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themselves complementing each other probably even better than Whitmarsh had dared to hope, fully justifying McLaren's decision to gamble 011 pairing two world champions. It was the sort of wager that McLaren have lengthy experience of, and which you might have expected would frighten them off. However, there has been no repeat of the 2007 Hamilton/Fernando Alonso disaster, although Whitmarsh is quick to point out that, on paper at least, the risk this time round was never as great.

"A lot of people question Jenson's judgement and McLaren's judgement, but he has proven everyone wrong," says Whitmarsh. "He has done a great job so far. There is an element of risk in putting two top drivers together, but remember that in 2007 we were putting a world champion with a rookie. Our job is to get the two best drivers available in our team and they just happened to be British and successive world champions.

"I was talking to Kimi, but we were struggling a bit in those negotiations. I saw an opportunity with Jenson that frankly we didn't

think would be successful, but felt that it wouldn't have been duly diligent of me not to pursue the opportunity. I'm delighted that we did,

"I didn't really knowjeuson before. His first run in an Fi car was when he won the McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award [in 1998] and I've found him to be a very smooth, intelligent, relaxed driver. He's very comfortable in his own skin and the impressive thing about him is how unaffected he has been by his achievements and his fame. He's just come into this team, kept his feet on the ground and won the respect and admiration of everyone, including Lewis. He's exceeded everyone's expectations, but it's early days yet and he'll be driving with us for many days to come."

For Button's part, there have been things about McLaren that have surprised him too. Of all the teams in Fi, McLaren has a reputation for being a precise, austere, clinical environment and Button wasn't sure what to expect. When he chose to sign for the team after quickfire negotiations last November, he wasn't sure about what he was letting himself in for.

"With any new team you're always a bit uncomfortable because you never know what to expect," he says. "All teams work in different ways, and when you've been with the same team for as many years as T was [with

Didngat McLaren is dose, keen and clean

BAR/Hond;i/Brawn] it's strange, and it is a change that can be difficult for a lot of us. But everyone in the team welcomed me in and 1 feel very much at home. From the outside, this is one of the teams you'd least expect that from. From the outside you'd look at it and say, 'this is a very regimented team', but I have fitted in very well."

Of course, he would say that wouldn't he? But Button's off-track demeanour these days, and his success on it since he's already been part of three one-two finishes for McLaren, suggests that this mutual admiration exercise is genuine rather than the bland puffery of PR doubletalk. One thing's for sure, though — if Hamilton and Button both remain in title contention down to the wire, the rosy promise of their extended honeymoon may be sorely tested.

But for now, Button can relax into enjoying his British Grand Prix weekend and hope that, at last, he'll get himself onto that podium — and preferably at least one step higher than Hamilton and two ahead of any driver draped in a Red Bull livery, ffi

15th during dismal season for Benetton

12th Stops late on with a wheel problem

12th Stops late on with a wheel problem

8th Great drive from last on the grid

8th Great drive from last on the grid

4th Best finish to dale with BAR

4th Best finish to dale with BAR

5th after starting third for BAR

5th after starting third for BAR

DNF after starting last on the grid

DNF after starting last on the grid

6th Tyre trouble wrecked his weekend

IN THE WHEELTRACKS OF THE Fi GIANTS

What happens when an ordinary mortal is given the chance to compare his data with that of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel in a kart? Only one way to find out... By PAOLO BOMBARA

It was a strange, long-distance duel, separated by space and time. In one corner of the ring, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, national icons spanning two different generations of Formula 1. In the opposite corner, us, the ordinary men in the street.

It's not every day that the average fan gets an opportunity to measure themselves against the sport's giants on reasonably equal terms, but celebrated Italian firm Tony Kart decided to do something about that. Which is how our tester — an amateur with some karting experience as both a driver and world championship -level mechanic — was able to test the same karts as Schumacher and Vettel, in the same conditions, on the same track and with access to all of the data logging, in order to make an in-depth and professional comparison.

The track is an extremely demanding one: Lonato, close to Brescia and the famous Lake Garda in northern Italy. It's the day after the WSK Euro Series round, so the circuit will be well rubbered in after several days of heats and races. The asphalt will provide maximum grip, and therefore speed.

This unique exercise will allow us to compare ourselves with Schumacher and Vettel, even though their visits to Lonato came on a different day. But measuring up to their data has got to he a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

COMPARISON ONE: Sebastian Vettel, Tony Kart Vortex KF2

Our tester's best time: 45.41s Vettel's best time: 44.18s Difference: 1.23 s First up, it's time to take on Vettel's times with a KF2 Tony Kart Racer EVR-Vortex RAD,

Schumacher's dad ran □ kart track. It shows

KARTING WITH THE GREATS VETTEL/SCHUMACHER

h^ETTELvTESTDRIVER

I Having access to the data logging is one thing, I but what does it tell us? We gave the traces I from both comparisons to Toro Rosso engineer I Jason Mowbray to get his thoughts:

IVettel's speed and RPM (dark blue lines) are always 1 higher than the other driver's (light blue), but the test I driver is closer to Vettel than he is to Schumacher, I suggesting that he is not used to the geared kart.

is later and harder F braking steeper) ■

I Bump on track, wheelspin (rear (wheels off ground). Much more I with this kart, so lighter or stiffer 1 compared to other kart.

10 rpm

■ Noisy RPM 12000 sensor or loom is later and harder F braking steeper) ■

Tester has to lift -lack of confidence in high-speed corner

! Vettel was a benchmark boasting a 125«: 35bhp engine complete with a bi-phase valve that delivers maximum power at i2,ooorpm. There are no gears and there's a l5,ooorpm electronic rev limit. Braking is supplied by a manual system to the front wheels.

Our tester stops the clock in 45.41s: practically the same time — give or take a couple of hundredths — as two-time F1A GT champion Matteo Bob hi, who has also been invited to test the KF2. The stopwatch is less kind when it comes to a comparison with Marco Ardigo, who sets a

43.7s time — but lie's a two-time karting world champion and therefore in a different league. As for Vettel, his best time was 44.18s, before being forced to stop due to blistered hands, "J realised that there was still plenty of margin for me to ►

! Vettel was a benchmark

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