Posted on March 13, 2009
McLaren admit problem, but how bad is it? | James Allen on F1 – The official James Allen website on F1

Today McLaren swung into action to respond to the waves of speculation about their poor testing performance and to manage expectations ahead of the new F1 season. Regular readers of JA on F1 will know that I was in Barcelona this week and reported seeing the difficulties the driver Heikki Kovalainen was having with the car, as well as analysing the lap times for further evidence of problems.

New team principal Martin Whitmarsh went public on Friday with a frank admission that the car is not fast enough and that it has some problems,

“”Initial testing of MP4-24, which first ran with an interim aero package, went in accordance with our early developmental expectations. This week the car has run in Barcelona with an updated aero package, as we had always planned it would, and a performance shortfall has been identified that we are now working hard to resolve, ” he said.

The car, he admits is not quick, “Not at the moment – and certainly not by our team’s extremely high standards.

“But Lewis is the reigning world champion, and he became world champion in one of our cars.” Indeed he did, but he’s not even in the top ten as things stand today.

So now we are clear, McLaren are not sandbagging, they are not trying some innovative new way of testing in light of the season long testing ban, they are in the do-do and the question is, how far off are they and how long will it be before they get out of it?

Answering the first question first, the lap times from this week’s test show progress as the week goes on, but it still leaves the car well behind the pace setting Brawn Mercedes. The fact that that car uses the same engine as the McLaren adds further pain, because there is clearly no weakness there. The engine appears bullet-proof and has class leading performance. Mercedes is not the weak link here. The weak link is the chassis and in particularly the aerodynamics.

The Brawn designers appear to have got the new aero rules spot on, whereas the McLaren guys have lost a link in the chain somewhere. Inevitably it has come from the effort that went into winning last year’s championship – think back to the famous $4 million front wing they brought to Interlagos, for example. Ferrari had the same pressure on them, but they seem to have got the 2009 package more sorted and not lost ground to their challengers, like BMW.

The engineers I spoke to believe that McLaren’s problem is more likely to be in the diffuser area, but could also be in how the air is reaching the diffuser under the car. It might be related to the rear wing, but the changes of rear wing could equally be about trying to calm the effect of the diffuser issues. I’m no aerodynamicist and I don’t pretend to understand the science in the slightest. But that is what I heard from people who do.

Looking at the lap times from Wednesday and Thursday, Hamilton doesn’t do any long runs, 10 laps is his maximum and the car runs in the 1m 22s and high 1m 21s. It’s very hard to guess how heavy the car is when they did this run, as 10 laps worth of fuel is only about 25 kilos, so the car could have had another 30 on board at the end of the run or just fumes.

Generally I would expect them to have a total of around 40 kilos in the car as a reference for their tests. They were not doing long runs or race distance tests, where you’d expect to use 50 kilos per 20 lap stint.

Toyota’s Timo Glock does a 20 lap run the same day where most of his laps are in the low 1m 21s, so substantially faster.

Lewis sets his fastest time on Thursday, a 1min 20.869, on the first flying lap of a five lap run. In a comparable length run Williams’ Nico Rosberg does a 1m 19.774 lap, which looks like a qualifying simulation and Felipe Massa does a 1m 20.677 as part of a 10 lap run.

The Brawn meanwhile is on another planet, doing a 20 lap run in the low 1m 21s and high 1m 20s, with a best time on low fuel in the 1m 18s.

The BMW is interesting, Kubica does a 1m20.740 on the fourth lap of a 21 lap run, so no attempt at a low fuel lap for him. I still think they are faster than they look at the moment.

So looking for a reliable yardstick, it looks like the McLaren is a good second off the pace of Ferrari, perhaps more. They will bring a fix to Jerez next week and that will be a huge week for them, the last chance to track test new parts before Melbourne. We will see their pace relative to Brawn and Williams there, which will make the picture clearer.

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McLaren admit problem, but how bad is it?
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  1.   1. Posted By: Stephen Hill
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 4:44 pm 

    In some respects, it’s bad news the McLaren as so far behind and may struggle in 2009.

