Alonso vs Button: The result after two years

2016 F1 season review

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The sad reality of McLaren’s situation over the past two seasons is they failed to produce a car which was good enough for the two world champions they had hired to drive for them. Seldom have the efforts of two mega-talents like Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button been expending in the pursuit of so few points.

2015 was a largely point-less season for the McLaren drivers
After an excruciating 2015 of slow and unreliable performance from Honda’s power unit, last season was at least somewhat more positive. Honda’s gains meant the MP4-31 was more reliable than its predecessor and able to compete for points more regularly. It also afforded fans like us a better chance to compare the abilities of two of the sport’s top drivers.

Alonso seemed to respond well to the car’s improvements in the second half of the season. Meanwhile Button was heading for retirement – something which seemed to have been reflected in his driving.

Single-lap pace has never been Button’s greatest strength so it came as little surprise to see Alonso win that fight emphatically: 22-11. In races it was much closer, Alonso prevailing by 11 to 10.

How this might have looked had these two drivers had a car worthy of their talents beneath them is a question we can’t answer. The tight scoreline between them in the races probably explains a lot of the mutual respect between these two champions. But it’s easy to stay friends when there isn’t a championship on the line.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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73 comments on “Alonso vs Button: The result after two years”

  1. Alonso is to Button what Hamilton is to Rosberg


    1. Really? Then please explain why Hamilton and Button were such a close match their three years together. Perhaps Hamilton = Button = Rosberg (who outclassed Schumacher, possibly the greatest of modern F1 drivers) and all three comfortably outclassed by Alonso? That would also make Alonso’s claims about the extent to which McLaren favoured Hamilton over him in 2007 quite credible…

      1. @Henrik Because they weren’t a close match. In terms of speed Ham was always on another planet. Button had his best year in 2011, which coincidentally was Hamilton’s worst year, that’s where Button managed to earn more points. Would be quite mental to think that Hamilton and Button have ever been a close match.

        1. @liongalahad – it IS quite mental to say anything other than Button 672 points beat Hamilton 657 points because F1 is all about the number of points you have scored at the end of the season. The ONLY value of pole position, apart from the headlines and bragging rights, is that you have the best shot at getting to the first corner first. In today’s processional racing it’s almost always the man who gets out of the first corner ahead that earns the 25 points. Other than that, being the “quickest” means zilch. Button was a better racer than Hamilton, 672 to 657, end of.

          1. This count of points across 3 seasons is not the right way to look at it Henrick.
            Using that logic, Hamilton scored more points than Rosberg at Mercedes so Rosberg’s championship is meaningless.
            Is it really? I don’t think so because everything starts again in mars. Rosberg outscored Hamilton in 2016 and Hamilton outscored Button in 2010 and 2012. Button came out on top in 2011.

        2. 2010 Hamilton was better (Button moving to a new team which Hamilton knows in and out, always puts the new guy at a disadvantage, Hamilton was a bit faster)
          2011 Button was better (Hamilton’s worst year, bad luck, but Button was a bit faster)
          2012 was pretty even with both having 6 races with problems causing them to finish outside the points, and 2 points separating them at the end of the year.
          Would be quite mental to think they weren’t a close match.

          1. Lol Hamilton crushed Button something like 16 to 4 (+/-1) in qualifying in 2012, and the average gap was over quarter of a second. Which is staggering considering they are both world Champions. We now know Hamilton is much more than a single wdc of course. He was just very, very unlucky to lose as many points as he did in 2012; retired 3 times whilst leading because of circumstances entirely out of his control. He’d have easily remained in the title hunt without them.

        3. The argument goes like this:

          Lewis Hamilton is infinitely better than the other fellow (whoever could be, it doesn’t matter) because his name is Lewis Hamilton.

          You say the other guy outscored him for the three seasons, that his teammate won the WDC, whatever?. It doesn’t matter, because their name isn’t Lewis Hamilton and therefore they are infinitely worse than Lewis Hamilton. QED.

