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Hamilton underestimated Button - Whitmarsh

ESPNF1 Staff
November 17, 2011 « Vergne completes Young Driver Test clean sweep | Red Bull 'very impressed' with Vergne »
Martin Whitmarsh believes that Lewis Hamilton was "disarmed" by Jenson Button © Getty Images

Martin Whitmarsh says that Lewis Hamilton underestimated Jenson Button when the latter joined McLaren in 2010.

Button's third place in Abu Dhabi confirmed his position as the top-scoring McLaren driver for 2011, the first time that Hamilton has been beaten by a team-mate across a season since making his Formula One debut. With Hamilton recently disagreeing with Whitmarsh that Button's success was affecting his own form, Whitmarsh was asked if he felt Hamilton underestimated Button when they became team-mates.

"Possibly. He probably did, yes," Whitmarsh told the official Formula One website. "Let's be open about it. Lewis, throughout his career, has destroyed every team mate that's come his way. Bear in mind that in many ways he virtually destroyed Fernando Alonso when Fernando was a two-time world champion and Lewis was a rookie. He did the same with Nico Rosberg in karting frankly - and every other team mate on his way into Formula One."

Many commentators believed that Button's move to McLaren would be a mistake, with it regarded as Hamilton's team. Whitmarsh said that Hamilton probably expected to beat Button in the same car, but that the team had left them free to race each other and Button's pace would have come as a surprise.

"He was disarmed by Jenson at the beginning and he probably thought that he was a nice guy, but he'd beat him. And he was probably surprised. Jenson on the other hand is of course also keen to beat his team mate but he would never do it in an underhand manner. For both drivers it's true that there are no politics involved and both want to contribute equally to the team.

"Of course when you join a team as a driver and know that I have known Lewis since he was 11 you might question whether you would be treated equally. But all the talk about who is the number-one driver in the team is media-made, as McLaren have always been a team that let their drivers race. That is our spirit and we remain true to it."