Horner: McLaren used Button to help Hamilton

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As the smoke clears after the Japanese Grand Prix, the team bosses have started to talk about the race in the beautiful light of hindsight. First, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as suggesting McLaren had used Jenson Button as a sacrificial lamb to help teammate Lewis Hamilton take on the Red Bull’s of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. Horner said:

“We were a bit concerned by Jenson’s race strategy, as we knew we would come out behind him and then he started to back everybody up towards Hamilton,” Horner said.

“It was sort of like being in a McLaren sandwich. But then it looked like Hamilton developed a problem and they aborted that strategy for Jenson. It looked a little bit like he was a sacrificial lamb. I don’t know. It just seemed strange.”

The current world champion started on the prime tires and the hope was for him to run deep in the first stint, create a gap and maybe pull off a win…something Horner suggests was nearly impossible to pull off. The bigger issue for Horner was the trouble Button’s errant strategy could cause by placing him in the Red Bull’s path after their first stop. This is what happened and Button could not hold the charge of Vettel and Webber off as they were clawing as much as a second a lap on the British champion.

So Horner has called McLaren out for what effectively seems to be favoritism toward Lewis Hamilton by using a dodgy strategy for Button in the hopes of scuttling the Red Bull’s run and give Hamilton a chance to pass them when he caught up. At least that’s Horner’s take on the situation.

When asked, it seems McLaren’s team boss, Martin Whitmarsh, was not too amused by the accusations leveled at his team’s strategy. When asked if Button was being used as a blocker, the team boss replied:

“Yes there was [the possibility to do that],” he said. “But at that point we also had to consider Jenson.

“We wanted to give him enough time on the option tyre, to have a go. If we had left him out there longer… it is not how we play our game. Maybe others would but that is not how we go motor racing.”

He also added the lack of pace that McLaren has experienced lately is one thing but the team wouldn’t resort to such cheap parlor tricks in order to win a race:

“We don’t spend time worrying about it,” he said. “We spend time doing things about it. It is still on.”

So there you have it. Horner says Button was a sacrifice to help Hamilton due to a dodgy strategy and Whitmarsh says that’s nonsense. What do you think? You saw the race and the results of the strategy. Was it a daft move? Sure, we can say yes in hindsight but do you feel it should have been known prior to the race as well? Do you think they used Button to improve Hamilton’s chances? Or is Whitmarsh right? Is that below McLaren and something you would only find happening at a Flavio Briatore or Ferrari operation? Okay, the last part was a joke…Everyone knows I am a Ferrari fan and who doesn’t like the Flav?

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