          1. Thank you for clearing that up. I’m going to change my name to Ima Champ and and cinch up the 2017 title.

          2. what? Hamilton did not win the championship when he was teammates against Button. He also lost a championship to Rosberg…. , and has the record of the biggest choke in history by losing a championship when 17 points up (out of 20 points possible) in 2007. your argument is infinitely weird.

        4. I’d say they were about as even as Formula One team mated can be. A two win advantage one way and a fifteen point advantage the other way, over three years. Can’t get much closer than that.

          1. team mates.

      2. Hamilton is better than Button. I personally prefer Button to Hamilton, but even I have to admit Hamilton was better than Button is almost every category. Button may have outscored Hamilton in that time, but that was mainly down to luck. Button was better in 2011, but worse in the two other seasons.

      3. “who outclassed Schumacher, possibly the greatest of modern F1 drivers” LOL!!! Schumi was wayyyyyyy past his prime and in his late thirties. Rosberg beat him fair and square, which is an achievement, but lets not kid ourselves. He couldnt have beaten a Schumi in his prime, let alone outclass him.

        1. LOL!!! Schumi was wayyyyyyy past his prime and in his late thirties. Rosberg beat him fair and square, which is an achievement, but lets not kid ourselves. He couldnt have beaten a Schumi in his prime, let alone outclass him. – That’s why Henrik calls him “possibly the greatest of modern F1 drivers”. He was just taking a shot at Ham(-fans).

      4. Remind me, weren’t Hamilton and Alonso team mates in 2007?

        1. Hence the last line in the post.

      5. Martin O. Powell
        3rd January 2017, 19:23

        @Henrik, like it or not, there’s a reason why Lewis is where he is and Jenson is where he is. Team bosses hire the best drivers for the job, and they are aware of the points between them.

        You seem to have missed what team bosses were saying, Alonso, reigning 2 time WDC, and a 6 year veteran in Formula One, was beaten by a Rookie, and they had “identical cars”, that shouldn’t happen. His experience was more than enough.

        Hamilton, team bosses driver of the year 2014, 15 & 16.

        For me, and most likely team bosses, the But/Ham points thing is of little importance, it’s like saying, Man U beat Chelsea 2 out of 3 the times they played, but Chelsea are the better team because they scored more goals over the 3 matches, even though Chelsea admits that Man U had a uncharacteristly poor performance.

        1. +1. Never in the history of F1 have team mates been compared in this way until Ham v Button. I wonder why?

        2. I think it’s funny when Hamilton or pundits say that Hamilton beat Alonso in 2007 they tied for points. It’s just a technicality that Hamilton was given 2nd place. Yes that still means he beat him, but it’s not like they were on a different level. Mclaren handled that season very poorly they had the best car that season and mucked it up. Alonso left Mclaren for a reason in for 2008, because he wasn’t being treated equally in the team. Had they done what was necessary for the championship the story would have been very different.

          1. The pretext of always with Alonso is that Hamilton did not overcome it, that tied … but if the world-wide one was fought between them was Hamilton the WC by SECOND PLACES … so Hamilton won, a ROOKIE WON, Mclaren was bad with Alonso?
            For Christ Sake, Mclaren was really bad with Prost at 1989 Against Senna and Alain was WC Against everything On Mclaren, please Stop putting pretexts

          2. @Nivex

            Alonso left Mclaren for a reason in for 2008, because he wasn’t being treated equally

            Alonso left because he wanted to be the number 1 driver and the team WHERE treating both drivers equally.

            Look what Alonso did to Nelson Piquet Jr, Romain and Massa for proof of his desire to be the primary driver in the team.
            Getting Piquet to deliberately crash in Singapore so Alonso could win should have earnt Alonso a life time ban especially after his role in McLaren’s spy gate scandal with Ferrari. His single minded approach is what was needed back then to succeed, Lewis has a different approach, always demanding team equality even when the team don’t want to.

          3. @9chris9 Alonso didn’t know about crashgate if I’m correct. And saying Lewis always demands equality isn’t true, he just happened to be at teams where they treated their drivers equally (at least at McLaren from 2010 onwards, he was definitely favoured over Alonso and Kovalainen).

