McLaren 'won't compromise values' for victory
2 August 2011
They collided on the opening lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix, and then duelled for the lead after a rain shower hit the Hungaroring, but McLaren insists that there are no plans to stop Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button fighting on track.
The two Britons have both been allowed to chase victories this season, with the notable collision between them in Canada providing a warning as to the potential dangers of doing so, but McLaren's top brass insists that it will not impose team orders on either man - even if it means that Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing are allowed to stroll to the 2011 F1 world titles.
Button's victory in Hungary - in his 200th grand prix start - served only to bring him to within 100 points of runaway championship leader Vettel, while Hamilton sits two places and twelve points ahead of his team-mate, in third overall, after having to settle for fourth on the road in Budapest, the legacy of a spin, a botched tyre call and subsequent drive-thru' penalty.
However, while McLaren appears to have had the upper hand over Red Bull in recent races - the Milton Keynes team has not won for three rounds, while McLaren has claimed three of the last five - and still has time to derail its rival's championship charge, managing director Jonathan Neale insists that it is not about to hand one of its drivers an advantage by shackling his team-mate.
“We are not about to compromise our values and what we believe with our racing at McLaren,” he told journalists after the Hungarian success, “A number of teams have made the observation that we make championships harder for ourselves but we are about winning races, [and] I believe Lewis and Jenson are both driving better as a result of having each other in the team and being allowed to run like that.
“Lewis responds well to having somebody pressurise him, because he finds that extra bit digging deeper - and he knows that, if he puts a foot wrong or makes a mistake, Jenson is going to be right there. To win in F1, you need both drivers to be really hungry and you have to let them go sometimes."
Neale admitted that the ploy did not always work, despite Button winning in Montreal, but said that he would not expect the team to adopt the sort of team orders already employed by Red Bull at Silverstone, where Mark Webber was told to 'hold position' behind a slower Vettel.
“When we were in Canada, we let them get on with it and had a coming together, [so] it's risky," Neale conceded, "But, when you have back-to-back world champions, you have to respect they are the ones there in the moment. Everybody has to run their team by their rules but, if you look back through our history, that is the way that we go about racing. We are still in entertainment and it's important that we do that for the fans.”
Despite the obvious excitement for the fans, Neale admitted that watching Button and Hamilton duelling so intensely was not so comfortable for the team.
“So much of their time is dedicated to the media, sponsors and partners but it is the fans who make the sport," he repeated, “It was so stressful on the pit wall - the mechanics in the garage were wincing - but you have to have confidence in the drivers. There will be no attempt to step in or interfere. Sometimes we get it wrong but, when you have a race like that, you know you are right.”
Button, who is generally acclaimed to be slower than Hamilton, admitted that McLaren's attitude to its two drivers was refreshing, given the favouritism being shown to rivals elsewhere.
"I didn't hear anything on the radio, which is nice," he confirmed, "I think they thought we had to concentrate on what we were doing at that moment in time. It is always fun racing with Lewis. I think we are pretty fair - and I don't think we touched this time!"