• ‘We are not about to compromise our values’
• F1 teams unhappy about provisional 2012 calendar
Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will continue battling each other on the track this season, even though it could hamper their respective title chances.
The battle between the two McLaren drivers was a highlight of the race at the Hungaroring on Sunday, with the pair passing each other for the lead four times within five laps.
As opposed to the team orders most recently employed by Red Bull in the British Grand Prix, when Mark Webber was told to hold position behind the championship leader, Sebastian Vettel, McLaren have confirmed that the two Britons will be allowed to go for it, despite the potential of putting each other out. That happened when they clashed in Montreal, ending Hamilton’s race.
“We are not about to compromise our values and what we believe with our racing at McLaren,” Jonathan Neale, the team’s managing director, said. “When we were in Canada we let them get on with it and they had a coming together. It’s risky but when you have back-to-back world champs you have to respect they are the ones there in the moment.”
Button had revelled, not only in the racing but in the confidence specifically that going up against his team-mate gave him on track. “You don’t think about [fighting each other], you are thinking about position,” he said. “We had a good little scrap and were wheel-to-wheel through turn one, which was close. If it had been with other drivers, I would have been off the circuit.”
The fight, he insisted, was not between the two of them but for the title as they bid to catch Vettel, who is 88 points ahead of Hamilton in third and 100 ahead of the fifth-placed Button.
“We have won world championships so we are not interested in being second. We want to be top. I wouldn’t race this season just wanting to beat my team-mate – I am not aiming for Lewis, I am aiming for the top.”
It is, as Neale noted, part of McLaren’s historical ethos to let their drivers race. “Everybody has to run their team by their rules but if you look back through our history, the way that we go about racing is having good drivers, give them a good car and let them do what they do best.” But he admitted it had been “stressful on the pit wall – the mechanics in the garage were looking at it and wincing”.
Neale said: “Sometimes we get it wrong. But when you have a race like that, you know you are right. They were banging wheels from the first lap.”
His position is admirable but with Red Bull having already proved that they will employ team orders, it makes the task of catching Vettel in the remaining nine races that much harder.
Button is not giving up. “If you look at the table you say no chance, but if I take it race by race, like I did here, go out and have fun and try to win, it can happen. We want to see a lot more 25s [points for the winner].”
Off-track, hard details about the new Sky/BBC TV deal remained unclear as the teams headed off for their summer break. The McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, admitted that there was “some concern about the free?to?air nature of it”. He said: “We received some assurances [on Friday] when we saw Bernie [Ecclestone]. I hope that that’s what happens.”
However, when told that Ecclestone had subsequently said theBBC would show only highlights of races it will not air live, rather than deferred coverage, he admitted the specificsof the deal appeared to still be in Ecclestone’s hands. “What I said was wholly accurate [on Friday] in that this is what we were told and we asked several times. But we’ll have to get the full story.”
Queried about whether there was concern over the potential decrease in revenue from sponsors, Whitmarsh insisted it did not apply to McLaren’s partners. “I don’t think there is any here. I would think that’s just speculation. I think we have got to do a careful analysis of it, the view [on Friday] was that viewership would increase as a consequence of the amount of time and coverage that Formula One will present.”
The teams are also pressing for a rethink on the 2012 provisional calendar that was presented to them by Ecclestone at the weekend. Of particular concern seems to be a final section that sees seven races in 10 weekends across four continents. The Renault team principal, Eric Boullier, said: “We plan actually to ask for a rethink for the logistics. We have a thought between us already and we would like to suggest a couple of ideas.”