McLaren aim to find a second with “dramatic changes” to car

2011 Australian Grand Prix

Jenson Button, McLaren, Barcelona, 2011

Jenson Button, McLaren, Barcelona, 2011

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says the team have made “dramatic changes” to their MP4-26 following problems in testing.

Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in, Whitmarsh said the team aim to be one second per lap quicker in the first race at Melbourne.

Whitmarsh said: “I’m not satisfied with where the car was on reliability or performance in the tests. We have made some dramatic changes to the car and those changes we’ll see in Australia.

“So there’s some risk in that but I think it was the right thing to do and we’re hoping that risk comes off and the car is a lot more competitive in Australia.”

He said the main changes were “a completely new floor and new exhaust system. There are a lot of other bits and pieces but they are the obvious ones.”

He described the exhaust as “a simpler design than we’ve had before in my view.

“I think the exhausts systems have become a lot more extreme on quite a lot of the cars. I think we in particular had a very extreme solution but they were not delivering, in my opinion, sufficient benefit for their complexity.”

He added: “I believe we need to unlock the exhaust-blowing potential and we have some very creative ideas, some of which could have worked spectacularly well, but in order to work spectacularly well, they have to be sufficiently durable to be race-able. And, frankly, some of our solutions weren’t and that’s why I think we had to go back a little bit.

“But I think in doing so we found some interesting performance. So we’ll see. I think it will still be a challenging weekend.”

He said the team expected to be a second per lap quicker: “I want us to be significantly quicker and I believe we’ve implemented some changes which are aimed are making the car over a second quicker than it was in the tests.

“The target, certainly, is to deliver more than a second in performance with the round of modifications we have for the Australian Grand Prix.”

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155 comments on McLaren aim to find a second with “dramatic changes” to car

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  1. BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st March 2011, 11:42

    Looks like the fancy “octopussy” blowing all over the rear will not see racing tracks anytime soon. Good to see they had time to bring something that does work.

    Now wait and see weather it really will.

  2. soundscape said on 21st March 2011, 11:42

    They were foxing!

  3. Lets hope you can find this extra second, I really want to see Mclaren up with the best from the start, not just playing catch up. The tyres will have the biggest impact and lets not forget whoever can perform the quickest and error free pit stops should do well. I think last year Merc were the fastest in the pitts so could be a good year for them. Really cant wait now, its been to long.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st March 2011, 11:48

      Lets hope you can find this extra second

      Mercedes did it in Barcelona. I see no reason why McLaren shouldn’t be able to as well.

      • Cacarella said on 21st March 2011, 14:43

        I think that Mercedes brought ‘planned’ upgrades to the car in Barcelona and according to Brawn, they started the testing with the minimum of new parts to get a baseline for reliability and the tires. Completely different then what Mclaren are trying to do here. Either way, it means nothing in both cases as we didn’t know what the true pace was of the Cars were before the on second improvement, so they could say whatever they wanted in terms of the amount of time it brings to the car. Our cars pace is currently ‘?????’, we’re going to gain a second of improvement with this upgrade so our cars pace is ‘Current pace here’. Then they can claim their engineers are genius because the upgrade worked!

        • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 21st March 2011, 20:13

          True. There’s usually a big difference between planned upgrades and scrambling to make up for lost time upgrades.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st March 2011, 22:49

            But it’s not like McLaren are simply bolting parts onto the car and hoping they will work. As soon as they knew that the exhaust system was going to be a problem that was not easily solved, they would have stated looking at alternative solutions and developed them parallel to the old-spec parts.

          • bosyber said on 22nd March 2011, 8:24

            I agree with what PM says here. Also, it might well be that even before the test, they had a (several?) back up idaes ready.

            Whitmarsh sounds as if they had a big discussion before using the complicated bit, first won by the engineers that worked on that; while others remained sceptical of the tradeoff made. After testing, those were proved right, and might well have been working on a back-up already.

  4. IffNav said on 21st March 2011, 11:45

    I still believe that McLaren will be competitive. They’re a great team and Hamilton is an extraordinary driver.

    It would be pretty unwise to underestimate them. I’m sure they will be successful when dealing with the changes, and will become a formidable competitor to any team out there.

    This comment coming from a well known Alonso supporter…

  5. I am getting indecently excited about the weekend – I really need to try and calm down…

    • Randy said on 21st March 2011, 15:36

      I already tried Rob, it doesn’t work. By Friday I’m probably going to be foaming at the mouth.

      • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 21st March 2011, 20:15

        Practice starts Thursday evening for me, which somehow makes it seem sooner, even though it’s just as long to wait for all of us… Three days and a handful of hours to go now until FP1!!!

