Whitmarsh: “One of the hardest days” for McLaren

2013 Australian Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Jenson Button, McLaren, Melbourne, 2013McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says practice today was “one of the hardest days I can recall”.

The MP4-28 was 2.3 seconds off the quickest car in the second practice session, and only the seventh-quickest team.

“We were lacking overall grip, consistency, we had understeer, poor ride,” said Whitmarsh. “So a very difficult day. One where we didn’t go forward either during the course of the day so that’s a bit of a concern. ”

“But a lot of data, the team will be, I’m sure, working hard and long tonight. We’ve given ourselves what should be a base that we can improve upon. Hopefully we can do so tomorrow. But a disappointing and tough day for the team.”

Whitmarsh defended the decision to radically overhaul their car during the off-season having ended 2012 as the fastest team.

“We made quite a lot of changes to the car running into this season and at the moment we don’t fully understand how to get the best out of this car,” he said.

“There’s a choice you make, it’s a season that lasts between now and the end of November. We’ve got to be able to race throughout that period of time, developing the car. That’s what we set out to do.

“Of course it’s much more comfortable to start the season competitively and then fight from that. We’ve done both in our time. But this feels pretty tough at the moment but we’re a strong team and able to find our way through.”

“We felt that we wanted to have the ability to develop the car between now and the end of this season we needed to make some changes,” he added. “Inevitably when you do that there’s a degree of risk in that, and that’s the judgement we made.”

“We still believe that we’ve got a platform that can we develop, a platform that we don’t know as well as the one that we’ve left.

“Undoubtedly if you took last year’s car and just concentrated on that, would we be quicker today? I think we would today, but would it have the development potential during the year?

“Then it was our judgement, we’ll see later whether we were right or wrong, but it was our judgement that we needed to make some changes, which is what we did.”

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107 comments on “Whitmarsh: “One of the hardest days” for McLaren”

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  1. After you read this article, check this thread in the forum section, hilarity has well and truly ensued.

    1. Unless you’re a McLaren fan ;)

    2. :D :D :D………(cannot stop laughing..)….

  2. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
    15th March 2013, 8:44

    Woah, woah, woah – what is this? Are McLaren repeating Ferrari’s story last year? I really, really hope not!

    1. Ferrari had a pretty good season last year. Alonso missed the championship by just 3 points. I think the McLaren car has much more potential than all the others. Its understandable that if you take an aggressive development approach it will take time to reap the benefits. All the other cars are evolutions and its easier to hit the ground running that way.

      Plus this is just Friday. I think they will still get into Q3 (just) and save a set of tyres for the race. Lets see.

      My only hope is to avoid a Vettel driving into the sunset leaving everyone behind. This weekend i am a fan of every single driver except Vettel. Dont get me wrong i like the guy, and am happy for him. But would like to see someone else win the championship for once. Unfortunately i dont see RedBull having such a troubled first half of the season as last year.

      1. “Ferrari had a pretty good season last year. Alonso missed the championship by just 3 points.”

        Agree, but unfortunately Mclaren don’t have Alonso.

        1. And they don’t have Hamilton anymore either…

      2. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
        23rd March 2013, 9:26

        @vjanik : I emant the start of the season, not the end.

    2. @shreyasf1fan From my perspective at the track (Turns 11-12) the McLaren looked like they were struggling. Compared to the Ferrari, Red Bull, Lotus, even Mercedes, they looked like they really struggled. Nervous mid-corner and obvious under steer. Doesn’t bode well.

      1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
        15th March 2013, 12:58

        Yeah turns 11-12 are high-speed, and Martin Whitmarsh said today that they had grip issues etc. So, I really hope they clear the mess by qualifying tomorrow.

        1. @shreyasf1fan Yeah it’s VERY quick – ridiculous seeing them in real life you get a grip of how quick they are. I could also hear them come off throttle and the McLarens were backing off a touch through 12. But the likes of Ferrari & Red Bull & Lotus (who look very stable) were flat out. They looked only slightly better on the option tyres as well.

          1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
            16th March 2013, 2:42

            @ nackavich :Oh! You were on track yesterday? Cool! :)
            And I think it’s gonna be a poor first half season for McLaren!