          4. @hugh11
            Alonso definitely knew about crashgate.
            Lewis has mentioned many times as a Merc driver he expects the team to treat both drivers equally, never heard talk like that at McLaren but def at Merc.

          5. at least at McLaren from 2010 onwards, he was definitely favoured over Alonso and Kovalainen

            @hugh11 I don’t know about Kovalanein, so I’ll give you that one. But Hamilton was not supposed to race alongside Alonso in 2007 in the first place. Alonso at the time thought it was a suicide to choose a rookie fro a top team like McLaren. Ron Dennis hesitated to put Lewis in a midfield car and hire an experienced driver to second Alonso.
            I remember an article quoting Alonso predicting to Dennis a failure to the WCC because he finally choose Hamilton.
            So, to put all your effort on an unknown quantity (at the time) and dismiss a 2 times and reigning world champion (who you paid a lot of money to hire by the way) defies all sort of logic.
            Oh, and Alonso was punished in Hungary 2007 because he delayed Hamilton. Why did he do that? Because he was instructed to by Ron Dennis who wanted to punish Hamilon. Strange way of favouring a driver.

        3. Different cars favor different drivers. A consistent pairing through various car designs would demonstrate in the long term any superiority. Or two drivers with similar needs. Max and Ricciardo will be a good example of comparing drivers as they both have similar requirements of the car. Hamilton may have ‘beaten’ Alonso in 2007, despite them earning the same points and both having car trouble and racing incidents, but that car was geared towards Hamilton’s style, which is different to Alonso. Alonso wanted the car built to favor his style not Hamilton and that’s what caused lots of the friction. Paddy Lowe going with Hamilton helped to make sure the Mercedes car suited him, and that took a year of development. I think Hamilton is certainly one of the best and hope he outscores Vettel’s undeserved 4 (I think he deserved 2), but each match-up is different because of the machinery involved.

      6. Hamilton was marred by numerous DNFs at McLaren thanks to a lack of reliability. Take Singapore for example where Hamilton was leading and ended up losing the race to mechanical failure. Seems Lewis has always been cursed…

      7. Butto scored more points than Hamilton during their time at McLaren

    2. Stats for lewis and button for 3 seasons
      qualifying: Hamilton 44 / Button 14
      two car finish: Hamilton 24 / Button 13
      points Hamilton 657 / Button 672
      It’s clear that button isn’t as fast on one lap pace against both alonso and lewis but it’s also clear in race trim he’s more closer. Although i would say given the honda reliability woes the pictures skewd a bit.

      1. One thing that most Hamilton fans never will understand is that F1 is not about qualifying or winning with the greatest possible margin. It doesn’t matter if someone wins by 20 seconds and someone else by 0.01 of a second. Both get 25 points, no more, no less. But if you blow your engine, gearbox, brakes or tires while leading by 10 seconds or more, you’ve done poorly as you score zero points in spite of all that eye-catching dominance and eye-watering number of fast/fastest laps strung together. F1 is about maximising the number of points over a season which includes to make certain you finish and if you don’t you’ve failed! This is where Hamilton is decidedly inferior to Button, Alonso and Rosberg. Until the FIA begins to award points for qualifying, fastest laps and “style”, what matters is bringing home the car in as high a position as is possible, not over-driving and then blaming the tools for your lack of skill.

        1. Hamilton had the majority of car failures. Also had more larger impact car failures. When do you remember button retiring from the lead of a race in their seasons together. Hamilton retired from the lead of Abu Dhabi, and Singapore due to reliability and mechanical failure 50 points and got smashed out of lead of Brazil, 75 points extra for hamiltons

          Fact is it can be argued till cows come home but Hamilton has won more races during their time together has won the second most races of all time and has 3 championships. Button isn’t on same level. Alonso is on a level above button as well. Buttons strength is being kind on tyres and good in changing conditions. His weakness is the worst. If he has a terrible car he can’t perform. Button is a champion on and off the track. Alonso and Hamilton will be remembered as Greats of the sport.

