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Driving Styles Analyzed

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton both turn virtually identical lap times. But they get there by exploiting very different driving styles. Jonathan Neale, managing director of McLaren Racing, gave PRN an inside look at how the team’s drivers drive.

“Jenson has a very smooth driving style, which you would think would be much easier on the tires,” Neale explains. “But he loads up a lot of lateral G, so he is just as hard on the tires as Lewis because he is carrying more apex speed.”

“So Jenson drives a U-shaped line through a bend, and Lewis drives more of a V-shaped line. Lewis loves to drift the car; he likes to be hard on the brakes and then he turns the car around quickly.”

The differing driving styles do not, however, create problems for the team’s engineers when it comes to designing and developing the chassis.
Many observers predicted that Button (above) would struggle to keep pace with Hamilton this season. So far that hasn’t been the case. In addition to his two wins (equalling Hamilton), Button has three other podium finishes.
“For us as a team for development it is not actually a major issue,” Neale says. “It is not as big a deal from a car design point of view as it was coping with Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen. They were complete opposites, so we were into completely different front suspensions for those two! We can contain it on normal development path with Lewis and Jenson.

“Lewis likes to have the weight slightly further forward, and that is because he is giving the rear tires a harder time. Jenson prefers it a bit further rearward for the traction, but we are talking about in the margins here.

“They like different brake suppliers. One prefers Brembo and one prefers Carbon Industries. Brake feeing is quite different for them. Lewis generates so much brake force that he likes a lot of bite very quickly. Jenson likes to modulate it because he is carrying more apex speed.”

Hamilton’s aggressive driving style is much like his hero Ayrton Senna, although he freely admits he could never be as ruthless as Senna. Some experts say Hamilton’s hard-charging attitude is very reminiscent of Gilles Villeneuve. Button’s smoother more cerebral driving style mimics that of his hero Alain Prost.

The nasty feud between McLaren teammates Senna and Prost was legendary. Don’t expect the current McLaren duo to following in the footsteps of their heroes in mode – they just don’t have the personalities for such bitterness.


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