kimi Raikkonen and Kamui Kobayashi in quick succession.

A struggling Rosberg allowed Mark Webber and Pastor Maldonado to move up behind. After holding up the Aussie for several laps, Nico stopped on Lap 31 for primes.

With the McLarens backing off to conserve tyres, Sebastian Vettel was ordered to push, in order to catch Hamilton. The team opted to stop both cars on the same lap, which just about paid off. They stopped just at the right time, as the safety car was deployed for a stranded Caterham on the start/finish straight.

A quick stop by Vettel allowed him to slice past Hamilton, and get up behind Button. Webber got past Alonso in a similar situation, while the lapped cars in the pack were allowed to overtake the safety car – a new addition to the 2012 F1 rules.

Pastor Maldonado crashes his Williams on the final lap

Pastor Maldonado crashes his Williams on the final lap

The safety car pulled away on Lap 42, and Button streaked away from the pack. Kamui Kobayashi put an impressive move on Kimi Raikkonen for 9th, while Webber kept stuck to the back of Hamilton’s gearbox. Back in the battle for 13th, Massa clashed with Bruno Senna, dishing out heavy damage to both cars. Felipe retired, while Senna stopped for repairs.

As the race entered the final 10 laps, Webber got right up behind Hamilton, but failed to faze him. Behind, Pastor Maldonado binned his car on the final lap chasing Alonso, setting off a chain of accidents around the track. Nico Rosberg damaged his steering against Sergio Perez, backing up a large line of cars. Jean-Eric Vergne slipped, and Daniel Ricciardo went around his teammate. Paul di Resta slipped past the Toro Rosso in a drag race to the finish, snatching the final point.

Button takes a deserving lead in the championship

Button takes a deserving lead in the championship

It was a crazy end to an entertaining race, as Jenson Button crossed the line to take a well-deserved victory, with Vettel, Hamilton and Webber all close behind. Alonso was pleased to take 5th, while Kobayashi took a surprise 6th. From there on, the order – Raikkonen, Perez, Ricciardo and Di Resta – was shaken up on the start/finish straight on the final lap.

With this, Vettel’s stranglehold on the driver’s championship has been broken, and the 2012 championship battle is well and truly on.

Button ends Australian first practice on top

Button started off his season well

Button started off his season well

The 2012 Formula 1 season kicked off this morning in Melbourne, with Jenson Button finishing the first practice session on top of the timesheets.

Massa ended the session in the gravel trap

Massa ended the session in the gravel trap

Lewis Hamilton completed a McLaren 1-2, going 0.2 seconds off his teammate’s pace.

The session began wet, catching out Nico Rosberg on his out lap. However, the track soon dried out, and the last half hour allowed for use of the slick tyres.

After half an hour, HRT’s only car for FP1, being driven my Narain Karthikeyan, stopped out on track with an engine issue. Pedro de la Rosa’s car was still being assembled during the day, and has been granted immunity from scrutineering by the FIA.

Kimi Raikkonen spent most of his day in the pits complaining of steering problems. He eventually made it out to set 8 laps, finishing 9th.

Felipe Massa touched the grass of Turn 9 under braking, and spun into the gravel trap. His teammate, Fernando Alonso, held a slide on his Ferrari on his final lap at the last corner. So far the F2012 appears to be a handful for both drivers.

Times from FP1:


 1.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1:27.560           11
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes       1:27.805  +0.245   14
 3.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes               1:28.235  +0.675   17
 4.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                1:28.360  +0.800   21
 5.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       1:28.467  +0.907   21
 6.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1:28.683  +1.123   22
 7.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:28.908  +1.348   23
 8.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault       1:29.415  +1.855   16
 9.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault          1:29.565  +2.005    8
10.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari         1:29.722  +2.162   26
11.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1:29.790  +2.230   21
12.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes   1:29.865  +2.305   17
13.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   1:29.881  +2.321   18
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault       1:29.953  +2.393   21
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         1:30.124  +2.564   22
16.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault          1:30.515  +2.955   16
17.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault       1:30.586  +3.026   16
18.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                1:30.743  +3.183   11
19.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:31.178  +3.618   17
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault       1:31.983  +4.423    8
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth      1:34.730  +7.170    8
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth      1:40.256  +12.696  11
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth           N/A                 3
24.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth           N/A                 0

McLaren launch MP4-27 in Woking

The new McLaren MP4-27

The new McLaren MP4-27

McLaren are the second team to unveil their 2012 challenger, called the MP4-27.

Interestingly, the car does not feature the odd nosecone design that most teams seem to have been developing. Caterham, the only other team to have launched their car so far, incorporated the new innovation into their CT01, with mixed reactions regarding its appearance.

At the launch, Jenson Button noted that the MP4-27 was a “beautiful car”, but “many you see will not be”.