    3. McLaren are rapidly descending into the type of irrelevance that Williams F1 descended into betn 1998 and….now. Fading sponsors, indifferent car, intrigue …. I am too old to support a new team. How did it come to this?

      1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
        23rd March 2013, 9:28

        @anilsk2013 : Actually, that is a bit too far-fetched assumption. McLaren will probably improve through the season and finish up 4th or 5th in Constructor’s.

  3. Mclaren may be able to develop the car and find 3 seconds in pace. But the other cars may find 1 second and mclaren is still behind them. It may take mclaren half the season to catch up and then it may be over. I think mclaren has made a mistake designing a new car. I guess time will tell.

  4. McLaren are looking even worse than Ferrari exactly one year ago. What the hell happened? The car looked completely rubbish, the most obvious problem I noticed was how unstable it looked under braking, there was no stopping the car, it’s moving up and down, left and right.

    Question now: because the rules are so stable, could they theoretically bring back the MP4-27? Would the rules allow that?

    1. Hey thats an interesting point. Dont think it will happen given all the resources spent on the 2013 car, but i think it would be allowed. They might have to make some minor changes.

      I’d like to see them try Sergio in the old car and Jenson in the new car (like in the old days). Would be an interesting comparison. Or use the old car for the first few races and spend time developing the new one.

    2. I’d very much like a well considered answer to your question because I’ve been thinking pretty much the same thing.

      Not only is it a question of whether or not the rules would allow it, but also if it is technically feasible, affordable and justifiable for a team like Mclaren who lets not forget is also developing road cars these days. It certainly wouldn’t go down well from a publicity/marketing standpoint to bring back an old car.

      The lead time for production of components is also probably quite long for a lot of F1 car parts these days and they are incredibly intricate machines, so many of the components will be sourced from different suppliers.

      On the subject of the Mclaren suspension setup I share your sentiments. See my comment here: http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2013/03/15/2013-australian-grand-prix-practice-result-fp2/#comment-1194076

      1. @panache @roald I’m not sure whether it would be allowed, however the MP4-27 would be well off the pace as well now, as it probably hasn’t been loaded into the simulator for a while, hasn’t gone through three development tests etc etc.

    3. As I understand it the chassis has to be homologated before the season starts, and can only be changed in exceptional circumstances (e.g. Virgin in 2010, who initially weren’t able to accommodate a race’s worth of fuel in their car). Having homologated the MP4-28 for this season, they wouldn’t be able to race the MP4-27 instead.

    4. David not Coulthard (@)
      15th March 2013, 15:07

      could they theoretically bring back the MP4-27? Would the rules allow that?

      If so then Button should ask Vettel about driving a car from a previous season (and how often Vettel finished in those races in which he used an old car – let alone in the points).

  5. This sounds very much like McLaren have decided to make a worse car so they can develop it over the course of the season. Hopefully for them that means that the end product will be better than if they just stuck with a similar car to last year.

    But I can’t help but think they have made a boo boo. But it sounds very much like Ferrari from last year and look at Alonso. Granted Button and Perez aren’t as good as him but Ferrari made it work.

    It’s so hard to judge from the first few races, I just hope they can fight near the top so we can have 5 good teams rather than 4.

    1. Maybe we now know why they were so keen on Perez. After all, he showed he can get to the podium after starting behind the top 10 several times last year :-)

  6. I don’t believe it, McLaren sandbagging, apparently with actual bags of wet sand.

    1. @tindrum

      Haha! Apparently so!

    2. You can actually hear them squelching..

    3. Maybe Red Bull left the bags in their cars when they unloaded them after the Barcelona test :-)

  7. There should be no excuse from Jenson, he needs to get the car performing.
    Sergio should be top 3 at least.

    1. Yes, yes blame the drivers for the car…

      1. Yes yes, they shouldn’t performing any less.
        They had the fastest car last year and Jenson is the most experienced driver on the grid.

        1. As far as I’m aware Button isn’t solely responsible for designing and building this years cars.

          1. Yes i know, but he is now leader and his job is to lead his team of engineers to the right direction. This will test his metal to see if he has technical aptitude and can help his engineers develop a race winning car.

