Tag Archives: rivalry

F1 2012 – Time to Start Getting Excited

by Jake McMillan

It seems like it’s been forever since we had the last F1 race, but with the first F1 Pre-Season Test only two weeks away, it is time to start getting excited. In fact, there are a number of reasons to get excited about the upcoming 2012 Formula 1 Season:

  • Teams more closely matched: As the rules have not changed massively for 2012 everyone expects the teams, especially at the top, to be more closely matched than in 2011. It’s very unlikely we will see the dominance of one driver or one team like we did with Vettel and Red Bull last year. Ferrari and Mercedes are both expected to do better this year. But will they?
  • The return of Kimi Raikkonen: He’s unlikely to be quick from the get go, but it will be fascinating to see how he gets on in his first season back in F1. Will he have the hunger? Will he smile?
  • A Senna back in a Williams: Although it is a time for rebuilding at Williams, it will be great to see Bruno Senna in a more competitive car and with a very professional team to see what kind of potential he really has?
  • Rivalries: So many of them up and down the pack – Can Webber be more on pace with Vettel this year? If Massa doesn’t run Alonso closer this year then he will likely be out of Ferrari at the end of the year; Will Massa and Hamilton manage to avoid touching each other? Button Vs Hamilton, who will come out on top this year? Schumacher Vs Rosberg; Paul di Resta Vs Hulkenberg … the list goes on.
  • How will Caterham do? Caterham (formerly Team Lotus) were floating between the teams at the back and the mid-runners last year. They expect, as do most of us, that they will be closer to, if not part of, the middle of the pack in 2012. Would be good to see.

Plus there is the Malaysian Grand Prix to be excited about. Well, for me, anyway, as I am going to Malaysia to watch it for the first time and I cannot wait!


Button and Hamilton, McLaren’s Dream Team?

McLaren’s one-two in China was quite impressive as although they don’t seem to quite have the fastest car, both drivers got the maximum out of their equipment using different strategies and made the rest of the field look quite average. It’s still very early days, but could the pairing of Button and Hamilton be McLaren’s dream team?

Some of the fans of Hamilton, in particular, seem to not think this judging by the comments made on discussion boards. These views were vocalised before the start the season and most recently I read a lot of silly comments on Andrew Benson’s recent blog on the BBC where a lot of Hamilton fans seem to completely refuse the fact that Button, despite winning two of the four races this year, might be as quick as their favourite driver sometimes.

Thankfully the drivers themselves are being very professional and seem to be getting on well, so far(!), and have given each other a lot of respect whilst at the same time pushing each other and the team very hard. This is exactly the way it should be and can really drive a team to the front of the pack.

Earlier in the year I wrote about the similarity of their differing driving styles with the great battle between Senna and Prost at McLaren in 1988-1989. That battle became one of the most acrimonious and intense rivalries in Formula 1 history. The reasons for this were complex, but a big part of it was Senna being unable to accept that Prost, who had such an opposite approach to him, could be as quick he was.

I wrote that I believed, and still do, that the rivalry between Button and Hamilton will not be anywhere near as acrimonious as the Senna versus Prost battle. There seems to be a great potential that Lewis and Jenson could prove to be a most dynamic and fruitful partnership that could bring great success to them both and the team.

The evidence is clear that both Hamilton and Button are quick drivers and seem evenly matched, but their driving skills are different. There will be days when Hamilton is quicker and there will be days when Button is faster. Crucially, both drivers seem to have accepted this and this can only be good for them and the team.

McLaren Team Principal, Martin Whitmarsh, will be delighted with how the partnership is working out at the moment. The drivers are pushing each other hard, but are working together where it counts to develop the car into a consistent race winner.

Their supportive demeanour for each other has been clear to see and this could be the beginnings of a McLaren dream team. I hope that fans of both Hamilton and Button will start to see it this way too.

Button Versus Hamilton – The Battle of the Driving Styles

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.

Senna Vs Prost: Statistics show you would rather have Prost in your car if you were a F1 team principal

In Formula 1, pole positions are vanity, wins are sanity and points are king

In the history of Formula 1, Brazilian Ayrton Senna and Frenchman Alain Prost are two of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen. They also participated in one of the most intense and acrimonious rivalries that became life-threateningly dangerous on the track. Their rivalry ended when Prost retired in 1993 and since then their reputations have travelled in different directions.