          1. second most race wins… and 3 championships…. put this into perscpective… Hamilton has had a winning car in more seasons that any other driver… with the huge amount of races now per season his win total is expected. his championship tally on the other hand, he has had 7 opportunites to win championships (07,08,10,12,14,15,16) and only capitalized on 3 championship wins. 07 and 10 were his own fault for losing, with late season crashes. 16 can be argued was his own fault with pathetic race starts and losing too many times in qualy and race to a slower teammate.

        2. “But if you blow your engine, gearbox, brakes or tires while leading by 10 seconds or more, you’ve done poorly as you score zero points in spite of all that eye-catching dominance and eye-watering number of fast/fastest laps strung together.” – so are you attributing these failures to the driver? “not over-driving and then blaming the tools for your lack of skill.” Ah so you are blaming mechanical failures on the driver. So Vettel’s mechanical failures in 2014 where his fault? Or Button and Alonso? Its their fault that the car failed then? Could you provide some evidence of that please as I would be interested to know how you came to that conclusion.

          ” F1 is about maximising the number of points over a season” I find this phrase particularly interesting. You seem to understand that F1 points are granted on a season by season basis and that each season is finite… Yet when you compare Hamilton v Button above that isn’t the case. Nothing like a bit of consistency eh?

        3. Henrik, your point about winning by the minimal needed margin is interesting. But it doesn’t address the point @arahman93 is making about race finishes.

          two car finish: Hamilton 24 / Button 13

          Isn’t there a clear indication that more often that not, when both cars finished Hamilton was in front of Button? There is a clear margin here.

      2. Agreed. One lap pace is one thing, race pace is another. Button may not be the fastest in qualifying, in part due to his smoother style than the likes of Hamilton and Alonso, but on race pace he’s right up there with them, as he’s proved, beating both of those drivers over a season in his career, a feat that no average F1 driver could do.

        1. Wrong because those drivers were in-frond of him for the vast majority of time when both drivers were in the race with no issues. So reality is that mostly he was lucky.
          I think Button was a decent F1 driver but lets be real, he was not as good as ether of them ever.
          His points wins were nothing but luck.

  2. Button is too much a nice guy. Alonso always goes for the kill but Button can always surprise. IMO, 11-10 just shows how similar race driver they are.

  3. McLaren has been in the dumps since 2013 when they made the biggest driver gaffe in f1 history. Alonso will be next to retire when he gets sick of fighting for 7th place.

  4. Look at all those races in 2015 where at least one of them DNF’d…

  5. In my opinion, I don’t think that the 11-10 statistic is necessarily representative. I remember plenty of occasions when Alonso was set to finish ahead of Button and ended up retiring, or even Button retired so it didn’t get counted. In 2015, I can think of Malaysia, Spain, Canada, Italy, Singapore, Austin and more. And this year, I can think of Spain, Canada, Baku, Hungary, possibly Spa, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Although the same is true of Button being denied several “victories” over his teammate due to the same reason, it is quite clear that Alonso was arguably more dominant over Button than Hamilton over Rosberg, despite the stats.

    1. +1. I find it surprising when someone says Button beat Alonso in 2015 despite knowing that Alonso was the leading driver and his car failed to finish on multiple races. Button may have finished ahead in points but it isn’t a fair comparison at all considering how bad the car was in 2015 in terms of reliability.

      The overall 11-10 doesn’t reflect the true scenario because along with the retirements that you have mentioned, there were also 3 races in which Alonso didn’t participate.

  6. I think the overall competitiveness of the car though is quite an important factor. I have always been a supporter of Button but it is quite obvious that he has not been a match for the fastest drivers over one lap in recent years or possibly ever. However, in races it is a different matter.

    Basically I think from about the middle of 2016 Button’s motivation has really fallen off quite a lot. So the 11-10 statistic in terms of race performance is perhaps surprising in how close it is. I think in a competitive car the battle would have been much more fierce and pretty close in its final outcome as it was with Hamilton most of the time.

    It’s widely acknowledged though that Hamilton, Alonso and possibly Vettel are in a different class to the rest of the field. Perhaps Verstappen may join this group shortly.

    1. +1

      I think max is odds on for the championship this year if Renault provide a good enough power unit.