    On the other hand, it might be a chance for Lewis to prove he is faster and better than the car, in the same way Shumi was able to get performance out of a poor car.

    Only time will tell and I will be looking very closely at the lap times in Jerez next week and comparing them to previous Jerez tests.

    [Reply]


  2.   2. Posted By: Johan Smithers
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 4:49 pm 

    I love you James!

    Keep up the good work!

    [Reply]


  3.   3. Posted By: Moitio
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 5:25 pm 

    Even if your commentary was complained about (I found it to be satisfactory), your writing journalism is top notch!

    [Reply]


  4.   4. Posted By: Cort
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 5:54 pm 

    Maybe McLaren should hire a driver who knows how to test, develop and improve a car. Hamilton doesn’t have a clue – it was true in 2007 and it is true now.

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  5.   5. Posted By: Finn
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 6:09 pm 

    I really don’t get people who had issues with James’ TV style. I’ve had ‘fights’ over this on 606 and other forums and think it just comes down to a few people who didn’t like James in the first place and then everyone else jumped on the bandwagon to needlessly and unjustifiably bitch about him. Asinine lynch mob rule.

    I think his TV and written work are equally good. Clearly they have to be slightly different as you have to pitch differently to a TV audience, especially one which isn’t so interested/knowledgeable as the fans who bother to read F1 forums, websites, etc. Personally, I think James was a great commentator (better than Murray Walker, for me) who added a lot to the coverage on ITV and I will miss him when the Beeb starts its coverage in Oz.

    I don’t think people need to come on here and tell James that they didn’t like his TV work but they do like his journalism: just leave the guy alone and move on. It’s all been said a million times before, so just PLEASE leave off the digs at James and enjoy the work he is doing now. The past is the past – let it go, don’t keep reminding him about it all the time. All you end up doing is emphasising that you listened to his TV broadcasts with closed ears and as a result lost out on having a good and knowledgeable commentator. You make yourselves look trite for not realising before how good he was.

    Rant over – I’m sure I’ll get flamed.

    Macca – they lost Nicholas Tombazis and don’t have the same skills any more to cope with the new regs. I expect they tried to get clever in diffusing the airflow and have got caught out. They lost Alonso and now have inexperienced who driers who lack the developmental skills needed to take the car forward. And yes, they focussed on giving Ron the spotlight to retire last year and are now paying the price. [ We don't do flaming on this blog, remember, Mr Finn. What with all that high-octane fuel around? Anyhow, after such a spirited defence, I don't think we could allow even a light singeing ... - Moderator ]

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  6.   6. Posted By: Dave Spurr
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 6:11 pm 

    Seems Webbers comments (which apparently kept him out of the second car alongside Hamilton) of “they have a habit of producing a good car followed by a s**tbox” still remains then :)

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  7.   7. Posted By: Alan
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 6:13 pm 

    I find it odd how people critise Hamilton’s ability to test and develop because McLaren made the biggest strides last year. Considering spy gate, loss of ALonso, and their poorish season start Hamilton helped bring McLaren a WDC. Last year McLaren probably made the greatest strides for any F1 team during a year

    Obviously the yardstick is Alonso, but yet his Renault is hardly setting the world alight. Is he to blame for Renault’s lack of pace?

    The BrawnGP has had ZERO testing and was BANG on the pace day one. Does that make Button a design genius after two years being in the gutter? Of course not. Are you saying the last two years Button was rubbish, and now is a brilliant tester because of the Brawn’s performance?

    At the end of the day if the engineers can’t put a car together that works it will never be on the pace no matter how good the driver is at development.

    All a driver can do is tell the engineers what the car is doing and then the engineers decide how to fix the issue. If everything the engineers try doesn’t work then their is a fundemental issue with the chassis. No driver in the world can solve such major issues e.g Senna/McLaren 93.

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  8.   8. Posted By: Marcus
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 6:30 pm 

    It may have been arrogant of Alonso to say it (aren’t all WDCs a bit arrogant?), but maybe he really did bring a lot of pace to the McLaren when he came…look what happened to the Renault when he left and came back. Hamilton is undoubtedly fast, but to be a great you have to be able to develop a car, and/or drive around it’s inherent problems. This year could be a big test for him.

