McLaren: Fuel and pit errors add to problems

2011 British GP team review

McLaren abandoned their planned rear wing upgrade after it did not perform as desired in practice.

But the situation got worse in qualifying, as the team seemed to be badly affected by the new restrictions on exhaust-blowing.

Lewis Hamilton Jenson Button
Qualifying position 10 5
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’32.376 (+0.478) 1’31.898
Race position 4
Laps 52/52 39/52
Pit stops 3 3

McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2011drivercolours.csv
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52
Lewis Hamilton 120.323 112.86 111.779 114.055 112.279 112.273 111.387 110.886 111.404 111.461 111.096 108.305 127.002 104.017 103.156 101.643 100.996 101.244 99.877 99.827 99.21 99.222 99.58 96.235 116.7 97.63 98.858 98.287 98.247 98.016 98.119 97.412 97.814 97.726 97.809 98.139 94.517 114.254 96.18 96.801 96.453 97.309 96.782 97.158 96.961 98.494 97.4 98.396 98.476 98.255 98.67 99.202
Jenson Button 119.638 115.714 113.023 113.629 112.812 113.078 112.975 112.315 111.75 111.532 107.865 127.49 106.073 106.568 102.783 101.475 101.136 100.916 100.958 99.969 99.707 99.235 99.283 99.194 98.94 96.032 116.955 98.215 97.869 97.981 96.982 97.284 97.461 97.269 97.197 97.266 97.335 97.379 93.666
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Silverstone, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Silverstone, 2011

Lewis Hamilton

Poor tyre choice in Q3 compounded McLaren’s woes for Hamilton, leaving him tenth on the grid.

Having aborted a run on soft tyres in Q1 when it began to rain he used the same tyres again at the beginning of Q3. The intention was to use a new set at the end of Q3, but the arrival of more rain made that impossible.

He made rapid progress from tenth on the grid picking up four places, sweeping past Paul di Resta on the run to Stowe on lap one.

He picked off Button on the run to Brooklands on lap two and chased after Felipe Massa’s Ferrari.

After his messy performances at Monaco and Canada, it was back to classic Hamilton – though he was perhaps a little too fond of the run-off at Brooklands, sliding wide onto the asphalt more than once.

He switched to slicks before Massa which allowed him to get past the Ferrari. His next target was Fernando Alonso.

On lap 15 at Copse Hamilton ducked out from behind the Ferrari and took third place.

But it proved a temporary switch. Ten laps later Alonso, his tyres now fully up to temperature, took the place back easily in the DRS zone.

As the conditions swung from wet to dry, Hamilton found himself defending instead of attacking. He came under sustained pressure from Sebastian Vettel, who had been delayed by a slow pit stop. Vettel didn’t find a way past, but by making a final stop one lap before Hamilton he was able to demote the McLaren.

Hamilton now had Mark Webber on his tail, and his team warning him that he had to back off to save fuel.

“We?d expected him to encounter more traffic in the first part of the race than he actually did,” explained Martin Whitmarsh. “As a result, he used more fuel early on than we?d anticipated he would.”

Webber got past Hamilton in the DRS zone in much the same way Alonso had.

With six laps to go, Hamilton urged the team to give him more information on his fuel situation as Massa was reeling him in once more. It came down to a desperate tussle on the final lap.

Massa tried to get around Hamilton on the outside at Vale. Hamilton clipped the Ferrari and switched back to get the inside line at Club. As Massa took to the run off, Hamilton pipped him to the line by two-hundredths of a second.

Hamilton said: “Before the end, I had to start saving fuel: you have to lift and coast, which means the brake temperatures drop. So I had no brakes, and that?s why I kept locking up. That allowed Mark to slip ahead of me and meant I was defending from Felipe in the closing laps.

??On the final lap, the team gave me the order to push as hard as I could, but Felipe had already closed the gap by that point, so it was difficult to defend. That last lap was as close as it?s ever going to get!

“In the final corner I stayed on the inside and braked as hard as I could. Fortunately, we both got around the corner in one piece and I just pipped him at the finish.”

Whitmarsh praised Hamilton’s last-lap efforts as a “testament to his indefatigable competitiveness”.

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Button was the quickest McLaren driver in qualifying but could only manage fifth, one-and-a-half seconds off Mark Webber.

