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Analysis: Was Button's behaviour reckless in Formula 1 return after 'horrible' Monaco crash?

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Analysis: Was Button's behaviour reckless in Formula 1 return after 'horrible' Monaco crash?
May 29, 2017, 4:55 PM

McLaren-Honda returnee Jenson Button has been given a three-place grid penalty driver for what he admitted was a "horrible" collision with Sauber's...

McLaren-Honda returnee Jenson Button has been given a three-place grid penalty driver for what he admitted was a "horrible" collision with Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein in the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix.

He will struggle to serve it as he has no intention of racing in another Grand Prix.

Button, justifiably frustrated that Wehrlein had been allowed to retain track position over him after the pit stop, when that track position had been gained by an unsafe release, attempted to overtake Wehrlein on the inside of Portier, the corner before Monaco's tunnel section, sending the Sauber driver sideways into the barrier 60 laps into the 78 lap race.

Wehrlein walked away from the crash though his car pitched itself with the cockpit against the crash-fence, preventing the German from getting out before the marshals intervened.

He will have a back scan next week after his previous injury in the January Race of Champions led him to miss the start of the season.

"Obviously with the injury I had I'm not too sure. I touched again [my] head on the barrier, so I will have to do another scan next week for my back," said Wehrlein.

"It was scary - the brakes started to smoke and I couldn't get out of the car, and obviously the only thing I wanted to do was to get out of the car when you see the car start to smoke."

As this entry for Button was deemed to be a one-off, the three-place penalty and two penalty points on his licence are arbitrary with Fernando Alonso returning for the rest of the season from his single IndyCar stint.

"I've never seen a car go up on its side before. I don't know if that's the way the tyre is or just unlucky, I don't know. Horrible to see," said Button.

Racing incident or dangerous behaviour?

The 2009 champion's defence stemmed from the fact that Wehrlein hadn't seen the McLaren pull up on the inside of his Sauber but he stopped short of apportioning blame.

“I got alongside him, well, I thought I was alongside him, but then I looked across and went ‘oh he hasn't seen me at all," he said.

"I went up the inside and obviously I thought it was on because I wouldn't have made the move.

"These cars are so difficult to see out the back of - I've been telling the team and the FIA that this weekend. So I tried to back out of it but it was too late and we touched.

From replays, it appears that Wehrlein decided to take a normal line into Portier having just let leader Sebastian Vettel through on the previous corner, but he failed to acknowledge Button's presence.

Button's orange McLaren was not only visible in Wehrlein's mirrors, but both were nearly side-by-side before they went for the apex of the corner.

Wehrlein offered insufficient room for Button, who was already on the inside and well into the process of overtaking him with no option of pulling out.

Had Wehrlein run a little wider through the corner, the incident could have been avoided, but stewards stated that Button was "predominantly to blame", as his move was "unlikely to have resulted in a clean pass."

A bold return with unintended consequences

Overtakes through Portier, while rare, are possible as Nico Hulkenberg overtook Kevin Magnussen through the inside of this turn in 2014.

Cars are around 20 centimetres longer and front tyres alone are 6cm wider than they were in 2016, which may have required some more consideration and thought on Button's part, but this doesn't rule overtaking out.

This collision can partly be put down to an inherent and understandable rustiness in a briefly-retired racing driver who has jumped into a new-specification car.

Comparably, Michael Schumacher's difficult return to F1 in 2010 was marred by a number of penalties and incidents such as his 10 place grid penalty after the Hungarian Grand Prix during which he forced Rubens Barrichello onto the grass in an attempt to block an overtake. He also clashed clumsily with Jean Eric Vergne in Singapore.

At the time, Button said that the car was built for him before he moved to McLaren from Brawn.

"The Mercedes understeers pretty strongly," said Button in 2010. "I was always happy with it that way...[but] Michael likes a very pointy car."

Perhaps the benefit of the doubt should be extended to Button in the same fashion: this was an honest attempt to make a plausible, albeit difficult, overtake in a single-file race with unfortunate and unintended consequences for Wehrlein.

In contrast, team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne crashed from 10th place into Turn 1 after the Safety Car restart.

Force India's Sergio Perez, who overtook Vandoorne, clumsily lunged in on Daniil Kvyat into the extremely tight Rascasse corner which cost Perez a 16th consecutive points finish.

Vandoorne's mishap was far more costly, as not only did both McLarens had the pace to reach Q3 in Saturday's qualifying, but this was almost a gift of a points finish for the backmarkers.

Now, the power-dependent circuits of Canada and Azerbaijan await the struggling Honda engines.

Do you think Button was reasonable in overtaking Wehrlein? Should he have been penalised by the stewards? Have your say in the comment section below or on Facebook.
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