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  9.   9. Posted By: Question
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 6:39 pm 

    I’ve noticed that McLaren’s sidepods are very different from their competitors: many of the other cars look, to put it badly, as though an elephant has sat on the back of them. The McLaren sidepods are much higher from front to rear; more like last year’s car.

    I haven’t found any discussion of the sidepods – is it an issue? If so, have McLaren taken a dead-end approach which they won’t be able to address by tweaking?

    Perhaps we’ll see a ‘B’ car half-way through the season…?

    (P.S. Just to add to the chorus: this is a fascinating blog, James; keep up the great work.)

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  10.   10. Posted By: AC
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 7:04 pm 

    Any more sightings of the “green paint” to show airflow?

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  11.   11. Posted By: Dom Leste
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 7:07 pm 

    Whats the deal with the Brawn, Williams, Toyota diffusers will we get a protest if we see them in the points or on the podium at melbourne?

    Perhaps the FIA might bendover and change the rules at Barcelona if Brawn GP smokes the field…Its happened in the past why not in 2009 :)

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  12.   12. Posted By: Dom Leste
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 7:11 pm 

    2nd Part to the question is the FIA might wave the white flag and say the cars are too fast so the teams should follow a more stricter diffuser intrepretation!

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  13.   13. Posted By: Phil
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 7:21 pm 

    I’ve been saying this during discussions as well. All of the fast cars have sidepods that taper off very dramatically (to the point where newey had to use a pullrod suspension on the RB5 and STR4).

    The McLaren cockpit is also further back than on the other cars, so this could also have a bearing on things.

    I really don’t see how, without a massive redesign (a la MP4-19b) they will be competetive this season.

    [Reply]


  14.   14. Posted By: guy
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 7:34 pm 

    It’s been great reading James’s brilliant articles and then everyones comments and views. It’s also pretty cool that everyone is respectful in their comments – hope it stays that way when the season starts! My only complaint is that it seems there are no ladies!

    [Reply]


  15.   15. Posted By: Red Andy
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 7:37 pm 

    I think this puts the “sandbagging” speculation into perspective. It was suggested that McLaren were sandbagging back when they were testing before 2006, though it turned out they were just plain slow. Maybe the same this year, though the field is much more competitive so even a distant third (as they were in ’06) might be beyond their reach this time.

    Good work as ever, though, James – check out my WordPress blog if you have a chance.

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  16.   16. Posted By: rpaco
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 9:23 pm 

    McLaren have vast resources and there will be guys (and probably girls) working nights and weekends 24 hour days voluntarily. The biggest barrier to making new parts could be the curing time of the resin. But without doubt they have the capacity to overcome and catch up.

    Ganging up and running to the FIA because your team have not read the tech specs properly and with imagination, is just sour grapes and I am sure that McLaren would not be associated with such childish behaviour. (As Flav)

    However where the rules are not specific then it is the duty of design engineers to interpret them to the best advantage of the team. For instance the wheel/hub cover on the rear wheels now being used by 2 teams are not covered at all in the regs, but if they prove to provide an advantage, then undoubtedly they will be banned next year.
    Admittedly one of the best of recent years was clearly in breach of the rules, sadly so, because the Renault mass damper really did work.

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  17.   17. Posted By: Johan Smithers
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 10:24 pm 

    What is your WordPress blog then?

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  18.   18. Posted By: Boston F1 Fan
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 10:37 pm 

    - This is a great point. We’ll see for sure how good Lewis and Heikki are. Not sure about Heikki. James, what do you know about Heikki being fueled heavier than Lewis last season? I see this fact thrown casually into articles here and there but I feel as though it should be a huge point of contention.

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  19.   19. Posted By: Jay
        Date: March 13th, 2009 @ 10:51 pm 

    Yes, de la Rosa is an excellent development driver with a proven record who, sadly, seems to have been much under-used in recent weeks.

