x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Jenson Button calls out teammate Sergio Perez for being 'too aggressive'

Jenson Button has harsh words for Sergio Perez's actions at the Sakhir International Circuit, but team principal Martin Whitmarsh expects his veteran driver will calm down and 'they'll have a great relationship', explains Gary Meenaghan.

Sergio Perez, above, was just a tad over aggressive in Jenson Button's mind, saying that his new teammate at McLaren 'came alongside' him and 'banged wheels at 300kph' during the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez, above, was just a tad over aggressive in Jenson Button's mind, saying that his new teammate at McLaren 'came alongside' him and 'banged wheels at 300kph' during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

SAKHIR // McLaren-Mercedes' Jenson Button on Sunday criticised new teammate Sergio Perez after the Mexican's aggressive display at the Bahrain Grand Prix almost resulted in both drivers having their races end prematurely.

Perez, who joined the English marque over the winter break following only two seasons in the sport, secured seventh place, his best result of the season, at Sakhir International Circuit.

In doing so, however, he upset a number of peers, including Button.

The two teammates were involved in an intense on-track battle that saw them bang wheels on a straight and Perez damage his front wing after clipping Button from behind.

Button had repeatedly complained over his team radio that the 23 year old needed to "calm down" and emerged from his car seething after slipping down the field to finish 10th.

"I was very vocal on the radio, emotions were running high, but I would say exactly the same again," Button said.

"The racing was great out there. The only person that wasn't was Checo [Perez]. He was too aggressive. At 300kph, you don't expect your teammate to come alongside you and bang wheels with you.

"It was a bit of a surprise, and I'm probably not the only one that feels like that. That's something you do in karting, and normally you grow out of it."

Perez has endured a tough start to life at the Woking-based team and after finishing the Chinese Grand Prix out of the points for the second time in three races, Martin Whitmarsh, his team principal, urged him to "toughen up" and "use his elbows".

He certainly did that yesterday, although Whitmarsh conceded his driver over-did it at one point.

"I've told him one of the manouevres was beyond what I consider OK," Whitmarsh said.

Perez conceded he had driven too forcefully, although said he believed Button had done likewise.

"I think I was as aggressive as he was with me," he said. "It was probably too much. We could both have ended our races."

Button appeared to have calmed down as he chatted with team staff at length in the paddock afterward.

The Englishman is renowned as being a level-headed, grounded driver and that will benefit his team going forward, said Whitmarsh.

"I wouldn't expect Jenson to be overly happy. He is a racing driver and doesn't want to be beaten by anybody, least of all his teammate," Whitmarsh said. "The great thing about Jenson is he is a grown-up, he will get over [it] and they will have a great relationship. Checo needs to calm down a little bit, but he's a young man."

The incident was a prime example of what can happen if team orders are not deployed and Whitmarsh acknowledged the risk.

"Some of the driving was marginal between the two of them, but that's what happens if you allow your drivers to race," he said. "If you don't, the guy behind will always have the conviction he has been harmed by a decision.

"I had a lot of noise in my ear, people advising me to stop them racing. We didn't and it could have gone horribly wrong, but on balance, I think it was the right thing to do."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

 

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