The introduction of a refueling ban and reduced sized front tyres for the 2010 Formula One season have got the racing pundits in a spin over which of the McLaren boys they will favour – Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton.
There’s no doubt that the reigning world champion Button is a smooth operator when it comes to tyres, while Hamilton’s more aggresive driving style sees him burn rubber faster.
Now for 2010, refuelling is banned for the first time in 17 seasons. Enough fuel for the race — typically around 150kg — will cost up to five seconds a lap and it will impose potentially damaging loads on the tyres.
Although pit stops to change tyres are still permitted, a stop typically costs about 25-30 seconds. Therefore, a driver who can make his tyres last longer will be much faster in the later stages of the race.
If he can manage not to lose too much time he should be in good shape to pick off the more aggressive driver later.
Another factor coming into play is that Hamilton’s style also demands a car with a very grippy front so the rear will pivot around the front to give the rear slide that helps his direction change.
For 2010 the regulations have reduced the width of the front tyres and thereby their grip, so potentially further compromising his natural style.
Button’s less abrupt style equalises the loadings between front and rear more effectively and so he should be less affected by this change, although others argue that the reduced front tyre size also puts a greater proportion of the car’s total grip at the rear, so further taming the sort of rear instability that Button finds difficult to deal with.
So who is your money on?
Lewis may be the fastest driver, but can he learn to look after his tyres? Button can manage his tyres, but can he pick up the pace?
One thing’s for sure, we’ve got a long wait until the 2010 gets underway.
Alex Kapadia, Operations Team