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  20.   20. Posted By: O QUE ESTÁ AFETANDO A MCLAREN? « F1 Around
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 12:17 am 

    [...] que área especificamente está sendo atingida? Engenheiros de outras equipes que conversaram com o nosso correspondente especial enviado a Barcelona, James Allen, sugerem que o difusor parece o ponto fraco do [...]


  21.   21. Posted By: James Allen
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 12:37 am 

    JA writes: To Boston fan, it’s true that Heikki often carried more fuel in qualifying than Lewis, but not much and given that he had a pole worthy car he should have done better. If I get time I’ll go through the numbers from last year and find some examples.

    To our Spanish friends, Muchos Gracias – I know we have quite a following in Spain and it’s great to have you here.

    To Finn – thanks for the defence, one day I’ll understand what I did to upset those people….

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  22.   22. Posted By: Kamran
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 1:00 am 

    it going to be interesting seeing Hamilton fighting in mid-field with a twitchy car, he’s had the best equipment in his racing career, i hope he does well but remember what happened to similar hot headed driver Jacques Villeneuve, cream of the crop in the fastest car, but when he was fighting in the mid field it was more like Destruction Derby!!

    It would be so unfair for the FIA change any rules after the first race, they have had long enough before the season started to point out anything that might be bending the rules, and all the data the teams have been gathering during testing will become void if something major like a diffuser needs to be changed, unless the rule change affects safety they shouldnt change a thing really until the next season. But its understanable why people can be cynical, the FIA has made many debatable decisions in their time and thats me being polite.

    I have to say i like the new rules with many teams having the same engine, its become less about budget and more about brains (or brawns) so the sport feels like it has become more grass roots which is great for everyone.

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  23.   23. Posted By: DanB
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 1:22 am 

    gpupdate.net are running an article about a crisis meeting held at McLaren on Friday. I also gather they’ve been spied testing with all sorts of sensors on the car at Kemble Airfield in Gloucestershire…

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  24.   24. Posted By: lower-case david
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 1:42 am 

    not to keep raking over the subject of Finn’s post, what’s done is done, and all that, but just …

    MB: is that Glock? it is! that’s Glock!

    JA: oh my goodness me. Hamilton’s back in position again

    a hundred thousand local hearts sink in the grandstand. it’s handed the place back to Hamilton. he comes through … and you’re right, i’m sure, that he’s going to claim fifth place which is all he needs to do to become …

    MB: (shouting) Yes!

    Goes down as one of the iconic pieces of sports commentary, it easily sits alongside “they think it’s all over …” (and hey, i’m scottish). i managed to catch a few different broadcasts of that climax, and no-one came even close to you two guys in reading that race, communicating the tension and drama, and staying on top of the situation. we all lose out thanks to the vitriolic loud-mouthed minority. it was ever thus i s’pose.

    … but we are all enjoying this blog, like a Brawn GP01, quickly shoving it’s way to the front, it has become an indispensible read – and as a season to kick-off any new F1 related ventures or projects, i think you’ve got a cracker in store.

    so what i am taking much too long to say, is cheers and thanks for your efforts, it is genuinely appreciated.

    [ you don't need to publish this comment if you don't want to, it's a bit gushy aint it, but anyways, just wanted to post it. ]

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  25.   25. Posted By: Broer Sammy
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 2:30 am 

    I like your articles most of the others and the positive comments over the world. Keep going man.

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  26.   26. Posted By: Carlos
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 8:21 am 

    Renault was in a similar situation last year and it took months just to be close to the Ferrari, McLaren, and BMW.

    It will be harder for Maclaren than it was for Renault due to two facts:

    – Testing Ban during the season. They will have a limited amount of testing time on Fridays. The time for race set-up and not a lot to test evolutions and new components.

    - They don’t have Fernando Alonso.

    [Reply]


  27.   27. Posted By: F1 links: McLaren in trouble | F1 Fanatic - The Formula 1 Blog | F1 video | F1 pictures | F1 news | Lewis Hamilton | Fernando Alonso
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 10:06 am 

    [...] McLaren admit problem, but how bad is it? [...]


