Jenson Button has had a tough year so far and Valencia offered no respite for his woes. The British champion is struggling with balance and tire wear and those are two things he’s known to be a master of so what is going on for the McLaren’s other driver?

According to the Daily Express, Button feels that Silverstone will be more to McLaren’s suiting as he is struggling with low-speed circuits:

“We’re good at high speed,” said Button. “That’s our strength. Our weakness is low speed.
“We still don’t know why. We go all the way through the weekend with front-wheel locking and in the race we always have rear locking. We have to change the balance through the race.

“But that shouldn’t be an issue at Silverstone because it’s not a heavy braking circuit. It’s a high-speed circuit.

“We have to make sure we don’t lose too much in the low-speed corners, which there are now at Silverstone. But it’s a circuit where we should be strong.”

You can imagine the maddening situation of fighting a locking front wheel for Friday and Saturday only to be hounded by a locking rear wheel on Sunday’s race. How to anticipate that seems to be a daunting task but he drives for a team renown for overcoming obstacles such as these.

Can Button turn the corner on his season at home for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone? The team felt they had narrowed the issue down for Button in Valencia but post race, it seemed perhaps they had had not capitalized on the missing element. Valencia was supposed to be his return to form and clearly that didn’t happen. So now it’s on to Silverstone.

Many expected Button to flourish with his legendary tire management and easy style but interestingly it has been his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who has excelled and he has been criticized for some time as a driver who punishes his car and tires. Not so in 2011 as the champion is having, arguably, his best season of driving.

Have there been any signs from the world feed that have keyed you into what may be troubling Button? It’s impossible to be an armchair engineer but having watched Button his whole career; I am inclined to think his struggles are very real and uncharacteristic of his ability and skill. He’s a seasoned champion and knows how to hustle a car.

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • If Button doesn’t turn things around we will have a race between Massa and Button for donkey of the race.

    • F1Champ


  • Rapierman

    If the brakes are locking up independently of axel, then I have to wonder about the calipers. I ask myself “are they too tight”? I also have to wonder about the maneuveraility of the car.

  • “his legendary tire management” becomes a bit of legend – I haven’t seen a piece of it recently, and it seems it’s only the British media that hangs onto that cliche.

    Indeed, Silverstone looks more suitable for Mclaren, but given the speed shown from VET in Valencia, it’s hard to make any solid inferences.

  • Jack Flash (Aust)

    As a F1 fan following the sport since 1978, and a fan/pundit with hightened fascinations in the technical side of the sport, and being an engineer to boot; I offer the following observation on Jenson’s apparent plight this year.

    Jenson has a very distinctive driving style. He drives very smoothly as we have all been told so many times over the years, but it is more than that. He takes a very different approach to corner entry/exit and maintaining apex speed over other drivers. He doesn’t attack the braking zones to corner entry at all like most others. A few other F1 pilots possess similar mid-to-exit cornering techniques to Jenson, but his style is the antithesis of a driver like Lewis Hamilton. These two drivers are polar opposites in constructing their lap-times.

    So in years gone by, when the tyres had a wider operating temperature window, (less on the knife edge for wear sensitivity vs temperature cycling); and previously when keeping tyre temperatures a little lower provided a benefit of tyre durability without performance loss; Jenson had a definite advantage in his driving style. Longer stints. If the race could strategically benefit from longer tyre stints at pace; Jenson’s style enabled him to do that.

    However in F1 2012, it is all different. The Pirelli’s are finickey (very narrrow) in the temperature range they require to “switch on” performance, and if you get above the temp range – you permanently injure them (or worst case shred their life), and if you run them too cold they don’t turn on grip and they slip around and ‘grain up’; thus they get even slipperier and colder and grain even worse (they are slow and soapy). A slippery slope. It is almost impossible to retrieve the tyres from this cold slide. Jenson’s style pushes him onto the ‘too cold’ side. This is why Jenson and McLaren engineers have been trying different brake materials on his car to try an BUY more heat to radiate into the rims/tyres. Couple this to the noticeable drop in overall downforce levels – post FIA’s Blown Diffusser bans, and the double whammy is set in place.

    If Jenson could drive in a typical Lewis Hamilton manner in the braking zones and corner entry, he possibly could get on top of keeping the 2012 Pirellis up to temp and manage their temp/wear from there. But this leopard Jenson Button just can’t change his spots that much.

    McLaren should possibly install a Butane/Propane burners in his wheel rim spaces…. A steering wheel button for flaming fronts, and a button for flaming rears. Activated when the low-temperature light-array on his wheel warn him his tyres are entering a “Ice Age” again. (of course I’m taking the piss here…) Jack Flash.

    • Can I steal this as a post on my Blog? This is the most interesting assessment of the Button tyre issues that I think we’ve seen, even from the McLaren Team. I, of course, will credit JF(aust) and link to the F1B site but this is pure Gold; informative, reasoned, and well constructed.

      • Jack Flash (Aust)

        Sure. Go for it.
        Thanks for the generous words. JF

    • positiveCamper

      Very interesting analysis, Jack Flash. I especially like the idea of burtane/propane burners on the wheel rim spaces. This may well be a good solution for all the teams after tire warmers are made illegal. That said, Bernie’s surprise water hazards might extinguish them…

    • Shocks&Awe

      Great analysis, JF. I think it’s interesting that the criticism on JB has long been his inability to adapt his style to the car. He’s constantly trying to adapt the car to his style. Arguably everyone on the grid is doing the same, but the Hamiltons and Alonsos of the world seem to be able to meet the car half-way.

    • dude

      I guess you have found the solution to the tire warmer ban. McLaren can call it Bunson burner. BBC should hire you as technical analysis.

  • ElanKato

    Having supported Button since his williams debut in 2000, I find myself back in 2007/8 when I look for him in the middle of the timing screens and feel grateful if he gets a point or two. This year started so well for him in Australia and China but right now I feel like a facebook shareholder with his fortunes on the slide. This post from JF was very interesting and I’m sure there is some truth in it. I wouldn’t expect McLaren to open up fully to what is going on anyway, so all we can do is speculate.
    I think I’m right in saying that they will be bringing a large update for silverstone but whether that has any effect on Jenson’s troubles will remain to be seen. The worry is that RedBull rocked up in Spain with a very fast car indeed. I can’t help thinking I’m getting a bit of Karma for taking the piss out of Massa for the last few years!

  • springs

    Funny how things change, this was supposed to be the year button completed his takeover of mclaren, honestly, I did’nt expect him do beat hamilton this year, but I did’nt expect him to do as. Poorly as he is, it is a surprise, to me button is just going through a mental slump, I. Can imagine he will pull out of if at. Some point, wdc he can forget about it this year