Jenson Button, McLaren, Barcelona, 2011

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

2011 Australian Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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. Proesterchen
    21st March 2011, 12:58

    Just what were they hoping for with their more intricate first choice if nixing it and going rather more conventional is supposed to add a full second to their pace?

    The exhaust they tried to bring to Melbourne must both have not worked at all AND broken all the time if they hope to find so much time!

    1. Don’t forget, it was never going to work 100% straight out of the box. So they probably hoped it would give lots of performance, if only they could find the right configuration, but it kept breaking, so.

  2. Sounds like an act of desperation to quash the growing pressure on whitmarsh & mclaren.

    Its all very well making changes, but the end line is still…..They havent got enough milleage under their belts so who knows if they will work?

    Milleage is everything, so new parts, old parts or developed parts mean nothing if they havent been realisticly tested on track. You cant find the reliability from a simulator.

    I think mclaren have humiliated themselves again for consistantly under performing in the design department again. And as the public flogging is increasing and no sign of letting up, they have now resorted to scrapping most of the new design and reverted back to an old design (what a waste and disaster by the designers).

    Mclaren will be under major pressure right now from sponsors, fans and even now their best driver.

    This new car will baasically be the 2010 car but without the double difuser and with new L-pods.
    -the whole design team heads need to be given their P45s inc whitmarsh.

    1. “This new car will baasically be the 2010 car but without the double difuser and with new L-pods.”

      Not to sound overly defensive, but how do you know all of this?

      1. Afonso Ronda
        21st March 2011, 18:07

        Because effectively the complex exhaust and floor were the radical changes (among the L-pods) for 2011. They will revert to something they know it works = iteration from last year.

        1. bleeps_and_tweaks
          21st March 2011, 22:41

          I think this is a pretty sweeping statement, and not entirely accurate either. The MP4-25 was built around the DD, which was the route of the cars issues with rake, and the incredibly stiff suspension required to get the diffuser to generate its downforce. Having done away with the DD, tested front wing flexibility and moving to pullrod suspsension – I’d say that was a few important changes!
          In the final Barca test Mclaren did run the MP4-26 with Mercedes style mid sidepod exhaust exits, I think it’ll be something along the lines of that, or the flattened RBR/Ferrari system – but thats pure guess work. I can’t bloody wait until Friday!!!

  3. This should be very interesting if McLaren can improve by a second. They have been quite positive about the first race, in spite of rather modest testing performance. Maybe they has been sandbagging all along.

  4. So if they’re a second of the pace in Melbourne, does this mean the ‘radical’ exhaust and floor was really 2 seconds off the pace?

  5. If they realy have gained a second, surely that will put them right up in the front pack! But, why tell us now, it would have been better to blow everyone away on Saturday qually. So I reckon it is to reasure the sponsors.

  6. Robert McKay
    21st March 2011, 13:40

    They should have just made the changes a bit more quietly and shut up about how much pace it brings. If it works they are suddenly well in the mix for victory and if it doesn’t work then everyone goes “well, Mclaren’s pre-season testing looked shonky at best”.

    Now Whitmarsh has put comments like ” a second per lap” it’s just more visible if it doesn’t work – or, even worse, does give them a second per lap but they still get creamed by RBR and Ferrari.

    Don’t see what’s gained by yelling about it before the weekend begins.

    1. Because sponsors want answers now, not a surprise at the track. Besides, it will be a confidence boost, instead of turning up and hoping for the best.

      1. Robert McKay
        21st March 2011, 14:22

        Is it really that pressing that it can’t wait 1 week?

        I take the point it will be a confidence boost – but if it doesn’t work, then the damage will be greater than if they’d said nothing.

        1. Who knows what sponsors’ demands are? They don’t see F1 the way we do. And I don’t think McLaren would talk themselves up without having some surety of improvement, for the reasons you said.

    2. Then again, nobody knew really how far off the pace they were before improving this one second, so they will be able to stick to it no matter what times they set.

  7. 1s does seem rather ambitious to be honest! Friday is going to be their first oppurtunity to test these components and by the end of FP2 we should know whether or not there is any truth in what McLaren are saying.

  8. ralph schumacer
    21st March 2011, 13:49

    i am a die hard McLaren fan but i cant help but to be slightly skeptical at the comments made my MW. U dont just find a second as if it was lying under a rug somewhere at the factory. These new parts havent even been tested and as far as i understand.. Units such as exhausts need to be tested over race distances just in case the exhausts sets parts of the car on fire. Lets wait until 3rd practise and we’ll see where the car stands.. Too soon to say parts work

    1. Let’s hope they do all the running they can then, even if it’s on destroyed tyres, reliability will definitely be important.

      1. bleeps_and_tweaks
        21st March 2011, 22:47

        Yep, you’ve got to imagine there are going to be some long runs for Jenson and Lewis in free practice, as long as the tyres hold up.