Their rivalry, particularly from 1988-1990, is infamous in F1 folklore and if you want to learn more about their rivalry then I can fully recommend Malcolm Folley’s excellent book ‘Senna versus Prost’ which includes detailed information of their backgrounds, careers and personalities which are essential to fully understand the reason, nature and intensity of their duel.

The respective fans of these two very different drivers, of course, argue and debate as to who was actually the best. Senna fans, like the great man himself, refuse to accept that Prost, or anyone else, could have been better. Whereas Prost fans take a quieter and more analytical approach, just like Prost did as a driver, and state he was the best overall.

There is no clear cut conclusion and they both were extraordinary drivers in different ways and both had their weaker points. Senna’s driving style and personality was far more vivacious than that of Prost and this drew in more fans. When Senna tragically died at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, his already exceptional reputation rose even further into truly legendary proportions. Prost’s reputation, on the other hand, seemed to diminish after he retired as a F1 driver and dropped even further after his unsuccessful turn at running an all-French F1 Team (Prost Grand Prix).

These two great titans of F1 had such different approaches to driving, such different personalities and cultural backgrounds, but yet were evenly matched; it seems wrong and unfair somehow that their reputations in history are not evenly matched? Senna fans must at least accept that Prost was by far his greatest rival and pushed him harder and closer than any other driver.

Beating Prost became an obsession to Senna and their rivalry was so important to him that after Prost retired in 1993, he actually called Prost several times (to Alain’s great surprise) during late 1993 and early 1994 to try and persuade him not to retire and race again! You cannot be a true fan of Senna or Prost without recognising the brilliance of both drivers.

‘There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics’. In the Prost versus Senna debate, statistics have been used in different ways to support the belief of the respective fan. For example, Senna fans point to his 3 World Championships, 65 pole positions, 80 podiums and 41 wins from 161 starts to demonstrate his greatness and superiority. Prost fans state his 4 world championships (3rd highest in F1 history), his 51 wins, 106 podiums and a career total of 798.5pts (all 2nd highest in history) from 199 starts.

Rather than trying to find statistics that support either group of fans, I thought it would be interesting to take the view of a team principal and coldly analyse their relative performances to see which driver you would want to have in your car.

To make the analysis as fair as possible I used the two year period where they both drove for McLaren (1988 and 1989) as this is perhaps the best and only opportunity to really assess their relative performances:

Pole Positions Wins Fastest Laps Championships
Senna Prost Senna Prost Senna Prost Senna Prost
1988 13 2 8 7 3 6 1 0
1989 13 2 6 4 2 4 0 1
Total 26 4 14 11 5 10 1 1

The above statistics appear to be very interesting. Senna was clearly the better qualifier and won more races than Prost over the two year period. However, Prost produced double the number of fastest laps than Senna which suggests he had quicker race pace. They both won the world championship, but on the above information alone you would pick Senna over Prost to drive on your team.

However, if you were a team principal, the only statistic that really matters in the above table is the number of championships. Here are the statistics that are more telling:

Av. Qual Pos. Av. Finish Pos. Av. Pts Total Points
Senna Prost Senna Prost Senna Prost Senna Prost
1988 1.25 2.50 2.43 1.50 5.88 6.56 94 105
1989 1.19 2.56 2.89 2.15 3.75 5.06 60 81
Overall 1.22 2.53 2.61 1.81 4.81 5.81 154 186

(Averages are per race averages)

This table tells a different story doesn’t it? This does confirm Senna was a better qualifier (qualifying on average over a position higher than Prost) but it demonstrates that Prost on average per race finished over a position higher than Senna and scored, on average over the 2 years, a point per race more than Ayrton Senna did.  Not only that it shows that on average per race, Senna lost a position from his average starting position by the end of the race, whereas Prost gained a position from his average grid position.

Prost outscored Senna in both seasons. Ayrton Senna won the championship in 1988 as the rules stated then that only the best 11 finishes counted towards the championship. This was the first and only year that the championship winner had not scored the most points overall (counting all 16 finishes). They removed this rule from the 1991 season onwards.

