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.”

2013 F1 season

Browse all 2013 F1 season articles

Image ?é?® McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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

Jump to comment page: 1 2
  1. But, for all we know, they might be able to look at the data, sort it out and go out and blitz it tomorrow. you can never count Mclaren out, lets be honest.

  2. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
    15th March 2013, 10:39

    Lewis must be feeling pretty smug right now.

    1. Yes the view from the gravel trap is lovely this time of year.

      1. Im struggling to understand why so many are pointing out LH’s extra-circuit excursions. Mike Shuwey was known for running off in practice. He did this to test the limits of the traction; and thats why its called PRACTICE.

        I am by no means a LH fan, but a lets keep the hating in the realm of relevancy at least…

      2. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
        15th March 2013, 21:09

        In Friday practice… I’d say a minor bit of damage and ending up in the gravel trap is a hell of a lot better than being 2.5 seconds off the leaders.

  3. It’s a bit of an odd situation this. On the face of it, you have to say that McLaren have made a mistake, trying an aggressive new approach in the hope that it will pay off in the not too distance future. However, for that to be successful, they will need the other top teams to reach a development plateaux, whilst they continuously develop the car until it has sufficient gains in order to surpass the field. Now, if that happens, and teams like Red Bull and Ferrari can only make very minimal gains, and we also say that McLaren is somewhere between 1-2 seconds off the pace now (I don’t think their lap times today were truly representative, as they were probably chasing data rather than lap times), then that is quite a task they have in front of them.

    Ferrari seemed to have sorted the majority of their issues that plagued them last season by Barcelona, and after that, though they lacked some downforce, still had a pretty decent car, though they did have the help of the Mugello test. So, if McLaren are facing the same demons as Ferrari this time last year, which does look shockingly similar, then they have until the fifth race to sort it out and get any hopes of a title charge back on track.

    Between now and then, they will definitely need a fair bit of luck, if the car is as bad as it seemed today, and perhaps some changeable conditions in Melbourne, Malaysia and China, all of which do tend to have a reasonable chance of rain, in order to keep them within reach of teams like Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and maybe Mercedes too. It would be even better for them if these teams swapped about and took points from each other early on…though it looks more to me that Red Bull is leading the field.

    It goes without saying that they need to sort their issues out as soon as humanly possible, but if they develop the car, and reach a point where they are too far behind in points to achieve anything worthwhile, or even worse, reach a point in development where they can only match the top teams, then they will look completely foolish, when they could have used a platform which may not have had as much development potential, but would have been right at the front from the word go.

    Then, there’s the obvious case of, if they use the entire year trying to sort their problems to get back to the front, whilst the rival teams understand that there isn’t much development potential left and switch more focus to 2014, then McLaren will just be falling further behind…

    I had high hopes for Jenson and McLaren this year, and though it’s quite early to say, I’m disappointed already. I’ve only been a McLaren ‘fan’ since 2010, but I don’t envy those who have had to put up with them for the past 13 years, save for one or two reasonably successful years.

    Anyway, it’s time to put up, or shut up, McLaren.

    1. Yup, In short Mclaren are most likely screwed unless they can make the car faster than rivals before mid-season and maintain an advantage throughout the 2nd half of the season. In addition they’ll need a decent dose of good fortune and driving performances to match Alonso’s last year whilst they get up to speed.

    2. I’ve been following them for 23 years through the tag years, Honda years and even the dark ford and peugot years. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe we need to wait until 2015?

    3. Well the problem is that Button can only score big when when the car is perfect unlike alonso who knicking points even with a dog of a car ,just wondering by the time we see mclaren surge it may be too late in season to win championship.Last year with one of the fastest car most of the season they could not won either championships ,so with this car and no hamilton on board things do look bit gloomy for mclaren

    4. I think the other teams will plateau, especially with regulation changes in 2014 and teams come to the end of the evolution of their cars.

      If you look at RBR they started off crap and got the car to dominate by the end of the season, Brazil aside, but then that race (relatively speaking) was lost due to driver skill rather than the car.

