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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Proesterchen said on 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!

    • Icthyes said on 21st March 2011, 13:52

      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.

  7. SupaSix-1 said on 21st March 2011, 13:00

    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.

    • Will said on 21st March 2011, 15:49

      “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?

      • Afonso Ronda said on 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.

        • bleeps_and_tweaks said on 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!!!

  8. 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.

  9. Cacarella said on 21st March 2011, 13:25

    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?

  10. Derek said on 21st March 2011, 13:34

    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.

  11. Robert McKay said on 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.

    • Icthyes said on 21st March 2011, 13:49

      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.

      • Robert McKay said on 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.

        • Icthyes said on 21st March 2011, 15:29

          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.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st March 2011, 13:50

      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.

  12. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 21st March 2011, 13:44

    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.

  13. ralph schumacer said on 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

    • Icthyes said on 21st March 2011, 14:03

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

      • bleeps_and_tweaks said on 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!

  14. Robbie (@robbie) said on 21st March 2011, 13:56

    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.

    • McGregski (@mcgregski) said on 22nd March 2011, 16:24

      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!

  15. Robbie said on 21st March 2011, 14:02

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

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