    • F1Lover said on 21st March 2011, 18:02

      Lol guys, i am sorry Rob unless you find something really important to do that will keep yF1 outta your mind for a bit there is nothing you can do. Only 3 days left and still feels like 30.

      • Speed Damon said on 21st March 2011, 20:16

        I’ve got an R.S GCSE mock and and French GCSE speaking controlled assessment and a Spanish controlled assessment speaking. These philistines don’t know how important F1 is to me!>:-(

        • matt90 said on 22nd March 2011, 0:03

          As long as you get over a C GCSE’s mean nothing, and mocks have literally no impact except slightly preparing you for how the exams are laid out.

  6. nemo87 (@nemo87) said on 21st March 2011, 11:47

    Come on McLaren..!! :D

    I really hope that they find the extra second. I’d hate to see the team beat by an energy drink again haha. With Lewis in such high spirits personally, McLaren need to perform NOW to get the best out of him..

    Bring on Melbourne :D

  7. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 21st March 2011, 11:47

    lol… I just tweeted a reply to Keith before I saw this article. A lot of us thought that weeks ago and it’s good to hear Whitmarsh finally saying it now.

  8. box this lap (@sebashuis) said on 21st March 2011, 11:48

    Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in

    It’s quite relevant to use the phone if your sponsor is Vodafone, nevermind it just made me laugh.

    And a risky move to make dramitic changes if you ask me. I wonder if the U’s are still there.

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 21st March 2011, 12:09

      They were going back and forth with a new forward exhaust system and and a rear system during testing. It takes hours to change the system so they lost a lot of testing time.

      But they knew they had a problem, so why not feed in the data you have from testing and change the exhaust configuration and floor board (which suggests that that are trying a different forward exhaust system) again to see what happens?

      • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 21st March 2011, 20:18

        The new floor definitely makes it sound like it might be a FEE like Renault, but I think there’s a good chance it could be a Red Bull/Ferrari type exhaust as well, based on Whitmarsh’s comments on it being a much more conventional type exhaust. If all the rumors about the octopus exhaust were true though, even the FEE is probably more “conventional” for them.

  9. Apeman said on 21st March 2011, 11:49

    McLaren will certainly be interesting to follow in Friday practice sessions thoughout this year, in terms of experimentation. Looking forward to see what they come up with regarding the exhaust – assuming they’ll be able to find a way to make the most of it.

    • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 21st March 2011, 12:33

      Yeah, I was thinking along the same lines, they are probably fitting a Saturn V Rocket to it, or a warp drive button, etc etc etc.

      A second is a lot of time to find in such a short space of time, but McLaren have shown before that they are pretty good at playing catch up.

    • Poul said on 21st March 2011, 14:21


      Off topic, ut it’s funny how the BT46B runs on Avon tires while it has Goodyear stickers! I guess they can no longer get matching Goodyears for it.

  10. Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 21st March 2011, 11:55

    Lots of optimism in this thread. Does anyone not think that bringing a load of untested, second-choice solutions to the first race of the season because the first lot didn’t work is not exactly cause for celebration? We’ll see if they can find that second, but it surely won’t be as simple as bolting on new parts and suddenly outdeveloping every other team on the grid.

  11. Probably a relief to McLaren fans. I’ve never thought that they will just sit and watch the Reb Bulls and the horses taking the points away. Let’s see if they [the changes] will work.

    • Chalky said on 21st March 2011, 12:08

      Is it for the fans or the sponsors?
      I mean, McLaren must be one of the most expensive teams to sponsor and you would not want to see your logo running midfield.

      Maybe this is a reassurance to those investors that they will be seen at the front of the field, or if not that they will.

      With the increasing competition on track and tightening economic world, I wonder how the competition for sponsors is fairing?

  12. MattHT (@mattht) said on 21st March 2011, 12:00

    I hope it comes off. Might make for a more exciting start to the season if the likes of Lewis and Jenson can actually get amongst the front rows of the grid from the start.

  13. Icthyes said on 21st March 2011, 12:01

    Good to hear after people were lining up to say the year would be a disaster even before Race 1. They’ll still be a bit behind I think but as they come to know the car better I think they’ll be right up there like in mid-2010.

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 21st March 2011, 12:29

      Agreed, they are 1st class, fast and motivated. Not to mention well funded.

    • Weal, mutch as I am a McLaren fan, I almost enjoy the frustration at times an it looked, an still in many ways does look, like it was going to be one of those years.

      If they can get the car on the pace for the European season however, I’ll be absolutley delighted with my humble pie, an still awesome looking car.

      I just so wish that McLaren can bag the titles this year or soon, so the team can keep Hamilton for a start. An actually deliver upon there enourmous potential.

  14. Steve said on 21st March 2011, 12:05

    Are Ferrari and RBR not brining a major upgrade as well?