Lewis Hamilton talked about the redesign at the back of the car:

"Particularly the back of the car is a lot neater than it was last year. It’s 
much, much tighter. The focus is making it as snug as possible at the back to 
improve aerodynamics. It’s just refinement.

The rear wing is a bit better in terms of dropping drag. We’re trying our best 
to improve the rear flow especially with no blown diffuser this year it’s going 
to be very tricky for us. You’ll lose a lot of downforce without the blown diffuser.

When we were off-power last year we had a tremendous amount of downforce just 
coming from the back floor with the exhaust-blown diffuser. We don’t have that 
this year which is really the biggest loss for us.

It’s about finding the balance last year we obviously had a lot of weight and a 
lot of downforce on the rear of the car and we had to try to balance it with 
getting enough front end. This year I think it will be the other way around: 
having too much at the front and trying to find more rear."
A frontal view of the McLaren MP4-27

A frontal view of the McLaren MP4-27

Lewis also joked: “We’ve changed the mirrors, we’ll be able to see a lot better. Felipe [Massa] will be very happy with that!”

Instead of incorporating drastic changes in height on the nosecone, McLaren have opted to lower the front of their car, to cope with the lower front wing technical rule change this year.

Compared to the MP4-26, the car is tighter at the back for improved airflow. The U-shaped sidepods have been replaced with a more conventional design (which McLaren claim was a cause of the FIA banning exhaust-blown diffusers), while a revised cooling system now directs air to the gearbox oil cooling system.

Force India and Ferrari are next up to reveal their cars, both launching in two days time.

My top 5 drives of the season

After looking at the finest races and overtakes of 2011, it’s time to move on to the best race performances by any driver. This is judged by looking at raw pace, clever use of strategy and sheer brilliant driving.

5th – Sebastian Vettel – Monaco Grand Prix

After a scintillating drive in qualifying, a clean getaway would normally have sealed the race for Sebastian.

But, a mistake at his first pit stop put Vettel at a disadvantage – and on the wrong tyres. He emerged on the soft compound instead of the super-softs.

To make matters worse, the Red Bull was later reeled in by both Alonso and Button. His Pirelli tyres were nearly shredded to pieces, but Sebastian hung on lap after lap, keeping the Ferrari and McLaren at bay.

A red flag with 6 laps to go calmed the battle, and ensured the Red Bull would cruise to the chequered flag on new tyres, but it was by no means easy for Vettel.

4th – Mark Webber – Chinese Grand Prix

A torrid performance in qualifying left the Aussie in 18th place on the grid. Clearly a fightback was the order of the day.

Slicing through the field, Mark made it up to 4th place, then overtook Jenson Button on the final lap to take a brilliant podium position. Unfortunately much of his racing action was missed by the cameras.

It was a sweet ending to a poor weekend, marred by electrical and KERS problems.

3rd – Fernando Alonso – Spanish Grand Prix

By the Spanish GP, it was well known that the 2011 Ferrari challenger was hopeless against the Red Bulls – it’s a good thing nobody told Fernando Alonso.

A trademark demon start put Fernando in the lead of his home Grand Prix, to the delight of the fans. He held the position until the first pit stop, where his race began to unravel.

After being pipped by Vettel in the first set of stops, Alonso eventually had to put on the prime tyres, which killed his charge completely. He slipped to 5th, and was a lap down by the chequered flag.

So why is this drive on the list? Because nobody else on the grid would have been able to do what Fernando did in the opening stages. He thrashed the car to the absolute limit, and was beating a significantly faster car. A ferocious drive from the Spaniard.

2nd – Jenson Button – Japanese Grand Prix

In a year of Sebastian Vettel domination, it was quite a considerable achievement to beat the double world champion on a trademark Red Bull track.

By missing pole position by less than 0.01 seconds, it was clear he had the pace. After Button undercut Vettel at the first set of stops, there was no stopping him.

Fernando Alonso chased the McLaren to the flag, so much so that Jenson nearly burned out the minimum fuel sample required after the race. He pulled over after the final lap, finishing just a second ahead of Alonso.

Still, it was a fantastic drive to out-perform the Red Bulls at one of their strongest circuits…

1st – Jenson Button – Canadian Grand Prix

But not as good a drive as in Canada. Disaster after disaster couldn’t stop the Briton’s charge through the field – twice.

A puncture after clashing with his teammate, a drive-through penalty for speeding, followed up by another accident – this time with Fernando Alonso – and another puncture.

Most drivers’ races would end here. But for Jenson, he took it on himself to make another final dash from last to first, and took the lead on the final lap for icing on the cake.

On a difficult damp track, to lap over 2 seconds a lap faster than anyone else is simply incredible, and that’s why Button has earned the drive of the year.

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