      As a Button fan it’s a frustrating place to be in, however, i don’t think all is lost regarding sundays race. Their long run pace is better than their short run pace and Button works well at strategy games. Plus Mclaren have a good history of developing a car over a season. I do expect Mclaren to pull back any deficit they accrue early on. Wether it is enough for titles who knows.

      1. If you look at RBR they started off crap and got the car to dominate by the end of the season, Brazil aside, but then that race (relatively speaking) was lost due to driver skill rather than the car.

        There wasn’t really a “dominant” car in 2012, nor did RBR have the fastest car at the end of the season, when Mclaren won the final 2 races.

  4. Very poor decision from McLaren with an overhauled Car which thay will have to “Upgrade” throughout the year to reduce the gaps with the Top Teams.. By the time they will get the Best out of it, they will probably be fighting for 5th in Constructor’s Title..

    At a time when they should have kept the Strong Base Car from last year and saved energy and money for 2014…

    1. I was thinking the same. Who on earth gave money to the nutcase that desided to change the whole design of last years great car base when you have big changes in the rules for 2014. Imagine what would they do for 2014 car?!?!

  5. Can’t believe some commenters are blaming McLaren’s current lack of pace on Jenson Button. While a driver has a great deal of input in developing the car, judging from some peoples opinions you’d swear Jenson had designed the thing and screwed every nut and bolt in personally.

    1. Hear, hear.

      1. @colossal-squid @keithcollantine +1, I completely agree. If jenson is to be blamed for this year’s poor pace of the McLaren, then Alonso should be blamed for the slow car Ferrari had last year. This thing is totally unfair on Button. Button can be probably blamed if he is the Chief Designer of McLaren.

        Did I see somebody smile from the Mercedes Garage ??????

  6. The problem I see is that McLaren have lost a reference point when Lewis left.

    Lewis was exceptional at one lap pace no matter what the car was, so they probably could not compare the old car to the new one as well as they could have!

    My problem with Button is that he struggled to find the right setup throughout last year, so how can he give any meaningful output? Is it his setup or the car that is messed up?

    1. Yes yes, I guess you’re right. I mean, after all, last year at Melbourne Hamilton did out qualify Button by a whole 3/100th’s of a second.

      Now that Hamilton is gone, the reference point is SHOT!

      1. yh afterall Lewis got 6 poles in 2012 alone , to Jenson 1 pole in 3 yrs at Macca lol . Do i need to say more – because when they both finished same race Hamilton trounced him.

        1. ermmm NO, maybe last year, Button had some poor form by his own admission but if you watched 2010, Button often crossed the line less than ONE second behind Lewis. Not bad for a first year in a new team with a car designed around an incumbent team mate acknowledged as being one of F1s fastest racing drivers.

          Now Lewis has gone to Mercedes, it seems obvious which driver is going to become top dog there after only two sessions and yet Button came out on top over three years against Lewis, which while it is not the whole picture for sure, still does Button a huge amount of credit.

          1. Button came out top dog over Lewis? He got beaten by Lewis 2 years out of 3.
            Also, last year Lewis had 5 retirements vs Buttons 2. Lewis still beat Button. They were mangled by pit stop and mechanical failures, but Lewis too the worst of it.

            Button DID NOT come out as top dog by any means.

  7. do the the math last there were times when Lewis was taking pole and wining races,and Button could not get out of q2..Based on Buttons performance lat year the Mclaren wasnt the fastest car…he went 5 races scoring 5 points.
    so who knows the car might be good,Button just cant lead the developement,rember last yr they tried a seperated development path with Button to give him an edge,it failed miserably…so why is any one surprise….be ready for a period of mediocrity….

    1. Why do you base this on one example, when there are plenty of examples of Button’s prowess in developing the car? For example, the number of occasions when he chose the right path, compared to Hamilton, like in Monza and Spa.
      Cast your mind back to 2004, when the Ferrari was possibly at its most dominant, and who finished 3rd in the Driver’s? Oh yes, it was LEAD driver, Jenson Button.

