The 2010 F1 season’s best pass was executed by Jenson Button in Montreal. This year, in a sea of fake passing, he stole the show again with a brilliant deceptive move on Nico Rosberg at the Turkish Grand Prix.
The action begins at Turn 11 on the 22nd lap of the race (see track layout below). Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes is leading Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, with Jenson Button’s McLaren lurking behind them. The straight after Turn 11 was the designated zone at Istanbul Park for using the movable rear wing, and because Alonso had been within one second of Rosberg at the detection point further back, he was allowed to open the Ferrari’s wing, lose a ton of drag, and sail past Rosberg.
There have been about a thousand passes like this at every Grand Prix this year, but this was different. Noticing the opportunity—similarly to how he overtook Alonso in Montreal last year—Button suddenly accelerated in Alonso’s slipstream and followed him past Rosberg on the left side of the Mercedes, without the aid of his movable rear wing. Clever, yes, but he was about to face the slow combination of Turns 12, 13, and 14, where Rosberg still had the advantage, and this is where he made the second act of his move.
He stayed on Rosberg’s left side in Turn 12 and the entrance to 13, lulling him into controlling the angle for the inside line of Turn 14, the corner leading onto the pit straight. Then, with a lightning flick right in the middle of Turn 13, he crossed over to Rosberg’s right side, leaving him protecting a line the McLaren would never travel. As his coup de grâce, Button then drove clean around the outside of the Mercedes.
Unfortunately, the vision mixer picked the exact moment of Button’s flick in Turn 13 to switch between cameras—look closely at 00:19 and you can see how the McLaren and the Mercedes abruptly trade places—so there’s no outside footage of his pass. But the view from Button’s cockpit camera, which begins 39 seconds into the video, shows his move in all its glorious elegance. And it had nothing to do with this year’s attacking gimmicks.
Illustration of Istanbul Park by Will Pittenger