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McLaren 'can manage' Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button
Hamilton and Button will be expecting equal treatment from McLaren

McLaren believe that they will be able to provide Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button with equal chances of success when they are team-mates next season.

McLaren famously ran into difficulties in 2007 when Hamilton was partnered with double champion Fernando Alonso.

But team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: "We'll be able to manage the demands and expectations of our drivers.

"They know what it takes to win and I'm sure they'll both be very motivated to push each other to greater results."

Alonso left McLaren at the end of 2007, one year into a three-year contract after his relationship with the team broke down irretrievably.

Button has joined McLaren after winning the world championship with Brawn, who have now been bought by Mercedes.

That means McLaren will be the first team to start a season with the last two world champions as their drivers.

But Whitmarsh described having to balance their demands as "a very nice problem to have".

"It's a proposition that some teams might find troubling, but which we are absolutely relishing," he said.


"I think we're very lucky in that, with Jenson and Lewis, we have two fiercely competitive individuals who both fully understand the benefit of teamwork.

"Jenson did a fantastic job at Brawn GP last year - not just from a technical standpoint, but also from a motivational point of view - as did the whole team, and full credit to them.

"Similarly, Lewis has done an incredible amount in a very short space of time to earn the trust and respect of everyone in this organisation.

"They're both phenomenal team players. And my job is to manage that racer's instinct.

"They are there to race each other - and the only instruction they'll receive from me is to respect each other on the track. But that's it - other than that, they're free to race."

Hamilton and Button have very different driving styles, and it has been suggested that inevitably one will therefore end up being advantaged over the other.

But managing director Jonathan Neale rejected those concerns.

"I'm absolutely convinced that they'll be a fantastic and competitive partnership," Neale said.

As long as we provide both drivers with equal opportunities and equal machinery - something we've always done at this team - then we hope they'll be competitive everywhere

Jonathan Neale
McLaren managing director

"The reality is that they'll both bring different skill-sets to the table, and from January onwards [when Button officially joins the team] we'll be able to very rapidly bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to bear on a number of issues - particularly during pre-season testing.

"In some ways, it multiplies our opportunities in a grand prix too: there could well be tracks where Jenson's skill-set is better-suited to the challenge, and equally, tracks where Lewis could excel.

"In the past, Jenson has demonstrated considerable talent at high-speed circuits, and we're looking forward to building that into our arsenal.

"As long as we provide both drivers with equal opportunities and equal machinery - something we've always done at this team - then we hope they'll be competitive everywhere."

F1 is introducing a refuelling ban in 2010, which means drivers will go into the race with much heavier cars.

Along with other rule changes, including a reduction in the width of the front tyres, that will change the behaviour of the cars.

But Neale said that was unlikely to favour one of McLaren's drivers over the other.

"We're lucky in that Lewis and Jenson both have fairly neutral driving styles so it's unlikely to be a problem for us next year," he said.

"Without the variables of fuel-load and fuel-effect, people have suggested that tyre degradation will be the next most important performance-limiting factor during a race, but we don't think that's likely to be the case.

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton
Alonso fell out with McLaren when he was Hamilton's team-mate

"If you look at previous examples of a guy who's kind to his tyres, and a guy who isn't, it's rare for the guy who pushes his tyres to slip backwards in a race.

"I think what you see is that a driver's speed comes from a broad range of variables - and it's invariably the characteristics of the car that create a degradation issue, rather than the drivers."

Engineering director Paddy Lowe added: "You tend to design a racing car to be as neutral as possible.

"You're trying to provide the driver with the broadest possible performance plateau upon which he can improvise to best suit his style.

"You'd be surprised, too, at how drivers' different approaches very often culminate in a similar lap time, so, in that respect, we're confident that our drivers will be a good match.

"Besides, you usually find that the competitive instinct takes over: when you make a Formula 1 car faster, it invariably works for both drivers. We only engineer for performance - not for individuality."

Lowe said that the team were confident Button, who is several inches taller than Hamilton, would have no problem fitting in the car.

He added that he was hopeful McLaren would have a competitive car, but said that he expected Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes to be front-runners as well.

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see also
Button joins Hamilton at McLaren
18 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Button move is mistake - Stewart
18 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Brilliant Button clinches title
18 Oct 09 |  Formula 1

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