Unless you’ve been living under a rock this Formula 1 season, you know that one of the ongoing storylines has been the intra-team battles.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have, of course, provided most of the fun (check out Paul Charsley’s take), but Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have had their moments (in pitlane, especially), and there seems to be a growing difference of opinion between Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg — who wants the team to keep developing the 2010 car — and Michael Schumacher — who is ready to focus on 2011.

But the team that heading into the season seemed most likely to blow up is going along fine.

McLaren is leading the constructors title race over Red Bull by a healthy 29 points and its two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, are 1-2 in the drivers championship.

Remember, those two are the last two world champions. And they’re on the same team.

So where’s the fireworks? Where’s the Red Bull-like squabble? Where’s the public rebuke?

Those haven’t happened. Instead, we’ve been treated to ongoing McLaren-produced videos of the two drivers getting along, building F1 cars, lurking around garages, etc.

So, just how can this be? The answer’s an easy one:

Button isn’t a real threat to Hamilton. And Lewis (and probably Jenson) knows it.

Post-China, that didn’t seem to be the case. Jenson was coming off his second win of the season (to none at that point for Lewis), and the new driver to the team seemed to have gelled incredibly well with the crew. The off-season question of whether Jenson could up his game not only to compete with Lewis but better him seemed to have been answered.

But then things started titling. Lewis won back-to-back at Turkey and Canada. And just when Red Bull’s two drivers were starting to bare their claws and Ferrari had to be more focused on how it was messing things up for its drivers on its own (with perhaps some help from the FIA/bad luck), the power situation — if you want to call it that — at McLaren became clear.

Lewis is No. 1. Jenson’s No. 2.

It’s just the way it is.

Before explaining why, quickly, let me point out that while I’m not a huge fan of either of these drivers, I rate both highly. And I still think that Jenson’s qualifying run to get pole at Monaco in 2009 is the best bit of driving we’ve seen in F1 for a couple, maybe three years. They both are well-deserving of their championships.

But this season, Lewis has driven his way to his points. Jenson got his two biggest hauls thanks to his smarts and good strategy, which are part of race craft and part of winning but different from a flat-out awesome drive. Head-to-head, Lewis is driving better, and that fact has started to show more and more, and as a result Lewis is slowly, steadily, building up his lead in the driver’s race.

Now, certainly, Jenson’s run to finish fourth at the British Grand Prix was impressive. It might prove to be season-saving. But if you look at the recent finishes, Jenson has been just a step behind Lewis. It was that way at the European Grand Prix. It was that way in Canada. It was that way in Turkey.

This is making the duo a terrific pairing for McLaren. It has the team ahead in the constructors’ race despite Red Bull having one more victory. The two are consistently scoring points — often a lot of points.

But Lewis is scoring those points a bit more now, he’s qualifying a bit (or even a lot) higher than Jenson, and at this point in the season — a few days before the Germany Grand Prix — he seems to have really settled in. He’s called this year’s McLaren F1 car the best he’s ever driven.

So he’s happy. That’s a good place for an F1 driver to be. (Yes, Mark Webber proved how being ticked off can be good, too.)

And it looks like he should remain happy, the way things are going with him and Jenson. I think it will stay that way until Jenson flat-out out-drives Lewis — not just scores more points in a race, but out-drives him. Right now I don’t see that happening.

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Stephen Hopkinson
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Stephen Hopkinson

So you think Jenson’s reaction to being comprehensively beaten would be to buddy up to the man beating him? Unusual way of looking at it.

F1 Kitteh
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F1 Kitteh

I think Jenson is just lurking in the wings while waiting for Hamilton to do the dirty work against the likes of Vettel, which is bound to end in a slashed tyre or broken wing the other way around sooner rather than later. As long as he can maintain the gap while playing nice, he can wait to unleash his ‘Prost Casio Chicane’ move right at the last race when Hamilton and the world is least expecting it.

Joeymac
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Joeymac

Sooner or later Hamilton’s on track antics will bite him and Jenson must be hoping that time comes pretty quickly. Nobody has caused more punctures with these ridicules wide wings, than Lewis (more of an observation than actual fact). Either he’s extremely lucky not to have to replace too many front wings, or he’s very good at judging how much they’ll take. I’m not a big fan of either driver, but I’d prefer Jenson to beat Lewis merely to beat some respect into the little bugger! Can he though?.. I’m not sure.

nofahz
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nofahz

Agreed. he’s keeping his nose clean. Button needs to qualify better but I’m not sure he can do that if the setup requires aggressive driving to heat up and work the front tires. He doesn’t seem the type who is willing to change his driving style?

tobytubes
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tobytubes

Button is just happy to be in a competitive car for two whole seasons. Let’s face it if Button swapped with Schumacher I don’t think it’s the 7 times world champ who’d be lampooned in the British press.

Having been team mate to Alonso, Hamilton knows what a real threat from within looks and sounds like (i.e. himself).

For saying that, Button’s done better than I thought he would and perhaps Lewis is appreciating how to manage tyres and so on from the info Button brings to the team. I suspect Button’s help in developing the car which is to Hamilton’s satisfaction.

Steven
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Steven

In other words, they are working as a team.

Steven
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Steven

I think part of the reason they get along is that Button didnt come in trying to conquer the team. He came into the team knowing that it was lewis’s team, and as long as he got a fair shake he was going to be happy, and he has got a fair shake, he’s had equal oportunity to win. When you think about Senna/Prost, Hamilton/Alonso, and to a lesser extent Vettel/Webber, the same dynamic is in all 3 cases, there’s a stablished winner that the new comer needs to prove he is better than. In this case, they are both… Read more »

dimitris
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dimitris

I just think that Jenson knows he is not as quick as Lewis and has accepted the fact. Jenson is doing OK for now, but if Red Bull can get their act together he will drop a few places in the drivers’ standings, and if Ferrari upgrades their car, he will drop below Alonso too, if the latter stops whining and does some driving. Vodafone wanted an all-British team so they paid Jenson (a lot of) money to join Maclaren. Why rock the boat?.

ubergreg
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ubergreg

Button stated very clearly that he knew what he was getting into when he joined McLaren, and what the odds are, But he also said, very clearly, that he wanted “a new challenge”. I still very much believe can win this championship, even though he knows Hamilton is the quicker driver. It’s not the most likely outcome, but it’s possible… One of his post-race comments, earlier in the season, says everything we need to know about his approach to his 2010 campaign: that winning is not only about being the quickest. There are still several races that may be rain-affected… Read more »

Monad
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Monad

Lewis is a big natural talent. We pretty much all know it. All he wants to be happy is to be in equal terms with his teammate and he has absolute believe that he will kick the other guys ass like that. And his probably right. Lewis gets unhappy only when he thinks something favored the other guy over him. So wanting equality isn’t exactly a bad thing. With Alonso things turned bad because Alonso wasn’t very keen on being equal and he wasn’t in the first few races something that started to look bad to Hamilton when he realized… Read more »