Before today’s seemingly resurgent Red Bull claimed the front row of the European Grand Prix, Jenson Button was seeing a different driver as his biggest rival.
That driver? His own team mate, Lewis Hamilton.
â€œLewis has to be pretty much my biggest rival,â€ Button admitted, with the candour that makes him one of motorsportâ€™s most engaging characters
â€œThere are going to be times when we are wheel to wheel this season and we just have to make sure we respect each other in racing terms and donâ€™t do anything silly.â€
â€œAs a package I think weâ€™ve done a great job this season,â€ said Button. â€œI have pushed Lewis very hard and he has pushed me very hard and we have both moved forward, in terms of our speed and our ability, more this season than we have in previous seasons.
I kept that description of Button, from the Telegraph, for you all to enjoy.
Hamilton seems to suggest the same:
â€œHeikki was always very competitive in practice and qualifying but race pace wasnâ€™t his strongest point.
“Now Jensonâ€™s getting more results in, and that encourages the team. Weâ€™ve had three one-twos so far, for the guys in the factory thatâ€™s a huge boost.
Finally, Martin Whitmarsh:
â€œThey want to beat each other,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™re very motivated to do that, but theyâ€™ve developed trust, understanding and communication, which is good for them and itâ€™s good for the team.
“What does it mean in lap times? Itâ€™s difficult to know but it creates an atmosphere thatâ€™s good for us going forward.â€
Now, again, these quotes came before today’s qualifying, and most people — including, according to the Telegraph’s podcast, Spanish fans at the race — thought the McLarens would be the cars to beat today. But still, this is an interesting question, and certainly one that could become a major headache for McLaren if, in fact, it comes down to Lewis and Jenson at Abu Dhabi.
I think it certainly could. The McLarens are still strong, and they are planning their major upgrades at the British Grand Prix. And I think the team is a bit better sorted than Red Bull, which could be the difference-maker.
I also, frankly, think the combo of Hamilton and Button is better than Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. I think the McLaren guys can get a little more out of their cars than the Red Bull drivers, who so far have been lucky that they haven’t had to wring that little extra out of their cars so far this season. But if the Ferraris catch up, and the McLarens make another jump, it may come down to pulling that extra five-hundredths of a second come a qualifying lap. I’d put the money on Hamilton and Button (and Fernando Alonso, if it comes to it) in that moment.
What you you think? Even given today’s Red Bull pace, do you think the McLaren drivers are going to end up being their own biggest rivals this season?