Monday, October 11, 2010

Button was a 'sacrificial lamb' - Horner

Red Bull suspects McLaren was trying to use Jenson Button as a "sacrificial lamb" at the Japanese Grand Prix to boost Lewis Hamilton's chances, until a gearbox problem put a halt to the strategy.

Button started the race on hard tyres, allowing him to run longer than his rivals and take the lead of the race, ahead of the Red Bulls, midway through the race. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Button's alternative strategy was a deliberate attempt by McLaren to back the faster Red Bulls into Fernando Alonso and Hamilton behind, to give the second McLaren driver a chance to catch up.

"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 told the Daily Telegraph. "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."

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh admitted that it was possible to use Button as a blocker, but insisted the strategy was optimised to give Button the best possible opportunity to make up time when he changed to the softer tyre.

"Yes there was [the possibility to do that]," Whitmarsh 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 added: "Ultimately, that strategy didn't come off as best we'd have liked because the others' option tyres didn't fall away as quickly as we'd anticipated. Still, we feel it was a strategic choice worth taking. After switching to options, Jenson showed excellent pace, and I think we had the second fastest car today."

Source: ESPNF1

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