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McLaren told Hamilton that Button wouldn't pass
Lewis Hamilton was told team-mate Jenson Button would not try to overtake him at the Turkish Grand Prix, seconds before the world champion did so and sparked a duel during which the two McLarens touched.
The revelations came as the dust slowly settles on the Red Bull incident where Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel collided during the same race. The publication of McLaren's conversation with the drivers will reignite the tension between the team's two drivers.
Hamilton, who was leading was told: "Lewis, we need you to save fuel. Both cars are doing the same." He replied that Button was "closing in on me, you guys … if I back off, is Jenson going to pass me or not?" He was clearly told "No, Lewis. No."
But soon after Button did overtake but was unable to hold on to his lead for more than a corner as Hamilton roared back past him and went on to take the victory. "I was slowing down to keep that target and all of a sudden Jenson was right up my tail," Hamilton said afterwards. "He just appeared from nowhere and he was up my tail and there was nothing I could do."
Martin Whitmarsh played down the incident and said that Hamilton's engineer Phil Prew was simply offering an opinion on whether Button would try to overtake, not relaying a team order.
"Shortly after he [Hamilton] was told that Jenson wouldn't overtake him, Jenson did overtake him," Whitmarsh told the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In. "Phil gave an opinion but it turned out his opinion was wrong. It's as simple as that. They are racing drivers. They both had a challenge in that race from the outset, because the race was a bit quicker than expected both for the Red Bulls and for the McLarens, so we were consuming more fuel than [we expected], so we had to find ways to save fuel. They were being told to look after fuel, as a consequence of that Phil Prew had the opinion that Jenson wouldn't overtake."
Whitmarsh added that Button had simply taken advantage of Hamilton backing off, as he would expect a racing driver to do.
"It wasn't expected that Lewis would lift as much as he did in turn eight," Whitmarsh said. "For Jenson, who is a racing driver, when he saw quite a big lift in turn eight he thought it was his opportunity and subsequently made the pass."
Button subsequently claimed that he was told to conserve fuel but not set a target lap-time to achieve.
"It was tricky in those closing laps, because we knew we were pretty marginal on fuel, but the team lets us race and that's exactly what we did," he said. However, that contradicted comments from other McLaren staff.