He started well, passing Massa, but fell back behind the Ferrari and his team mate as he struggled on the intermediate tyres.

He came back into contention after switching to slicks, attacking Massa on lap 14. He swept around the outside at Stowe and took the place under braking at Vale.

The team planned to pit Button on lap 37 to jump him ahead of Webber. But after telling him their plan on the radio it was broadcast and overheard by Red Bull, who immediately responded by bringing Webber in.

Having lost the opportunity to get him past, McLaren brought Button in on the next lap. But his front-right wheel man dropped the nut and the car was mistakenly sent out onto the track. The wheel worked loose immediately and Button pulled over at the pit lane exit.

Whitmarsh defended the team afterwards, saying: “Our pit crew has done a fantastic job all year ?ǣ but on this occasion they released Jenson before his right-front wheel had been properly attached.

“It was a case of human error in the heat of the moment ?ǣ but, as I say, and as I want to stress the point, our pit crew has completed dozens of faultless pit stops under extreme pressure this season and today?s error was therefore totally atypical.”

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

2011 British Grand Prix

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79 comments on McLaren: Fuel and pit errors add to problems

  1. tharris19 said on 12th July 2011, 13:52

    Button and Hamilton are both great drivers but McLaren has drop the ball since Whitmarsh has been team manager. Team and car issues have been McLaren’s problem since 2009. If there are no changes in the design and management departments they will find themselves struggling with Merc, Renault and Sauber.
    Such a shame, so many resources and so little to show for it.

  2. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 12th July 2011, 22:48

    Stunning stuff from Hamilton, tempted to give him my driver of the race vote. From 10th to 4th is great and he certainly provided drama while he did so. I also liked his ‘platinum card’ joke.

    Disappointment for Button, he sounded so frustrated on the radio. I have been sticking up for that mechanic ever since, surely it was the lollipop man’s mistake?! As soon as the camera focussed on a rather confused mechanic looking at two wheel nuts I couldn’t help but think ‘hmm, one of them should be on that car’.

    Qualifying sounds like a typical McLaren approach, too much though.

  3. Johnny86 said on 13th July 2011, 2:08

    After the 2nd round of pit stops he was blocking(very well i must say) vettel. He was around .5-1 sec slower. Surely he was not saving fuel so early. Ferrari were lapped by Mclaren at barcelona . And now they have the pace to not only overtake back, but to build a gap of over 10 secs in handful amount of laps that too in the most aero dependent circuit. Ferrari brought a huge update which acc. To stella gave them around a sec.(autosprint). Now Mclaren brought a few new items and they didnt even race it. In valencia there were even talks of the mclaren going back due to updates. So i think i am right in saying that Mclaren have been thumped by ferrari on the development ground so far.

  4. Johnny86 said on 13th July 2011, 2:10

    After the 2nd round of pit stops,he was just blocking(very well i must say) vettel. He was around .5-1 sec slower.Surely he was not saving fuel so early. Ferrari were lapped by Mclaren at barcelona . And now they have the pace to not only overtake back, but to build a gap of over 10 secs in handful amount of laps that too in the most aero dependent circuit. Ferrari brought a huge update which acc. To stella gave them around a sec.(autosprint). Now Mclaren brought a few new items and they didnt even race it. In valencia there were even talks of the mclaren going back due to updates. So i think i am right in saying that Mclaren have been thumped by ferrari on the development ground so far.

  5. manatcna (@manatcna) said on 13th July 2011, 5:57

    I agree with tharris19 – How long would Whitmarsh last as a football manager?

    Not very long, I’d bet.

  6. VXR said on 13th July 2011, 10:58

    Button the problem!

    It’s no secret that 90% of the car set up comes from Button’s side of the garage. Just ask John Watson.

  7. Scuderia Britalia Racing "Lucas - Mr. Veloce" said on 18th July 2011, 19:48

    Hey Keith, I am really despeate for an answer so please listen. I am doing a powerpoint on which what I think would be the team’s driver’s next season. What I like is a little shakeup in the driver’s market, I don’t like one season to be identical to the other in terms of the drivers and where they are and the calender and what races are in order. I was just wondering, if Hamilton was to leave McLaren for Red Bull in place of Webber and Button departed for Ferrari replacing Massa, who would be McLaren’s drivers?

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