  28.   28. Posted By: Red Andy
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 10:35 am 

    I apologise, Johan, usually when I comment on a WordPress blog the link is automatically supplied by clicking on my username. Not here it seems:

    http://www.runoffarea.co.uk – a motorsports humour website. [ Red Andy: You can add a personal URL when you post a comment. But I am not sure if this field is shown to those already logged into WordPress - Moderator ]

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  29.   29. Posted By: rpaco
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 10:47 am 

    DanB: That’s very interesting, because they are not allowed to do that!
    Unless Kemble is an FIA approved F1 standard facility.

    Sporting regs Article 22.1
    e) No track testing is permitted at sites which are not currently approved for use by Formula 1 cars. In order to ensure that venue licence conditions are respected at all times during track testing, competitors are required to inform the FIA of their test schedule in order that an observer may be appointed if deemed necessary.

    Or is this not track testing? Must read the rules on the rear end dimensions again. But the FIA already pre-approved the design; still the FIA are known for inconsistency if nothing else!

    Lewis proved in GP2 that he can fight from any position. Shumi was far more aggressive than Lewis so why all the anti-Lewis stuff on here? As long as the stewards dont change their interpretation of the rules in favour of Ferrari again (which they indisputably did 180 degrees from the drivers briefing, in favour of Massa exiting the pits last year) we shall be having one of the best ever seasons. Gotta go sieve earth and plant carrot seed now, but will be checking here later.

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  30.   30. Posted By: George
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 11:44 am 

    Just taken a quick peek through google, seems they’re not the only team that’s been testing there this year so it must be legal. Must be a loophole in the rules which allows straight-line testing only?

    I dont think there’s that much anti-lewis talk on here, mostly speculation about how he’ll handle the new position. Which Massa incident are you referring to, the one where he exited his pit box next to Sutil?

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  31.   31. Posted By: DanB
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 11:59 am 

    No idea if it within the rules or not, but it’s a site several teams have used in the past. Williams shook down their 2008/9 interim car there last November, and Renault were there with Piquet testing their new car in January. McLaren have used it in the past too.

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  32.   32. Posted By: Jonathan Chan
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 12:02 pm 

    Not again.

    As a Mclaren fan I’m bitterly disappointed that yet again we have failed to interupt a new set of rules and regulations. The MP4-24 is nothing short of disatrous..

    On the back of what can be deemed as a reassuring statement from Mclaren chairman Ron Dennis.. Martin and Norbert completely contradict what Dennis has said which makes me all the hesitant of enjoying the 2009 season [From a Mclaren point of view]

    Although I fully appreciate the ethos and culture of Mclaren i.e. We win as a team and we lose as a team. It is disappointing that our longest and closest rivals Ferrari have been able to sustain and interupt new regulation changes and sustain their number status for as long as I can remember.. [They made one bad car. the F2005]

    Why can’t Mclaren repeat that benchmark? It’s so frustrating and it makes me question the success and consistency of Mclaren which admittedly fluctuates..

    Get the Aero sorted! I’ll be waiting intently for Felipe and Kimi anxiously peering over the grid only to see a Silver/Yellow combination determined to reclaim their number status.

    *Fingers Crossed!

    By the way, Thank James for all your work.. I have no idea why you recieve such uncalled for remarks? You did a fantastic Job, unlike many motorsport commentators you wore your heart on your sleeve, showing your emotion infront of millions when Jenson won his first Grandprix [Finally] and when Lewis [finally] won a world championship, It was characteristic of yours that I trully admired and respected..

    All the best for future, dont let the haters affect your work.. and thank you for answering my question on Heilfelds struggles in 08.. I print screened it and saved it!

    - Cheers

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  33.   33. Posted By: Red Andy
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 12:04 pm 

    As I understand it, straight-line testing does not count as “track testing” and is therefore exempt from the requirement that the FIA must approve the location. I don’t know whether straight-line tests count towards the testing mileage limit, though.

