Sir Jackie Stewart tips Button but favors Hamilton

Sir Jackie Stewart has tipped current British world champion Jenson Button to possibly win another world title this year is he keeps up the good pace and better race craft. The Telegraph’s insightful and terrific Tom Cary covers the story at the launch of the recently re-profiled Silverstone circuit.

“I did say that Jenson would be walking into the lion’s den. What he has proved is that he can handle that den very well. That is not to say that he is better than Lewis or vice-versa, but Jenson is in that zone at the moment where he is making the right decisions at the right time.

“I think if he keeps driving the way he is I would have to say he is the favourite of the two.”

That’s a ringing endorsement from the Scottish, 3-time champion but he is also realistic in his views of Button and his teammate, fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton. It seems Stewart, like many, feel that on pure pace and on-track aggression, Hamilton gets the nod while Button gets the lead through intelligent race craft honed over the last decade in less than stellar cars.

“I still think that Lewis is probably the better racer. Nobody can pass cars like Lewis can pass cars and he is going to win races this year, I have no doubt about that at all. But Jenson, at 30, is just the right age to have gained experience and knowledge and be able to apply it. And he’s doing that in a very smooth and calculated fashion.”

I am not sure I can disagree with him on the assessment if I am honest. Hamilton has all the brash skill and talent to excite the crowds and make some terrific passing moves but Button is, dare I say it, a more intelligent driver. That is not an indictment on Hamilton’s intelligence. What I mean is race craft. That type of skill only comes through years behind the wheel driving in anger against the worlds best. Hamilton has not had the wealth of experience yet while Button is at his prime.

On a clear day and a straight drag race, I too think Hamilton wins the day but Button has more race craft and innate timing with tactical decisions and when and where to be aggressive or play it safe. Hamilton is 10/10’s all the time and that can actually make you slower in the end game.

Where I differ from the multi-time world champion in his assessment is that I believe Hamilton will come back this year. I think he will start to take points from Button and this will leave the door open for Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. It isn’t going to rain at every race this year and some, or many, of the races will favor sheer speed and aggression. This is something Hamilton has in spades. What will hurt McLaren is the intra-team rivalry.

I suspect that Red Bull and Ferrari have two drivers that are also on top of their game and with teammates close, but not breathing down their necks, I think they can be effective in capitalizing on the McLaren battle from within. Certainly Ferrari’s Felipe Massa could scupper this notion as could Red Bull’s Mark Webber but in the end, it’s just conjecture on my part.

Alonso and Hamilton both have the same amount of points to claw back for the lead while Button, who is currently leading, will hamper Hamilton’s points. Massa, being behind Alonso, will not as long as Alonso stays ahead of him for the remainder of the season. That’s if everything is perfect and there is no attrition et. al. WE, of course know what predictions like these usually bring…egg-on-face.

So what do you think? Can Button hang on? How does having Button and Hamilton both at the top differ from Ferrari or Red Bull’s chances? Do you think the intra-team rivalry hurts all three teams equally or does McLaren have more to lose?

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