Thursday 23 January 2020

F1: Button feels the heat after 'human error' hands initiative to Red Bull duo

David Tremayne

As Red Bull Racing's dominant 1-2 result put their drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel on top of the world championships for drivers and constructors -- at the expense of Jenson Button and McLaren -- the Woking-based team was left to draw meagre comfort from Lewis Hamilton's hard-won fifth place and to pick up the pieces after a particular galling day at the office for Button.

The 2009 world champion lost a place to Tonio Liuzzi at the start, and was in trouble as the safety car deployed after Nico Hulkenberg's first-lap accident slowed the field and his engine began overheating. At the start of the third lap he pulled off to retire.

Having had to hurl his television pit monitor remote control out of the cockpit during qualifying on Saturday, he now realised there was a problem with a protective radiator cover that had not been removed. "I knew after the formation lap that there was a problem in the left-hand sidepod, where the radiator is," he said.

"We thought everything was going to be okay, and it would probably have been fine if we hadn't had that safety car. My car quickly began to overheat and I started losing engine power.


"Today was just one of those days. It was human error, a mistake, and that's all there is to it. I'm still only eight points behind the lead of the drivers' championship and we head to Turkey feeling confident that we'll be more competitive there."

Hamilton, meanwhile, had not made up the places he'd hoped to at the start, and appeared not to have an answer to the slightly superior speed of Felipe Massa's Ferrari on a track where even he finds it almost impossible to pass.

"It just wasn't possible to make a move stick," Hamilton said. "After the result in Barcelona, I didn't want any further mishaps, so I just went for the points."

He was lucky, however, for after Rubens Barrichello's big crash on the 31st lap, Hamilton ran over the steering wheel that the Williams driver had thrown from his cockpit.

Hamilton added: "I'm sure we'll be able to make up the gap to the front at some stage soon."

Meanwhile, Webber and Vettel have 78 points, Fernando Alonso is third with 73, Button drops from first to fourth with 70, and after Felipe Massa on 61, Robert Kubica shares sixth with Hamilton on 59. McLaren drop from first to third in the constructors' title race, with 129 points to Red Bull's 156 and Ferrari's 134.

"I don't feel that I need to turn anything round," Hamilton had said on Wednesday, but in Turkey he will be feeling the pressure to get a win to keep himself in the running for a title that increasingly looks like going to a Red Bull driver. (© Independent News Service)

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