Button off the mark as Hamilton blames team
Jenson Button stormed to his first success for his new McLaren team after one of the most exciting and dramatic grands prix in years in Melbourne yesterday.
But the celebrations were tainted when his team-mate Lewis Hamilton launched a tirade of criticism against the management after being called in for a second tyre stop which, he claimed, cost him his chance of victory.
Button won partly because he chose precisely the optimum moment to switch from the intermediate Bridgestone tyres on which everyone had started following a shower just before the start, to dry weather slicks.
Hamilton, together with most of the remaining drivers, did likewise two laps later. But where Button then eked out his tyres' effectiveness over the remaining 50 laps, in company with second placed Robert Kubica of Renault and the Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, Hamilton was called in for a second stop for fresh tyres on the 34th lap.
By that point he had raced through the field after a delay in the first corner on the opening lap when Button clashed with Alonso and Michael Schumacher, and was being stalemated as he challenged Kubica for second place.
Hamilton said that his race up to that point had been one of the best drives of his career as he had battled up from seventh to third place, and laid the blame for his resultant sixth place finish not just on a collision on the 56th lap, when he was attacked from behind by Red Bull's Mark Webber, but also the decision to stop a second time.
“I'm happy with the job that I did. I think I honestly drove my heart out today and I think I deserved better than what I ended up with, but I'll keep fighting.”
Team sources said that he was very critical of McLaren's strategy over the radio, and he was adamant that pitting for a second time had been a significant mistake.
“All I know is the guys do, always, a fantastic job, but the strategy was not right,” he said. “Everyone else in front of me did one stop and for some reason I did two.”
When he was asked who took the decision to make the second stop, Hamilton replied: “I don't know, but we'll find out.”
Button's victory promoted him to third place in the championship with 31 points to Alonso's 37 and Massa's 33, while Hamilton lies fourth with 23.
Button admitted he did not expect to be winning races so early into his McLaren career.
Button said: “I thought it would take longer than this. A lot depends on what sort of car you come out of the box with.
“I don't know in general pace where we would stand but that is not all racing is about. It is also about strategy, thinking and conserving. We did it correctly today and we came away with a good victory.
“This is very special and whatever happens over the next few races, this means a lot to me.”