The Australian Grand Prix was, thankfully, a fantastic race full of incidents and great racing. Just one of the very many interesting things about it was the clear demonstration of the differing driving styles of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button that is very reminiscent of watching the legends Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna race together.
Both Hamilton and Button drove superbly in Melbourne but in very different ways. Hamilton felt he was having “the drive of his life” and was putting excellent moves on many different drivers, including Button, and his pass on Rosberg around the outside of turn 11 was simply stunning. His driving was quite similar to that of his idol, Ayrton Senna, aggressive and flamboyant.
Button on the other hand had a very different sort of race to Hamilton. After Alonso hit him at the first corner, he struggled on the intermediate tyres with excessive oversteer, particularly noticeable between turns 3 and 4, and after Hamilton passed him he made the decision (his call, not the team) to switch to slick tyres. This seemed like a rash and desperate decision but it proved to be inspired.
That decision helped him to win the race as when the rest of the field realised he was going faster on slicks, they all jumped into the pits to do the same. When the drivers came out on their first lap on the cold slick tyres Button was already used to the conditions and able to pass several drivers and caught right up with the leader Sebastian Vettel.
Not all these overtaking manoeuvres were shown on the TV coverage and although he was going faster than his rivals to make the passes stick he had to be aggressive and precise, especially when getting off the dry line and onto the wetter and greasier part of the track.
He then drove, as always, very smoothly to make his soft tyres work for the rest of the race. After Vettel retired he pulled out a gap on Kubica and was always in control, driving at a speed within himself and able to go quicker if he needed to. His driving in Melbourne was smooth, precise and intelligent, just like Alain Prost.
I was pleased to see Jenson win as many people have not given him much of a chance at McLaren and that Lewis would walk all over him. However, I think we will see, much like in the days of Senna and Prost, that some days Hamilton will be quicker and other times Button will be quicker.
From seeing comments already made by Hamilton and Button fans, I think we are going to have a very similar argument to the ‘who was better out of Senna and Prost?’ debate. That argument still rages on to this day and with Jenson and Lewis using such different driving styles to achieve their performances, their fans maybe starting a new argument that also has no clear resolution.
Hamilton fans will point to the fact that he passed Button in the race as well as several other drivers and before his second pit stop was showing a pace faster than Button. Had he not changed his tyres that second time he would have got passed Kubica and caught Button and possibly have overtaken him again.
Button fans will retort by saying that he actually won the race and he did this through making the brave and intelligent decision to change to slicks and then by looking after his tyres better than anyone else he was able to keep comfortably ahead. Had Lewis not pitted and was able to overtake Kubica he would have not been able to catch Button without destroying his tyres and probably would have needed to pit again anyway.
This is shaping up to be a very interesting battle and it is doubtful there will be a clear winner either way. If Button can set up the car to his liking, just like with Prost, he will be the quickest. When the car is not perfect, then Hamilton will most likely be the quickest.