• McLaren still hope to win constructors’ championship
• Hamilton apologises again for disrespectful tweet at Button
McLaren still need Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to focus on the driving in the five races remaining as the team bids to win the constructors’ championship for the first time since 1998, a purpose that was diverted earlier this week when Hamilton spoke out angrily over a perceived slight from Button on Twitter. Publicly at least, here in Korea, both have claimed the incident is behind them but it seems that McLaren must still cope with cracks appearing in their push to catch Red Bull for the title.
Earlier in the week Hamilton reacted to being informed that Button had unfollowed him on Twitter by posting: “I thought we respected one another but clearly he doesn’t.” He had been misinformed and apologised soon afterwards, but went further again on Thursday.
“It obviously wasn’t a very good idea,” he admitted. “I just have to put my hands up. I made a mistake. I tried as hard as I could to get hold of Jenson but I think he had a night out so I couldn’t get hold of him. So I sent a message, he replied and accepted it. The first thing I did here was to go and apologise. Perhaps Twitter is not for me.
“I have got a huge amount of respect for him [Button] and what he has done in the sport. We have had a fantastic relationship all these years. Sometimes in the heat of the moment you just say things you shouldn’t say or that you don’t mean,” he added.
Inside a team, seeing out a season when a driver has already signed a new contract elsewhere is an awkward process. The driver who is leaving may perceive he is no longer the recipient of the same, necessary, cocoon of paternalism as meted out in the past, there may be an element of distrust – after all they cannot be involved in next year’s car development – and, of course, they just want to leave and start afresh with their new ride. It is not a necessarily a healthy atmosphere for any of the participants.
For Button though, there is less need to over-analyse his situation. He will begin next year, without Hamilton and hence as undisputed No1 at McLaren. Prospects that are both enticing and simple, the latter encapsulated his response. “It’s dealt with now, it’s done,” he said. “Lewis came and apologised. It’s not really worth talking about because it’s Twitter.
“I have no issue with it. He’s entitled to his opinion. That’s it,” he concluded.
Button, a keen cyclist who competes in triathlons at elite level, was more forthcoming about the revelations involving Lance Armstrong, with whom he has trained in the past.
“The dream of him being a true hero has been knocked,” he said. “This is a negative thing for Lance but his books are great and you can still take a lot from them.
“It’s a good thing they are clamping down. Cycling is a great sport and I love the competitiveness of it and especially because the Brits are doing so well. It’s important they are clamping down on that sort of thing,” added the driver, who admitted that he undergoes a drug test several times a year.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber, an enthusiastic cyclist himself, felt that the drug revelations had diminished the sport. “I was a keen cyclist fan through the early 2000s,” he said. “But slowly, slowly, slowly, over time have lost a little bit of passion for the sport. “It has been quite obvious, in the last few years, that this was probably going to come, from people on the inside, but the dam wall has now broken and I think that obviously he was the last tree in the forest they wanted to drop down, and a big tree at that,” he said of Armstrong.
“It’s good that they’re trying to clean the sport up, and even retrospectively, it sends a message to lots of different sports, irrespective of what you’ve achieved and how you’ve done it at the time. It’s a good message, the karma, we’ll come and get you.”