Jenson Button hits out at ‘weird’ radio messages

Charles Leclerc asked that Ferrari made Carlos Sainz swap positions with him, despite the Spaniard running P3 in Brazil.

Last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix was certainly an odd one, in regard to how many drivers requested certain things over the team radio, something 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button labels as “weird”.

On Sunday alone, four teams were faced with requests from one of their drivers, with all being about switching positions.

Each event occurred in the closing stages of the race, as a late Safety Car to recover the stricken Lando Norris bunched the field.

Whilst leading the pack behind the Safety Car, George Russell asked Mercedes if himself and Lewis Hamilton were to keep position or if the seven-time World Champion was allowed to fight the 24-year-old for victory.

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Not long after, Charles Leclerc asked Ferrari to get Carlos Sainz to switch positions with him, due to the Monegasque driver battling Sergio Pérez for second in the Drivers’ Championship.

Given that Sainz was occupying third, the Ferrari driver essentially asked the team to make the Spaniard give up a hard-fought podium finish, something the team didn’t let happen.

Alpine were one of two sides to actually tell their drivers to switch positions, something Esteban Ocon initially defied before giving his spot to Fernando Alonso, who ended up finishing fifth due to brilliant pace.

The most controversial of the lot, though, came at Red Bull, after Max Verstappen refused to give his place to Sergio Pérez, despite the Mexican having initially let the double World Champion through.

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Verstappen was told that unless he could overtake either Alonso or Leclerc, then he’d need to return the position to Pérez.

The Dutchman failed to do either, resulting in tensions boiling over after the race, with Pérez admitting that Verstappen showed “who he really is”.

Button found all the conversations incredibly odd to hear, with the Brit wanting the drivers to just “go out there and race”.

“I just find it weird that we have so many of these radio calls about ‘am I allowed to race or are we going to stay one-two?’” Button said on Sky Sports’ Any Driven Monday.

“Obviously, George wanted to stay one-two, because it was an easy win for him, it seemed like [Hamilton] wasn’t going to fight him for the victory.

“But it’s just weird to hear these conversations on the radio, and Charles as well saying the same thing, ‘are we going to reverse the positions with Carlos?’ The same thing with Red Bull. It’s just kind of weird.

“They should be allowed to go out there and race. They’re out there for the team, but they’re also out there for themselves and you don’t want to give away a win, but you have to give your team-mate an opportunity to fight you for that win, they’re not fighting for a World Championship right now.”

Radio conversations are a usual part now of Formula 1’s broadcasts, with everything said between a driver and their engineer being heard by the watching audience.

This wasn’t always the case many years ago, when only selected radio messages were broadcast; however, Button still believes that despite not all conversations having been previously heard, he was only told to let his team-mate past once.

“You definitely hear everything now, and you maybe didn’t so much in the past,” Button acknowledged.

READ: Ex-F1 champion calls for change at Ferrari as he makes ’embarrassing’ comment

“But I think I got asked once, because we were on different strategies, to let a team-mate past, that was it.

“I always wanted equal equipment with my team-mates and equal opportunities, and it’s strange now that we have team radio where drivers are saying ‘I think that he should let me pass because it’s better for my championship’. It’s just really surprising to hear.

“But I think maybe the fans of the sport are liking it because it’s showing the individuals, whether they’re a strong personality or not, so maybe it’s a positive, but it’s just something that I didn’t experience in my career.”