Whitmarsh: “One of the hardest days” for McLaren

2013 Australian Grand Prix

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

  1. sato113 (@sato113) said on 15th March 2013, 9:47

    never have mcalren needed hamilton so badly!

  2. bpacman (@bpacman) said on 15th March 2013, 9:47

    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?

    • Paul Barrass (@damleda) said on 15th March 2013, 9:52

      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.”

    • nickfrog (@nickfrog) said on 15th March 2013, 9:54

      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.

  3. James (@iamjamm) said on 15th March 2013, 10:00

    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.

    • Nick (@nick101) said on 15th March 2013, 10:43

      @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.

      • James (@iamjamm) said on 15th March 2013, 10:49

        @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.

  4. 23kennyboy23 said on 15th March 2013, 10:08

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

  5. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 15th March 2013, 10:16

    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

  6. Bendanarama (@bendana) said on 15th March 2013, 10:29

    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.

  7. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall) said on 15th March 2013, 10:39

    Lewis must be feeling pretty smug right now.

    • Carl Craven said on 15th March 2013, 12:43

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

      • javlinsharp (@javlinsharp) said on 15th March 2013, 14:05

        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…

      • Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall) said on 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.

  8. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 15th March 2013, 11:13

    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.

    • panache (@panache) said on 15th March 2013, 11:34

      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.

    • Brad R said on 15th March 2013, 11:46

      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?

    • smokinjoe (@smokinjoe) said on 15th March 2013, 13:37

      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

    • Carl Craven said on 15th March 2013, 21:19

      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.

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 16th March 2013, 1:34

        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.

  9. 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…

    • nidzovski (@nidzovski) said on 15th March 2013, 20:37

      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?!?!

  10. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 15th March 2013, 12:09

    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.

  11. vishy (@vishy) said on 15th March 2013, 12:26

    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?

    • Nick (@nick101) said on 15th March 2013, 15:18

      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!

      • clappy (@danielc) said on 15th March 2013, 16:47

        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.

        • Carl Craven said on 15th March 2013, 21:30

          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.

          • FLMKane said on 16th March 2013, 17:29

            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.

  12. john (@spactus) said on 15th March 2013, 13:15

    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….

    • JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 15th March 2013, 14:16

      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.

  13. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 15th March 2013, 13:37

    Time to change my predictions

  14. Shomir (@shomir) said on 15th March 2013, 14:44

    This is 2009 all over again! :(

  15. Hallard (@hallard) said on 15th March 2013, 15:05

    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?

    • Lemon (@lemon) said on 15th March 2013, 18:39

      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.

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