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  34.   34. Posted By: DanB
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 12:14 pm 

    If you type “f1 testing kemble” into Google, it returns results of the McLaren test. It was in February, and they turned up with 5 trucks and de la Rosa at the wheel.

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  35.   35. Posted By: alex m
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 12:35 pm 

    McLaren were running with the diffuser blanked off I heard ? As this gives a significant amount of the downforce, the car would have been a lot faster than we saw at Barcelona.. so they are trying to get aero issues sorted out as opposed to willy waving.

    Or so I am hoping !

    2009 is already looking like yet another vintage year. Everybody is having tyre wear issues that will mean races will have loads of overtaking and plenty of the more excitable fans can jump up and down claiming that “XXXXXXXX has just pwned XXXXXX”

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  36.   36. Posted By: Steve E
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 1:39 pm 

    Im pretty sure it was a famous 4 million dollar Rear wing they brought to Brazil last year, not a front wing. Anyway Im backing Raikkonen for the championship this year, the Iceman will strike again! Its going to be an exciting year for the sport in general, some good racing hopefully and im now used to the 09 Spec cars! They look good! Roll on 6am on the 29th of March, getting up early has never been so exciting!

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  37.   37. Posted By: Kamran
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 2:37 pm 

    Don’t forget Mclaren put everything it had into the 08 car to clinch a championship that they had not won for years! Ferrari, BMW, Toyota and all the rest apart from Renault seemed to concentrate on the 09 car mid way through last season (remember Kubica throwing his toys out the pram over BMW’s descision), the fact that Renault and Mclaren are struggling proves the point that everyone else had a head start becuase Mclaren and Renault where hell bent on the 08 season, i dont think they even thought about the 09 season until a few months ago, Mclaren running the 08 spec rear at the begininning wing proves that rather than the rule changes giving them trouble they where simply behind schedule becuase of business desicions made in 08.

    The problem is now they will be playing catch up for the rest of the season and as they make improvements, so will the other teams. And with others having the Mercedes engine which in my opinion is the best engine on the grid, they have the potential to be embarassed by Force India so the Mclaren engineers im sure will be having many sleepless nights to try and to stop that from happening.

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  38.   38. Posted By: Gert Paumen
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 6:53 pm 

    About the Webber comment, that McLaren produce one bad then a good etc … I was thinking the same the past years.

    And I believe you had 2 (lead) designers that alternated every year (this is or was the case), so the one seems the better in that case :)

    Anyway I hope they can sort it out.

    I believe that last years car was a good but not brilliant car. But this year it looks like they will start with a bad car, let’s see what Lewis can do with it!

    And who says Lewis can’t develop? because some rumors in the Alonso vs Lewis 07 times?? Still don’t know where he stands in the respect!

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  39.   39. Posted By: Phil
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 7:20 pm 

    They were still riding the coat-tails as it where – the cars since they left have largely been evolutions on the design already laid down.

    [Reply]


  40.   40. Posted By: Links for 14 March 2009 « vee8 - a Formula 1 blog
        Date: March 14th, 2009 @ 10:03 pm 

    [...] McLaren admit problem, but how bad is it? – James Allen on F1"The engineers I spoke to believe that McLaren’s problem is more likely to be in the diffuser area, but could also be in how the air is reaching the diffuser under the car. It might be related to the rear wing, but the changes of rear wing could equally be about trying to calm the effect of the diffuser issues. I’m no aerodynamicist and I don’t pretend to understand the science in the slightest. But that is what I heard from people who do." [...]


  41.   41. Posted By: Top Posts « WordPress.com
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 12:17 am 

    [...] McLaren admit problem, but how bad is it? Today McLaren swung into action to respond to the waves of speculation about their poor testing performance and to [...] [...]


  42.   42. Posted By: Martin
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 1:23 am 

    I’d suggest that the F2005 being on one set of Bridgestones was the key performance factor. This stemmed from Ferrari and Bridgestone optimising soft tyres in the years before where Michelin went for more durable performance. In the 2004 French GP Schumacher stopped four times to leapfrog Alonso. Michelin shod cars would occasionally decline the option of fitting new tyres.