    • I think rather no. They had very strong reliability and performance, so probably small corrections for the track itself, but nothing major, I guess.

      • PeteBaldwin said on 21st March 2011, 17:48

        I doubt anyone else will bring major untested upgrades unless they have to.

        I’m sure McLaren thought their new car would be quick the first time round so I wouldn’t guarantee that this major upgrade will work… Sounds like an extreme change though so we’ll have to see. Could go either way.

  15. Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 21st March 2011, 12:07

    Doesn’t this mean that McLaren kind of wasted their pre season testing?

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 21st March 2011, 12:26

      Yes it does if you think like that. What they did was to find out their ideas during the off season weren’t working.

      It’s really not wasted, but it means that they start the season behind the 8 ball.

    • Skanda said on 21st March 2011, 14:04

      No. McLaren had always been saying that they were looking to obtain track data for their simulator. May be they found enough correlation and from the results on the simulator see a 1 sec advantage on track.

      • Afonso Ronda said on 21st March 2011, 17:56

        No. That was only for the first test. For the 3 remaining they ran the challenger for 2011. But their original design is unreliable and performance wise was also poor. That’s why they are going for a different approach that is at this stage untested.

  16. verstappen said on 21st March 2011, 12:21

    In those first few races you definitely want to ‘be there’, when things turn out differently then expected. From that perspective you would sacrifice some speed for reliability.

    I do like it that they have such complex ideas that the car becomes unreliable. Pushing the envelope!

    • eternalsunshine said on 21st March 2011, 12:37

      Thought of the same thing. Trading off speed for reliability seems dodgy. While they may start in front, hope they finish the race as well.

  17. GeorgeTuk (@georgetuk) said on 21st March 2011, 12:39

    I really hope it works but we heard alot of updates talk last year, only a few of which actually delivered.

    No wonder they were queueing to get into work @ MTC this morning (I drive past every morning)

    Fingers crossed for me anyway.

  18. consi said on 21st March 2011, 12:45

    I wonder if the bumpiness of Albert Park will be less of a problem for McLaren this year? Didn’t see much evidence one way or another of the relative stiffness of the MP4-26 during testing. That was one of their issues last year, the stiffness required to make their aero package work properly.

  19. Eggry (@eggry) said on 21st March 2011, 12:46

    Well, this kind of sudden change usually doesn’t work.

    • Icthyes said on 21st March 2011, 13:43

      Like McLaren”s upgrade in 2009, or Ferrari and the EBD last year?


        I prey if it comes. It comes on time.

      • Eggry (@eggry) said on 21st March 2011, 15:56

        It doesn’t sudden change. Mclaren in 2009 and Ferrari’s EBD took time to enable.

      • Eggry (@eggry) said on 21st March 2011, 15:58

        Don’t forget when Mclaren first adopted EBD last year. They struggled so much.

      • Eggry (@eggry) said on 21st March 2011, 16:29

        Sorry for my English. Well, I think it maybe work, but probably later than Melbourne. You would remember Mclaren was not got faster suddenly in 2009 and EBD too. When Mclaren first adopted EBD, in my memory, they struggled with it so hoping it would work later, they had to ditch it. even it had been developed several month in factory, it didn’t work immediately.

        How about this update? Mercedes have improved their car at 11th hour, but at least W02 is not so trouble maker. Considering their poor reliablity in testing, they should focus on reliability, so change should be conservative one. Unless they should deal with new package with unproven reliability and speed at once and we know it’s very difficult. If the update is conservative one and fast, it does mean their radical exhaust concept was totally failed.

        • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 21st March 2011, 22:17

          You would remember Mclaren was not got faster suddenly in 2009

          Silverstone: fighting Renault for 16th
          Nurburgring: fighting Webber for the lead into Turn 1
          Hungary: won the race

          • Julian said on 22nd March 2011, 0:37

            And that was after how many months of development work at the factory and what 10?? (random guess) grand prix weekends. I think thats the point eggry is trying to get at.

            These new updates seemed rushed compared to the ones of 09, i dont think they will immediately gain a second at melbourne, but they will be faster. When we finish the fly aways i think they will be on or very near the pace. That is, of course, if the updates do work as planned.

          • Eric said on 22nd March 2011, 0:50

            I’m with Julien on this one. I would be amazed if they could bring a seconds worth of speed in Melbourne, especially considering it has never actually been tested on the car prior to this weekend. I would expect an increase in Mclarens performance to occur sometime after the flyaway rounds. That being said they are the one team I would back to evolve that quickly.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd March 2011, 8:20

            But Julian, in 2009 McLaren had a problem of finding where they went wrong. They spent testing and quite a lot of races learning from that. After finding the problem, the update was brought out in a couple of weeks.

            Now they know where the problems are and just bring more conservative solutions.

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