      He can have issues with setup, as with all drivers, but to say that the car ‘might be good’, when clearly you can see from the shots that it’s not as good as the lead teams, is a little bit ignorant. I’m sure if it was just the setup, then the team wouldn’t have looked as forlorn as they had done today.

      1. Thats not one example, that’s five races, hence five examples.

  8. Time to change my predictions

  9. This is 2009 all over again! :(

  10. I’m trying to remain calm at least until qualifying, but it looks like an unmitigated disaster for McLaren so far. I don’t doubt that the MP4-28 has more development potential than the MP4-27, but at the same time it isn’t difficult to imagine the MP4-27 being on par with the RBR and Ferrari cars if they’d developed it through the winter instead…

    …so they get their increased development potential, but it looks like it may have cost them 1.5 – 2 seconds a lap at the moment, in a car that appears to be much more difficult to set-up. Furthermore, they’ll likely be asleep at the wheel for the beginning of next season as well, as a result of developing the MP4-28 into something that can win races, while the other teams remain focused on their 2014 concepts. Not sure that’s a wise trade-off.

    Why does my favorite F1 team have to be so infuriating?

    1. but at the same time it isn’t difficult to imagine the MP4-27 being on par with the RBR and Ferrari cars if they’d developed it through the winter instead…

      I completely disagree with this, Vettels time in FP1 was only 3 tenths up on what Button did in the mp4-27 in FP1 last year (also taking into account that this years tyres are supposed to be faster over one lap)…. last year FP2 was rain hit but comparing last years FP3 times with this years FP2… Hamiltons 1m25.681 with vettels 1m25.908….. take in to account that the mclaren had been developed all year.. with a little evolution I think it would be at least as fast as this years RedBull.

  11. David not Coulthard (@)
    15th March 2013, 15:34

    In 1988 McLaren was the only team to design a car focussing on that year’s rules (Ironically enough the rule change in 1989 was the loss of the turbocharger). We all know what happened, but 2013 might be the antithesis of 1988.

    A European and South American pair, the South american was replacing a European, the European still racing was a title winner while the South American wasn’t a champion, and so on. Both can be seen in the 1988 and 2013 McLaren.

    Both seasons are looking pretty similar – except the cigar brand McLaren Project IV car – and at which side of the F1 door the turbos were.

  12. If the lack of performance continue for Mclaren, Should they take a modest team’s approach to the race and try the long stints less pit stops strategy?

  13. Red Bull have been evolving their car from 2009 and haven’t seem to run out of ‘potential’, yet, Mclaren who in the current era of the 2009 regulations (if i’m not mistaken) evolved their car only once from 2011 – 2012 are now saying if they evolved the 2012 car over to 2013, it would have run out of potential?

    1. You are wright man 100%.

  14. Put a pull rod front suspension on the car and you’ll start with 2 seconds of the pace …..but you could end up fighting for the title. I think that the biggest problem was that everybody expected Maca to be at the front from race. Maybe it’sto early for conclusions. We’ll see.

  15. Lot’s of interesting comments, and I admit here to being a massive Lewis fan, and not much of a Button lover, but there does seem to be a leaning toward saying Hamilton is such a big loss relevant to the new car’s pace. I love Lewis and think he is the fastest driver I have ever seen, but I cannot believe his input or lack of it is a large contributor to their (McLaren) current issues. That is surely just taking things too far. I do not believe that any driver, perhaps excepting Schumey, and possibly Vettel in future years having an understanding of how the mechnical suspension changes will impact car behaviour under racing loads and the relevant impact on aero’ and handling.
    I do believe a good driver can immediately react to changes to a setup to determine how it has effected grip/handling and downforce, and offer suggestions on improvements, and from what I have read from pitlane reporters, etc. most people think Lewis was not as good as Jensen in this regard over the past three years (bar a short period last year). None of us (fans) are in a position to know for sure, but what I would say is if the car isn’t handling well, then I do expect them to miss Hamilton who like Alonso will get the fastest times out of any car, but also, I wonder if Sergio could spring a surprise. Everyone surely knows by now that Jensen has a favoured setup, and doesn’t perform when the car is off his favourite balance.

Jump to comment page: 1 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.