    [Reply]

    guy Reply:

    I agree – lets put a positive spin on this news and relish the opportunity for lewis to show he is a racer and produce a number a mansell charges. At least Jenson is in a quick car and Alonso isn’t! I was a massive jenson fan but then lewis came along – i feel a bit guilty about supporting jenson now almost like dating your best mates sister!

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  43.   43. Posted By: Arun
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 3:05 am 

    On the other hand, it might be a chance for Lewis to prove he is faster and better than the car, in the same way Shumi was able to get performance out of a poor car. Hahaha, this year Lewis’ real skills are going to be out, and at last stability of the planet Earth. Go Ferrari, go Williams, Go Renault, go Red Bull, go Torro rosso, Go force India…..

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  44.   44. Posted By: Raz
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 6:26 am 

    I’ve always wanted to see how Lewis would cope with a dog of a car, funnily enough so far his career bears alot of resemblance to that of Jaques Villenueve.. :-D everything down to dating the pop star (JV and Danii Minogue – Remember that??), well anyways.. should be “Character Building” and, as Jenson said at the end of last season “Lets see how he fairs with a ‘Crap’ car.”

    [Reply]


  45.   45. Posted By: Raz
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 6:27 am 

    nor do they have 780 page cheat sheet :-D

    [Reply]


  46.   46. Posted By: Jonathan
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 10:14 am 

    Kamran, I completely agree..

    But may I suggest, how Ferrari managed to diverse its resouces to ‘almost win the 2008 WDC’ and actually won the Constructors Championship.. But also managed to make what appears to be a top 3 09 spec car?

    Although Mclaren were hell bent on getting that title in 08.. I think that in this business, victory is short and expectations are more than probably higher.. From the media, the fans, the organization itself and ofcourse the sponsors. . . Mclarens future may have been dependant on whether they were capable of winning that title.. As I remember Dieter Zetsche at the launch of the Mp4-23 in Germany shrewdly stated: “Nothing less that the world championship will do.” [Something along those lines]

    Although, Mclaren may have remained in the sport.. Mercedes maywell have kissed goodbye.. and cut ties as an engine manufacturer.. Or more predictably increased their share in Mclaren to become a BMW-Sauber Esque sort of team.. [Who knows thats my take] All I know is that had Mclaren not won that title.. Perhaps Ron wouldnt have stepped down and the aftermath of the Brazilian Grand Prix may have prompted an urgent Board meeting to discuss the companies long term future..

    So i’m interested to know why Ferrari have been able to consistently develope world winners year in year out. I would go as far as to say the Mclaren headquaters is the most advanced and sophisticated plant in the world? So whats the problem?

    How can you turn from World Champions to struggling to get into Q.2? [my assumption]

    [Reply]


  47.   47. Posted By: Sparhawk
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 4:18 pm 

    Well, I am not a fan of McLaren, so I will enjoy a bad season for them, but IMO it is foolish to write off such powerhouse, they have the money to turn the tide quickly.

    [Reply]


  48.   48. Posted By: Kamran
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 9:43 pm 

    That’s could point Jonathan, i think the answer lies in the overall business model of Mclaren and the huge 50Million Euro fine that they had, i know its not thay much when you think of Mclaren’s turnover but its a kick in nuts for any company and will take its toll somewhere down the line, whereas Ferrari have a huge successful car business with F1 being the most important factor for advertising their road cars, Mclaren sell very few road cars so all the money of the company has to come from Motorsport and sponsors so they are much more vunerable to bowing down to the sponsors and engine makers needs, where as Ferrari are much more in charge of their own destiny and can do thing things their own way. The bottom line is Mclaren needs to start to diversify becuase these new rules seem to null out the expensive facilities and budget advantage, if Minardi existed today with these new rule changes you could have even seen them mixing it up at the front, FIA have done a fantastic job of these new rules, i wont be suprised if we are looking at a 26 car grid next season becuase they have made it much easier to assemble an F1 team than previously. Just my opinion.