          2. It’s only the second practice of the season…
            Not even Alonso was that quick in making the car perform sort of well…

    2. There should be no excuse from Jenson

      Im sure Jenson is sitting in his room right now and writing down a whole new list of excuses –

      It will probably start with the usual suspects –

      1) Lack of grip
      2) Cant find a balance
      3) Massive understeer

      And for the 1st time in years he will be adding some new excuses to his repertoire –

      4) Instability under braking
      5) Tyre degradation issues
      6) Massive oversteer (When he isn’t using massive understeer)
      7) Inconsistent handling
      8) Tyre temperatures


      1. Massive oversteer (When he isn’t using massive understeer)…..LOL

      2. David not Coulthard (@)
        15th March 2013, 15:10

        Except they’ll be a bit closer to being true than last year.

  8. It seems like Mclaren experiences similar feeling of Ferrari last year.

  9. Oh dear, forgive me for feeling no sympathy whatsoever. Mr Button has done a sterling job with his technical input on this car, then.

    1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
      15th March 2013, 9:06

      @iamjamm : Yes, I share that opinion. Button messed up.

      1. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
        15th March 2013, 10:35

        I don’t see how Jenson can be blamed for a bad car. The input of drivers in car development is massively over emphasised and I doubt they could make any more difference than a couple of tenths.

        1. It stands to reason that the massive overhauls was done to appease Button who never really could get a handle on the previous car.

          Besides, he never was much good at developing a car. Remember BAR/Honda? Even at Brawn I got the feeling that he was looking more at Barrichello to get something developed or a setup devised than that he was doing much of that himself.

    2. @iamjamm..so in theory you saying that last year Ferrari was the dog of a car because Mr Alonso did not give proper inputs?? mate its the team management who decides the direction of the development not the driver

      1. @smokinjoe I’m not sure the Ferrari drivers have as much input into car design as the McLaren drivers. Ferrari certainly don’t have a simulator anywhere near as good as McLaren’s, and as far as I can tell, the drivers don’t put in the same amount of hours in the sim as the McLaren guys do. It’s well documented that a lot of Ferrari’s problems were down to their problems with the wind tunnel as well, with the data not correlating with what they saw on track.

        If Alonso had come out over the winter and said “The team have really listened to my direction” as Jenson did in Autosport, and the car turned out as bad as last season’s Ferrari, I would be commenting about that too.

  10. And so the odds for a fourth consecutive title for Vettel and Red Bull shorten.

  11. Oh God, here we go again!

    2009 – Terrible car to start the season and nothing but cries of how bad McLaren are and how they need to give Lewis a good car.
    2013 – It APPEARS they have another bad car to start the season and what do you know, the Hamilton fanatic boys tell the world it’s cause Hamilton isn’t there and Button is no good.

    Is anyone else getting bored of this trend?

    1. @nick101
      2009 – massive technical changes with the introduction of the double diffuser. Plus McLaren had been in the WDC hunt up to the very end (literally the last corner of the last race) which impacted the design of the 2009 car.
      2013 – almost negligible technical changes, McLaren had the fastest car in the preceding season and they were out of the title hunt long before the season was over.
      Please do not even for one minute think these are comparable situations.

      1. Please do not even for one minute think that because the technical regulations are stable, any Mclaren car weakness this year is Button’s fault.

      2. @sebsronnie

        almost negligible technical changes

        Dude, are you even serious? Have you been living under a rock?
        The McLaren is a completely different beast to last year with completely new geometry. Have you not read or listened to anything since the launch?

        All teams are basically running last years car, except McLaren.

        Let me guess, next thing you will be telling us is that the reason Merc are now competitive is cause Hamilton is there! haha

        Let’s just forget that Rosberg did him by 4/10ths in second practice shall we?

        1. @nick101 I think @sebsronnie meant negligible technical rule changes. The rule changes for this year, required only a comprehensive evolution of previous year’s chassis. I don’t think he was specifically pinpointing the McLaren.

          All teams are basically running last years car, except McLaren.

          Sauber have gone for a radical changeover too.