  7. It’s pretty difficult to compare the two when both have had so many unreliability problems, engine penalties, dnf’s, and team orders just to get both cars to finish. But I think Jenson has proved throughout his career, he’s a really good driver, not one of the greats… but not too far off either.

    1. I would put Button up as one of the greats… Remember he did not get a car capable of winning a championship until 2009 (Brawn) and even then, by the mid point of the season his competitors cars had caught up. He started out in Williams for his first year and then (under contract to Williams) was shipped out to a very inferior Benetton and into an even worse Renault… Onto BAR, still a midfield team, who he managed to podium with before Honda came along and injectsed the necessary capital to produce an eventual car with championship potential, at which point, Honda pulled out.

      If you look at Hamilton, he has nearly always had a car capable of winning races from the McLaren in 2007/2008 right through.

      If the fortunes were reversed and Hamilton needed to wait 9 years before having a suitably competitive race car, I am pretty certain, his abilities would be questioned in much the same way, assuming he could capitalise in the same way Button managed.

      1. “Great” drivers DO NOT have 10 winless seasons. Sorry. Didn’t Jenson say Lewis made a mistake going to Mercedes? Not great judgement by Jenson

        1. To be fair to Jenson, didnt Ross Brawn recently say that it was only in 2011/2012 ish that they (Ross, Niki et al) canvased the fat cats at Stuttgart for more serious investment/commitment to the F1 program?

          At the end of 2009, Merc possibly didnt have a clear plan, and based on what was presented to Jenson, he felt that it wasnt a good enough proposition. Hindsight is always 20/20. Jenson was World Champion, but Brawn had run out of cash at that point and possibly hadnt developed the 2010 car very much, which would have left him with little or no chance of defending his title. This was proven right with the 2010 Merc.

          Going to Mclaren was the most logical thing to do at the time. They had a quick car, a better setup to win and fight for podiums, which he duly delivered in 2010. For a driver in his early 30s, after struggling in sub par teams for the best part of decade, why would you turn down Mclaren? Especially if you’re already World Champion with ambitions to win more?

          Even if he stayed at Merc, he would have been handed a 2 year, maybe 3 year contract tops. Who’s to say that he would have been in a Merc race seat in 14? Regardless of Jenson’s decision, I feel Lewis would have end up at Brackley in 14.

          1. Jenson had little choice in the matter, go to McLaren or don’t have a drive. Unlike a Rossberg, Jenson chose to keep going and not just throw in the towel.

        2. I’d like to see any of the “great” drivers get wins in the Williams, Benneton/Renault, BAR’s, 07/08 Honda’s and 2013 onwards McLaren’s.

  8. Alonso and Hamilton are two chips of the same block. Both will do what ever is necessary to win. Both selfish, which is necessary. One championship is not enough for these guys. Vettel probably the same too, and Verstappen looks like he has that treat.

  9. It isn’t just Honda. That’s just way too easy. With a podium looking rather unlikely for 2017 unless they make a giant leap, next year would be the 5th straigth season McLaren finishes in the points at best.

    In 2013 (V8 era) and 2014 (V6 Hybrid Turbo era) McLaren were abismal and that was coming off a 2012 season in which they arguably had the fastest car but poor form by Button and poor strategy and reliability (i.e. Mclaren) cost Hamilton any real shot at the title.

    1. They got a double podium in Australia 2014 (would’ve just been KMag but for Ricciardo’s disqualification for fuel or whatever) but even so, it’s still a horrific showing

  10. IMO the result is inconclusive over two seasons primarily because of Honda’s woeful reliability and of course that they both won one season a piece. But to use some Button fans’ logic, Alonso outscored Button therefore he was the better driver?

    By the same logic, Prost was the better driver at Mclaren since he “outscored Senna”, including Senna’s championship winning year. My point is, in a mechanical sport “cumulative points” can only tell you so much. F1 isn’t like Tennis or Boxing where results are purely dependent on the athlete and thus the mechanical factor has to be taken into account in any comparisons between drivers and team mates.

