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Are Lewis Hamilton & Jenson Button set to collide?

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Turkish GP in 90 seconds

By Mark Hughes
BBC F1 commentary box producer

Lewis Hamilton's immediate retaliation on team-mate Jenson Button's overtaking move for the lead saved the McLaren team from an awkward dilemma in Turkey.

Fuel consumption was the dominant factor behind both big stories of the race - the collision between the Red Bull drivers and the brief but electrifying dicing between the two McLarens.

In Red Bull's case it was all resolved in a devastating way. At McLaren the outcome was rather happier.

To understand what happened between the McLaren drivers - and what caused Hamilton's obvious unease after the race - you have to understand some of the technical background.

It is not that the Istanbul track's layout induces a particularly heavy fuel consumption, more that the teams are getting a feel for just how little they can get away with putting in the cars, based on how much has been left in the tanks by the end of the previous races in this first year of the refuelling ban.

McLaren's Jenson Button

I was told to conserve fuel - Button

At a consumption of 2.5kg per lap and a race duration of 58 laps, the theoretical consumption at Istanbul Park is exactly the same as at Melbourne, the second race of the year.

But whereas teams were typically filling their cars with about 165kg in Australia, it was more like 155kg at Turkey. That is 145kg for the actual race and a spare 10kg for warming the engine, driving to the grid, the formation lap and slowing down lap.

That 10kg difference since Australia represents about 0.33 seconds per lap at Istanbul - and so it is easy to understand why McLaren in particular would be motivated into minimising the amount of fuel it put in.

In sharp contrast to Barcelona three weeks ago, their car was very close to the Red Bull's pace in qualifying, Hamilton getting to within 0.15 seconds of Mark Webber's pole.

Any significant differences in fuel weight could well have determined which car was going to be quicker in the race - and the Renault engine in the Red Bull is known to be the most fuel-efficient out there.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton pleased to win eventful race

But when the race turned out to be an absolutely flat-out struggle between the two Red Bulls and two McLarens, the pace was much harder for much longer than had been anticipated.

The track rubbered-in very quickly, ramping up its grip - and the tyres held out perfectly, without any of the tyre nursing that usually helps keep fuel consumption in check.

Being able to lap flat out, and being forced to because of the fight with the Red Bulls, McLaren were giving fuel consumption warnings to their drivers as early as the 30th lap - just over half distance.

With 11 laps to go, Button made his move on Hamilton, with a manoeuvre that lasted for the last three corners.

"They asked me to save fuel but it's difficult to know how much you have to save," said Hamilton. "They set a lap time target for me and I tried to stick to that. The target was definitely a bit too slow and all of a sudden Jenson was right up on my tail."

"They were telling me to save fuel too but they didn't put a lap time on it - just said you have got to save a bit of fuel," added Button.

Button's slightly less strict interpretation of the instruction was what was behind his greater speed at this phase of the race, rather than any intrinsic difference in their potential - which appeared to be extremely closely matched.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Red Bull driver Mark Webber.

Turkish GP - Top three drivers

Although Button was in front as they entered the pit straight, crucially he was on the right-hand-side of the track, with Hamilton on the left.

Button was unable to get across to the left to chop across Hamilton's bows, meaning that Lewis was perfectly placed to be on the inside for Turn One at the end of the straight - and he duly made the retaliatory move to retake the lead.

At no point prior to Button's move had there been any suggestion of holding station. The drivers are free to race.

But thereafter, with both drivers being told repeatedly to save fuel, tyres and brakes, it seemed apparent the team wanted the dicing to be called off for the sake of the one-two.

Worries about fuel consumption drove this. Button was sanguine afterwards but hardly thrilled.

But what if Button had been able to make the move stick on that lap?

It would have been much harder to justify a freezing of positions then, given that Hamilton had run ahead of Button from the start.

It is an interesting 'what if' and it would have been extra interesting to have seen how Hamilton might have reacted.

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see also
Red Bull facing a civil war
31 May 10 |  Formula 1
Red Bull drivers play blame game
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
Red Bull clash hands Hamilton win
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
Turkish GP in 90 seconds
31 May 10 |  Motorsport
Webber explains Vettel incident
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton pleased to win eventful race
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
I was told to conserve fuel - Button
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
Highlights - Turkish Grand Prix
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
Turkish GP - Top three drivers
30 May 10 |  Formula 1

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