Jenson Button describes Sergio Perez's driving as "too aggressive" during Bahrain GP
McLaren drivers banged wheels after Perez told to "toughen up"
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 22/04/13 11:10am
In the latest installment of the 'team-mate wars' which have become a dominant theme in the nascent season, the two McLaren drivers were the focus of attention throughout the midway stage of Sunday's race as Perez and Button went wheel-to-wheel in two separate, but equally-riveting, skirmishes.
While the second clash culminated in a clear victory for Perez as he completed a clean pass up the inside of the 2009 World Champion on his way to a sixth-placed finish, their first on-track clash not only saw Button force his team-mate off the road but also heard him urge the McLaren pitwall to order the Mexican to "calm down" after his car was struck by the sister MP4-28.
"I was vocal on the radio and emotions were running high but I will say exactly what I said then: the racing out there and was great fun but Checo was too aggressive," Button complained to Sky Sports F1 after crossing the line in tenth.
"At 300 kilometres an hour you don't expect your team-mate to come alongside and bang wheels with you. So that was a bit of a surprise and I'm probably not the only one feels like that."
Perhaps not, but what a dilemma the battle must have presented to team boss Martin Whitmarsh as he watched the drama unfold less than a week after instructing his new young charger to "toughen up" on track. Wasn't this Perez just simply following orders?
"You don't hit your team-mate, though," countered the McLaren Team Principal as he faced up to the Sky Sports F1 punditry team with impressive resolve. "As I said to Checo, end-plate to rear tyre could have punctured Jenson and broken his front wing. That was over the limit.
"I wasn't encouraging them to battle but neither was I discouraging them either. I had quite a lot of noise in my ear from people telling me that I should tell them to cool it.
"I think one of the manoeuvres was wrong, and could have been calamitous for both of them - and he knows that."
Speaking later, Button offered a more measured reflection of events - but did not shy away from making plain his grievances both with his team-mate and his team boss.
"I didn't think it was the cleanest racing with Checo and into Turn Four we were wheel banging and that's not normally the way I like to race. But to be fair, I totally blame Martin for everything," Jenson added in a tongue-in-cheek aside that had Whitmarsh squirming and the Sky F1 team squealing in laughter. "'Be more aggressive' were you words. I don't know why they came out!"
"I didn't mean on you," responded a laughing Whitmarsh.
A lesson for all the teams perhaps: airing your dirty laundry in public can have a surprisingly - and refreshingly - cleansing effect.