        @Ralph Schumacer – I get what you mean, it has annoyed me a bit too over the last couple of years how much shouting has been done about perceived performance gain from updates, which on a whole just haven’t materialised. The last time anyone was able to ‘find a second’ was in 2009 with the MP4-24, and that took half a season and almost a completely different car!

  9. I agree that to find a full second is not usual other than when a major fault has been found. And I agree that usually a gain of that magnitude comes from a car that was terribly slow to begin with…ie. top cars have to stretch just to find a tenth or two as their package already works as designed and can usually just be tweeked.

    But I don’t blame Mac for their extreme redesign… they had to try something to close the gap to RB and Ferrari…Unreliability got in their way of testing to the max, and now they’ve decided on something to improve the situation…I think this is normal for F1 and what is not normal vs. past years is the lack of testing in general and the abscence of in-season testing. Therefore Mac and everyone else will have to continue their development on race weekends.

    Based on that I wish them luck and believe that if anyone can close the gap they can, but I suspect that moreso than ever if you don’t nail your package in the off season it is damn hard to catch up.

    I agree with the above comment that they shouldn’t have said anything, unless they are trying to appease their sponsors, and they should have just brought it out, theoritacally impressed everyone, and then explained what they did to achieve the gain after the fact if said gain occurred.

    1. Saying that they can only find a second when the car was terribly slow to begin with… it was a good second off the pace at the fastest point in the tests and they are changing their exhaust back to a more conventional solution so they should be able to find a second fairly simply

      I at least hope anyway… they have one of the best drivers going in Lewis, they need to provide him a decent car!

  10. I’d love it if they somehow did a Brawn and wiped the floor with the rest of the field this weekend.

  11. Think that all this negativity towards Mclaren is a bit amusing, sure they have not been at the sharp end of testing but then they have constantly maintained that they have been mainly data gathering and not testing ultimate pace, combined with various comments from JB & LH about the fact there is pace in the car, never done a complete light fuel quali run, JB posting faster times than Webber when he had that thing strapped to the nose of the car simply says to me they have held something back and 1 sec is not solely down to the new parts but that they are pretty sure that they are quicker than we think anyway. I predict a few raised eyebrows at the end of the race

    1. EXACTLY Welshie, some teams concentrated on running their cars round and round. McLaren was seeing far into the season. with measuring equipment on the nose they now know the car better and it’s not surprising for them to know if they have found 1 sec. People rely too much on the testing to judge, let’s wait for the race not long anymore….

      1. F1lover…I am glad I have found someone who is on same wavelength as me, sure RB, Ferrari & Mercedes will be quick but have they shown all they have at present ?? I believe they will develop but Mclaren will also be there.

  12. I think Mclaren can pull something back but if they manage to make a load of upgrades work over one race weekend and develop themselves to the front of the grid already then I’ll be mega impressed.

    The last few days there have been a few comments that Mclaren aren’t delivering a car good enough for Lewis (which I disagree with) but I don’t want to forget Jenson either. Hamilton’s real trump card over Jenson was his incredible ability in qualifying to pull a few tenths out of the bag but back in the Michelin days that used to be an area Jenson excelled in so maybe it might close up between them a little more on a Saturday. So I’m not just interested to see if Mclaren can pull some time back- which I think in 09 they showed they’re more than capable ofn doing that- but how the drivers fair too.

    1. I agree, if they make these changes and get the reliabilty they seem to be struggling with it will be an impressive acheivement. The fact that they have effectively binned the development work at the other tests (changing exhausts and floorpans are extensive changes) is a bit of a roll of the dice. Can’t wait till Friday i reall hope this works for Jenson and Lewis.

  13. so do we expect to see the U shaped sidepods last all season..?

    or is something like that unchangeable..?

    1. Not a homologated area but from what I understand they arn’t the problem as such, although, I’m not sure there helping.

      Silly exhausts

      1. I’m no expert but doesn’t the configuration of the u shaped sidepods obstruct the amount of air flowing into the diffuser from the ‘coke bottle zone’ at the side. The area where Red Bull are very strong. clearly the trade off of air over the top of the side pods isnt equal to that which can be gained from from the side, hence this probably plays a part in McLarens lack of downforce.

        1. bleeps_and_tweaks
          21st March 2011, 22:54

          The U shaped sidepods are designed to channel air to the beam wing at the rear of the car, this has become a key area for downforce for every team since the double-diffuser was banned.

          Check this out for a brilliant review by ScarbsF1:

          I would expect the sidepods to stay for a while yet as the radiators and cooling systems are all integrated to fit into that shape, which I would imagine be a big job to change.

  14. They’re hardly going to say “If you think we look crap, it’s because we are”. Of course you’re going to come out and say more positive things if the perspective the fans have is one of mediocrity.