Senna won the championship on the best 11 races rule, but otherwise Prost scored more points overall  for the season and was ahead of him for almost all of the season.

Text Not Needed

Prost won the championship in 1989 and was ahead of Senna on points for nearly the entire season

In Formula 1, pole positions are vanity, wins are sanity and points are king. If you were a team principal with the pressure it brings from sponsors and partners, you would pick Alain Prost over Ayrton Senna using the data above. If you expand the analysis to the whole careers then the critical statistics show Prost would be the best guy to drive your car as he would be more likely to help you win the drivers and constructors world title.

Career Achievements Ayrton Senna Alain Prost
Total Points 614 798.5
Championships 3 4
Win Percentage 25.47% 25.63%
Av. Pts per Race 3.81 4.01

From the statistics and analysing their careers, Senna would much rather go flat out to win the race whereas Prost thought more of the championship and points. Obviously it is not quite as black and white as that, but the distinction between the two drivers in this area is clear.

Senna fans often mention in this debate that Senna would have won the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix if they had not stopped this extremely wet race. Senna, in the Toleman, was catching Prost in the McLaren hand over fist but the officials stopped the race before Senna had a chance to challenge for the lead. It is argued that Senna could have had another race victory, but actually it would have been better for Prost if the race continued and to have let Senna by. If he scored 6pts for second place in a full race rather than the 4.5pts for winning a stopped race halfway through he would have won the championship that year rather losing it to Niki Lauda by half a point!

The statistics show you would definitely have Prost driving your car, but they also show you would want to have Senna driving your other car! These two drivers were so closely matched, so exceptional but unfortunately so different in so many ways.

Motorsport fans were very lucky to see these two legendary drivers go head to head as that does not happen very often. If Prost had not been around, just imagine how many race victories and championships Senna might have had? And if Senna had not been around, then Prost would have easily had another two world championships to his name (1988 and 1990).

The above statistics help to show that Prost’s achievements and reputation should be remembered in a way equal, if not perhaps greater, than that of the great Ayrton Senna.

Jake McMillan

Related Posts:
Button & Hamilton, the New Prost & Senna?
Button Vs Hamilton – the Battle of the Driving Styles
Button and Hamilton, McLaren’s Dream Team?

Poll Result: The F1 rivalry we are most looking forward to in 2010

2010 is a year of fantastic rivalries and a recent poll on this site has revealed that the F1 rivalry we are most looking forward to, far beyond any other, is seeing back from retirement Michael Schumacher compete against all the current top F1 elite of Massa, Button, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and Webber.  Two-thirds of the poll (67%) stated they were most looking forward to seeing this battle.

Next highest vote (19%) was the battle between the two McLaren drivers of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Popular opinion seems to be that Hamilton will come out on top for 2010, but we are all wondering just how close or far away Button will be.

A small percentage of people are looking forward to the Vettel Vs Webber fight. Interestingly, no one voted for Alonso Vs Massa?

Button & Hamilton, the new Prost and Senna?

Regardless of the driver or team you support, we are all eagerly anticipating to see how well current World Champion Jenson Button fares against the previous World Champion Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, a team he has made his own. However, McLaren is somewhat unique amongst F1 teams in wanting to have 2 top drivers in their cars and have a philosophy of providing equal equipment and not favouring any driver. Although they are probably the team best able to do this, there is much debate as to whether they have been able to achieve this in practice, especially when Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna raced together for them in 1988-89, two drivers who share very comparable driving styles to Button and Hamilton.

Alain Prost and Jenson Button drive their cars in a very similar way. They both have a very smooth driving style with seemingly gentle inputs to steering, acceleration and braking. The result is that they are quick, but they don’t look quick. In contrast, Lewis Hamilton has a similar approach to his idol, Aryton Senna, in that they are more comfortable in a tail happy/oversteering car and in being this way, they look quick and aggressive.

Prost and Button are both good when the car is working well and when it is set up to their liking they can be unbeatable. The difference between Prost and Button, although it could be proved in the future otherwise, is that Prost, ‘The Professor’, was a master at setting up a F1 car. Button is not quite so adept in this area and it is known that he copied set ups from the more experienced Barrichello.