          Let me guess, next thing you will be telling us is that the reason Merc are now competitive is cause Hamilton is there! haha

          Let’s just forget that Rosberg did him by 4/10ths in second practice shall we?

          I completely agree. If Mercedes have made any giant strides forward(as seems to be evident thus far), then Schumacher’s technical input will have been more of an asset to the F1W04, than a man who first set foot inside Brackley in December last year.

  12. I’m quite surprised that they changed the car so much. In November they were quickest by a good margin, I don’t understand why they started from zero in this season. Whitmarsh says that they can improve, that the car has potential, I have no doubt about it, but is it going to be better than last year’s car with the adjustments they would have done over the winter? They don’t seem to know if it is the case.

    2013 will probably be a strange season. There is a major rule change ahead and the teams can’t allow to put all their efforts on the 2013 car. I think that Mclaren, Ferrari and Brawn in 2009 proved this point. Whitmarsh suggests that they are going to develop their car, but isn’t it going to affect their next season too?

    I’m obviously in no position to judge after three hours of free practice, but I don’t understand why Mclaren did this.

    1. @yobo01 I might be wrong but from what I’ve read McLaren had developed the MP4-27 as far as they could so they have redesigned the car to make it more develop-able through this season… In theory this is a good way to go but probably relies on them starting at least close to the pace they had at the end of last season.

      McLaren will bounce back… the test will be in the feedback from the drivers and how long it takes the developments to be delivered

  13. What a hilarious start to the season. And by hilarious I mean ironic. The RBR looks incredibly planted, and the McLaren looks worse than the Ferrari last year, and suddenly the mercedes looks second or third fastest, with that purple sector of Hamilton’s on his last lap looking very interesting. The irony being of course, that everyone said merc’ is a bad move for HAM, and that RBR have probably not even shown their absolute (relative to track and conditions of course) pace.
    What have they (McLaren) done?
    Is this because, as I have read over the past two years that McLaren have two design teams, who like Intel processors release them on a tick tock basis, so each design team has overall control on alternative years?
    Or is this, more likely, Ron Dennis’ aversion to having a ‘superstar’ designer in effective control of all aspects of the car. This happened when john Barnard left McLaren to join Ferrari, and Ron said he would never hire such a character again, although he eventually did when he hired Adrian Newey. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two periods when these characters were in charge of design were McLaren’s most succesful spells of late. (The early 90’s dominance was, IMO, almost certainly influenced heavily from the structure and technical elements that John Barnard put in place, and for those who don’t know, Barnard introduced the coke bottle shape to the back of F1 cars, and introduced the full carbon fibre chassis, both in his McLaren years. He also did the semi-automatic flappy paddle gearbox later in a Ferrari. What a guy !!! I actually rate him over Newey, although I rate Rory Byrne over both of them in some respects.)

    1. Bernard also designed some slow dragons at Ferrari. After the F189, there wasn’t much innovation from him. And fully agree on Byrne, a master in evolving cars and still making them look pretty.

      1. :-) Excellent. I love a Byrne fan. I think he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves generally. Everyone knows Newey, and Brawn, and even Sam Michael’s name is probably more well known amongst F1 fans than Rory’s. Maybe it was down to what was, even I have to admit, quite a boring time for F1 in many ways. I keep hearing rumourss he helped turn around last years design team, and is also involved in the 2014 car as well, but aside from vague comments no actual concrete evidence of what he’s doing.

        1. I think the reason Byrne doesn’t get attention, is because he doesn’t look for it. Even when living in Italy, he did a good job of detouring the media to Jean’s and Michael’s homes. ;)

          But yeah, from what I’ve read on the Italian sites, is well working with next year’s Ferrari car. Not in charge, but I think it’s more in the lines of bringing up youngsters in his design process while aiding aero innovation around the new engine.