    This is the modern McLaren, where innovation either works straight out the box (f-duct) or takes them far too long to come up with and perfect a viable solution to something (EBD).

    McLaren over the last few years simply cannot copy someone else’s idea and get it to work correctly in a good space of time. The design office also needs to get real and quit this 2 tier design team. This was fine in the days of unlimited testing where you could spend as much time and money as you wanted correcting and testing components, but not in this era of restrictive F1.

    The 2009 car was terrible, no doubt about that, and it took part of the No. 2 design team (working on the 2010 car) to help correct the issues. Here we are again and should we really be surprised? Clearly the exhaust positioning hasn’t been working as expected, but they’ve taken far too long deliberating over it and it’s cost them valuable track time, which was limited in the first place as they missed the first test.

    Going back to the EBD, added on for the first time at Silverstone 2010, I seem to remember McLaren being very confident that they had got that right. I’ll just leave that comment as is.

    1. They’ve already ditched the two-tier system as Pat Fry left for Ferrari.

      1. McLaren do need to rethink their conpetual work. They seem to let their imaginaitions run away with them without considering draw backs.

        Still at least it makes it entertaining, a McLaren brining it considerable might to the table in a sensible fashion would be a sight to behold.

  15. A delivery driver told me this late last week and I put in down gossip with no truth.

  16. The 1 sec Whitmarsh talks about can’t indicate a thing here. Even if McLaren manages to find that 1 sec on a qualifying trim (which is easy to claim because no one – not even the team – has a clue about their quali pace from the testing; without all those bulky sensors and with the unlimited usage of DRS the car will be bit faster anyways), it’ll be very difficult to find same performance boost over the race distance.

    Even is they rollback the floor and exhaust to an old design which they knew to be working well, they would need a lot more testing than they actually did (with the conventional exhaust system) considering the new rule on weight distribution and their innovative side pod design.

    Some of us think finding the performance will be as easy as it was for Mercedes. It can’t be, because Mercedes had their basic car tested well and the updates were nothing but planned exhaust and aero enhancements of the base car they had.

    I’m not very optimistic about McLaren’s changes, realistically I hope they will be close enough in the fly away races to grab some important points and catch up the top teams in the European rounds.

    1. “The 1 sec Whitmarsh talks about can’t indicate a thing here. Even if McLaren manages to find that 1 sec on a qualifying trim (which is easy to claim because no one – not even the team – has a clue about their quali pace from the testing.”

      But they do have simulators where they can drive round a track and compare data/lap times ,and thats how to find out how much faster you are .

      1. We should call it simulator pace gain then :) If simulator data is that reliable then why bother to test on track?

  17. Whitmarsh is really putting himself on the line. If they are more than ~1.5s off the pace in Australia his name will be mud. This, coming after his absurd comments that the car kept breaking in testing because it was being pushed over the limit. This is a CEO taking ownership, setting goals, and setting benchmarks. Good. But these benchmarks now become the measure of his leadership.

    The only way to credit Whitmarsh’s comments is to assume that Mclaren simply have more development capacity than others. That is, they are able to run a greater multiplicity of design approaches and parts in testing, with the result that at the end of testing they will have developed an ideal package—on paper. Even if this were true, it means that this ideal package will never have been tested for reliability, and the drivers will be running a new floor, exhaust, etc. for first time on a race weekend. Are there enough new parts and fabrication capacity to do this; is there enough heat-shielding; is the balance there or will they cars be flying off the track. These are not hypotheticals, but the situation they were in last year post-Silverstone, taking the same approach: a car the drivers struggled to master from week to week and parts availabitliy crises.

    1. It’s ridiculous in someways, I reckon it might be put down to Whitmarsh, as an ex mechanic it’s possible he greenlights to mutch unrestrained wackery from his design team.

      McLaren despreatley need a bit of restructuring, possibly a new team principle, they can’t keep making the same mistakes forever.

  18. the biggest problem of mclaren team is, they think that they find something which will make their car faster on their pc, wind tunnel etc, but it really doesnt pay off on track.
    it was same story since 2009. think how many times you read withmarsh talking about a big update in recent years and think how many times mclaren made a big leap forward.

    so unless they had made a big change on their main design facilities at base, than the best they can do to get closer to teams like RBR and Ferrari by copying those teams, nothing more.

    to my experince, i cant see a reason to believe withmarsh and get excited, he was always over optimistic during his period.

  19. So different year – same McLaren. Will they be able to back up their promises this year?

  20. Seeing both cars finishing the race in Australia will be a huge surprise – really bad start for a top team. Can’t get why Whitmarsh plays a PR game that in some days will prove to be a hoax…

    1. Yes I have to admit with the reliability they’ve shown I can’t see either finishing the race really tbh!

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