Senna was also known to copy set ups from the more experienced Prost, but I wonder whether we will see Hamilton copying Button in 2010? Like Senna, Hamilton is able to make the best of whatever car he has and at the beginning of 2009 when the McLaren was just plain awful, the difference between his pace and his teammate Heikki Kovalainen was quite staggering. On the days when the McLaren is not set up well, Hamilton will do better than Button as Senna did with Prost.

With the banning of refuelling for 2010 and a greater emphasis on tyre management, the similarity of Prost and Button will become more apparent. Prost was highly skilled at looking after and maximising his tyres during a race and would often seem slow and a little off the pace at the beginning of a Grand Prix only to speed up later on and carve his way through the field. Button, I am sure, will follow a similar approach. This is not to say that Senna or Hamilton cannot manage their tyres well, it is just that Prost and Button are better, respectively.

In terms of consistency, the drivers also have strong similarities with their counterparts from 20 years ago. Alain Prost was a very consistent driver who thought in terms of championships rather than risking everything to win every race. In 1988 Senna was World Champion, but Prost actually scored more points that year but the rules were at that time that only the best 11 results counted. As we have seen in 2009, Button is very consistent. Apart from in Belgium when another driver, Grosjean, crashed into him, he finished in the points in every single race.

Lewis Hamilton, like his beloved Ayrton Senna, is not always the most consistent driver in terms of results. They are both consistently quick, but both have been prone to make mistakes through being too aggressive or emotional. Both could qualify very well and produce electrifying pace on a single qualifying lap, but not always able to transfer high grid positions into corresponding points.  Whereas both Prost and Button can take a relatively poor grid position and gain good points from it.

Like Prost, Button has always seemed less aggressive in the car, but they both have great track records of overtaking in Formula One. Neither is flamboyant, but both are far more able in this regard then they are given credit for. Just like Prost, Button won this year’s championship by being consistently quick and being able to make passing manoeuvres when he needed to. His pass on Hamilton in Bahrain was impressive and decisive as was his many passes in Brazil.

In terms of their characters, Button and Hamilton are so not the same as Prost and Senna. The rivalry that began in 1988 at McLaren became to be one of the most intense and acrimonious rivalries ever to take place in Formula 1. The rivalry between Hamilton and Button will get intense, if both are able to perform at a similar level, but it won’t be anything as hostile and bitter as it got with Senna and Prost. Ayrton Senna was simply unique in his personality and approach and was one of the most driven sports people that ever was born and had a self-belief and conviction in his actions that was unparalleled. It was Senna’s intensity and desire to beat Prost, at any cost, that drove their rivalry into dangerous territories.

Lewis Hamilton is a very focused, determined and driven racer, but not at the same level as Senna was. His desire to beat Button will, of course, be very very strong, but it won’t be extreme, which is good, and he will be professional, cordial and he won’t try to deliberately take out Button at 180mph. Hamilton is not high maintenance like Senna was. Button is also not really that much like Prost, but both are reasonably quiet individuals. Prost was much more outspoken in the media and certainly had a reputation of being more political within a team. However, this reputation only really emerged or grew after Prost’s experiences of McLaren with Senna.

Ayrton Senna arrived at essentially Prost’s McLaren team and was able to turn the team, and particularly Honda (their engine supplier), on to his side. Honda and McLaren engineers admired and respected his way of driving and his commitment and dedication to the sport. In a reverse of the comparisons, Button is the one joining Lewis’s team and it is he who has to garner support as the new boy. McLaren are going out of their way to show neutrality and will support the driver who is the quickest. Button is already liked by Mercedes and so I don’t think he will struggle to get up to speed at ‘Hamilton’s McLaren’. Whether he will be quicker than Hamilton? Well, that is what we are all waiting to see.

I think it will be a fascinating rivalry to watch as I think Button will clearly accept that there are days that Hamilton will be quicker than him and I do not think that Hamilton will go into a flap and lose it if Button beats him. I really hope it is a close battle and is just one component of what I think is going to be an amazing 2010 F1 World Championship.


Jake McMillan