  11. First off, for the reasons below it is silly if not impossible to compare who was better in 2015:

    1. Alonso had 2 more DNFs and a DNS compared to Jenson (see link below).
    2. The car was beyond a failure so it makes no sense comparing them. I don’t know if anyone can confirm but 16 combined DNFs in F1 may well be the worst record in F1 history, at least for a relatively large team.

    As far as 2016 goes, even though I believe Alonso is the best on the grid and the stats below are one sided in his favor, Jenson did better than it appears – he had some bad luck. But his ability to work with a less than optimal handling car didn’t measure up to ALO’s which is to be expected.

    I think Button is underrated and is in the top 7 as a driver…

    1. 1. Alonso had 2 more DNFs and a DNS compared to Jenson (see link below).

      Which the data above takes into account by not including the results of those races in the side-by-side comparisons.

  12. Was Alonso better in the two years? Yes, but only just. Jenson most definitely did not disgrace himself in their time together. He showed he was a reliable, sensible, quick and efficient driver.

  13. The Jenson fans’ miraculous three-year-season always pops up at such times. Sorry ladies, no one tracks points scored over three seasons, and F1 driver positions aren’t awarded on the basis of what a team scored over three years. It’s each season by itself.
    Button beat Lewis in one season out of three – well done to him, knowing how good Lewis is.
    As for Alonso – Lewis the rookie put him in his place in 2007. That ship sailed.

    1. @rantingmrp
      Some people only want to see what they want to see.

      I’d love to see a table of who scored the most points against who in the years they competed against each other.

      Lewis outscored Jenson 8 of the 10 seasons they both competed against each other
      Lewis and Seb are 5 each
      Lewis 8 kimi 2
      Lewis 6 Alonso 4
      Lewis 9 Nico 1

      1. That’s a pointless table… It’s heavily influenced by the car the drivers have been in rather than their actual talent.

      2. @9chris9 What a pointless comparison, made only to make LH look good.

        1. @hugh11, @mashiat
          Yes the table doesn’t convey any of the nuances but is as valid as claiming Button beat Hamilton over the 3 years they where together.
          It does show how dominant Lewis, Seb & Alonso have been in the last 10 years vs the other 3 WDC’s.

    2. Glad to see I’m not the only one noticing.

      Button beat Lewis in one season out of three – well done to him, knowing how good Lewis is.

      Absolutely. Moreover: there is not need to try to belittle Hamilton talent to praise Button’s.

  14. It was very close until Jenson began to realise he wouldnt get a new contract and that any new faster bits were being put on Alonso’s car.
    JB has been super quick over his career, not the quickest, but what a great racer and more than anything…a gentleman to the end.

  15. agree with your second statement – the first is rubbish..

  16. The main page lede for this is masterful.

  17. It’s quite obvious, isn’t it, that these sorts of comparisons are purely arbitrary – there are so many different ways that drivers can be compared. But Jenson has won races in three different cars; was WDC in 2009; has a better than average record in competition with team-mates; and was arguably the most combative driver on the grid in 2011 (Lewis had a poor year partly because he was rattled by Jenson; and Red Bull were clearly eyeing him up for 2012). He’s third top in terms of race participation, and in the top ten as regards points scored. This doesn’t make him better than either Fernando or Lewis, clearly, though he has competed well against both, and – apart from a demotivated second-half of 2016 – has not been shamed by either when in the same team. Jenson lacks the urgency of Fernando and Lewis – both of whom have super-egos – and is occasionally too cautious, but is a great driver non-the-less with a fantastic skill set. Lewis and Fernando are ‘better’ on most criteria, but Jenson’s achievements are substantial and he is too often under-estimated.

    1. @caztone
      Do you really believe Jenson hasn’t a super ego to match fernando or Lewis? It’s not what I’ve seen or heard.

  18. I’m sure he has a large ego, but not the sort of win-at-all-costs-and-don’t-worry-about-the-collateral-damage approach of Lewis and (especially) Fernando – though I think that Fernando has mellowed a little of late, and perhaps this is partly through associating with Jenson(?). Anyhow, Jenson’s not an Angel, but I don’t think he’s ‘driven’ to quite the same extent as the other two.

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