          And you’re right, especially how the newer generation of F1 fans also don’t really know the once might of a certain Patrick Head, or Martinelli. ;)

          1. thanks @ivano. I’m guessing you are italian/have italian heritage and can speak/read Italian. That’s got to be a good thing for an F1 fan to have… :-)

  14. If Hamilton finishes above both McLaren and drivers, he will be laughing himself to sleep.

    1. Would he really if four other teams still finish above him?

    2. let’s hope he can keep it on the track for a grand prix distance…

  15. Sorry. on my laptop, and I occasionally knock the trackpad and then hit enter which posts early…

    The upshot to the above of course, being that the design process is more comittee led with different design teams responsible for different areas, and this can lead to variances in overall behaviour that are not fully understood in practice, even though the potential is there for increased performance.

    Or is it that Paddy Lowe, who knew he was leaving anyway put a spanner in the works. Literally. There is an actual spanner in there.

    Please, please only take the top suggestion seriously. Formula one engineers obviously never get involved in those types of shenanigans… Cough, Cough, Coughlan.

  16. never have mcalren needed hamilton so badly!

  17. Perhaps next year they’ll come to the first race with only three wheels on the car so there’s even more development potential for them to exploit throughout the year?

    1. LoL. Or perhaps just bring a pile of metal and carbon fibre and wiring. Whitmarsh: “This pile of metal and carbon fibre may not be as quick as last year’s car, but it is something we can improve for the rest of the year. It’s a bad day for McLaren, yes, but we work through these times and we’re a racing team, and it’s a good racing spectacle, but we expect to be there or thereabouts by the season end.”

    2. LOL too. Whitmarsh should really go into politics. The amount of spin in incredible, no pun intended.
      I am not sure Ham would have made much difference. There’s no magic, if the car doesn’t turn in, even his tattoos aren’t going to change that.

      1. @nickfrog, you never know. The joke at the time was that if Mansell’s moustache somehow made him a half a second quicker, than his two eye moustaches must make him a full second quicker overall….. Perhaps Hamilton should have went for red-stripey tattoos. EVERYONE knows that red stripes make you go faster.

        1. Fair enough Paul !

  18. I can’t quite work my head around this. All through the off-season, McLaren have been very confident about their car for this year. Even Lewis said that he knew what he was leaving behind for this year was going to be a very good car. And now they’ve had testing where they didn’t set the world alight (and have said they could not match the time of the Mercedes around Circuit De Catalunya) and have turned up in Australia anywhere between 1s-2.5s off the pace.

    So, this begs the question, is there simulator as amazing as everyone says or were they telling porkie-pies all winter? Either, they knew the car was going to be a dog (and as it is further off the pace than last years Ferrari was, dog IS the appropriate term) and were simply lying about it to prevent speculation or the simulator has been giving them false information and they genuinely thought the car was a diamond. I can’t really find any reason as to why they would try and hide the fact the car is bad when they would have known that they would turn up at the first race and be miles off the pace so I can only assume there is some anomoly in the data from the simulator/wind tunnel and what they actually have on the track.

    Also, while Button does not design the car, it’s the job of the driver to tell the team how the car is handling and where it could be improved so he does have some input in to the design. He was rather pleased with himself in an edition of Autosport a while ago about how he was able to get the team to design the car to his liking. Well, it’s turned out well hasn’t it. Yes, 2009 was a pants car too and Hmailton likely had something to do with that, but, as has been said, there were major technical changes that season, where this season the regulations have largely remained the same but McLaren chose to design a brand new car. So, the situations are different and they really only have themselves to blame.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same team that designed the 2009 car have designed the 2013 one and they were/are both rubbish.

    1. @iamjamm

      Would that also be the same team who designed the 2011 car?

      You know, the car Jenson drove to WDC position that was twice as good as any WDC position Hamilton has achieved in the last 4 years.

      1. @nick101

        Yes, the same team who took the good 2010 car as a base and evolved it. But, the same team who when tasked with producing brand new cars from scratch, have clearly failed. That is the point I was trying to make.

  19. 23kennyboy23
    15th March 2013, 10:08

    Reminds me of ferrari last year, saying they’d take risks etc. Looks to have backfired.

    1. 23kennyboy23
      15th March 2013, 10:09

      Also, Gary Anderson has made some terrible calls so far.

  20. We will see how Button will perform in the first races ,how he will try to make the most of this situation especially in wet conditions, as for Perez i think that this is maybe be the hardest situation that he will deal since he has been in F1

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