    [Reply]


  49.   49. Posted By: jwyg
        Date: March 15th, 2009 @ 10:08 pm 

    mclaren have obviously put a lot of time and effort into their ’09 car. compared to the other front runners, ferrari and BMW, their car is so exquisitely styled and designed, it really is a work of art, quite at odds with the slab sided workman like BMW for example. it’s strange that they have put so much time into the finer details and apparently forgotten about the fundamentals, unless they were just caught on the hop…

    [Reply]


  50.   50. Posted By: adrian
        Date: March 16th, 2009 @ 1:43 am 

    James: not much? Well personally I’d call 3-7 laps more fuel a bit much. In comparison, for Ferrari, or most other teams, the difference was usually only 1 or 2 laps between the drivers. But McLaren knew Heikki would most likely outqualify Lewis with only 1 or 2 laps more fuel.

    In Turkey Heikki outqualified Lewis with, IIRC, 7 laps more fuel.

    Silverstone was the only race where, when both made it to Q3, Heikki was allowed to have the lighter car, and there he got pole, .8 seconds faster than Lewis.

    “given that he had a pole worthy car he should have done better”

    I think you’re the first person I’ve seen say Heikki should’ve done better in qualifying. If he has the heaviest car of everyone in the top 10, do you expect him to get pole?

    I thought he did great in qualifying, it was the race where he often ran into problems, usually with tyre degradation.

    [Reply]

    George Reply:

    They have de la rosa, wonder why they haven’t been using him this week when they’re having such car problems

    [Reply]

    Martin Reply:

    like Alonso? :)

    [Reply]

    Jay Reply:

    Development of the 08 McLaren started well before Alonso left and even if he wasn’t directly involved in testing of the car they would have learned a huge amount from him during the 07 season.

    I truly believe that Alonso is a driver who can drive a car forward (no pun intended) – just like Schumacher and Hill, to name two other great development drivers of recent times.

    Also, if you recall, Hamilton did best in 07 when he copied Alonso’s setup and there were murmurings from the pitlane then that he often struggled to set up a car on his own.

    BTW, I think Ferrari helped bring McLaren a WDC in 08 far more than their #1 driver did.

    [Reply]


  51.   51. Posted By: Anshul
        Date: March 16th, 2009 @ 11:02 am 

    I think its a good test for Hamilton this year. Let’s see if he can still finish the season right behind the top teams akin to what Schumacher did in 2005 after a blazing 2004.

    It may be too early to comment on form based on pre-season tests. But, hey who can catch the wagging tongues?

    [Reply]

    chris Reply:

    I may be mistaken, but did they not lose Tombazis to ferrari years ago; pre 2007. They seem to have done alright without him and Newey.

    [Reply]


  52.   52. Posted By: scotchthistle
        Date: March 16th, 2009 @ 4:36 pm 

    The problem for McLaren is no in-season testing, if they can’t fix the car this week, its going to take an awful long time to come good again. Surely, by the time it were to come good they wouldn’t be in a position to fight for the WDC or Constructors. They look desperate today (trying out measuring devices on the diffuser), worrying, looks like they still don’t understand the problem!

    [Reply]


  53.   53. Posted By: Leftie
        Date: March 16th, 2009 @ 9:21 pm 

    Let me add my voice to those who supports James commentary work. I simply can’t understand how somebody can be unsatisfied with his comments. I guess those people need to listen to F1 commentators in Ukraine, like i do. This will clear all “frustration” immediately, even before race starts. In fact, i’m sure none of those so called “haters” ever considered switching off the volume while watching the race. And with my local F1 coverage it’s a normal option – because our commentators do not make much sense at all and sometimes it’s bettter to turn the sound off, unfortunately. True story.

    But i guess people will always realise the real value of something only after it’s gone.

    Thanks for your work James. You delivered the facts, you didn’t hide your emotions when they breaked out, you made people understand formula one racing more and you can be sure it is really appreciated, even far away from United Kingdom border.

    I’ll be missing your words from a commentary box if i’ll see UK F1 coverage ever again.

    And thanks for this blog, big up.

    [Reply]

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