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McLaren top times on Day 1 in Shanghai
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McLaren top times on Day 1 in Shanghai
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Apr 2010   |  9:27 am GMT  |  62 comments

As in Malaysia two weeks ago, McLaren headed the times on the first day of practice for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.


Jenson Button was fastest in the morning with team mate Lewis Hamilton on top in the afternoon, with Nico Rosberg second, Button third and Michael Schumacher fourth, making it four Mercedes engines in the top four places.

We didn’t see what the McLaren was capable of in qualifying in Malaysia because rain intervened. The forecast for Shanghai tomorrow is sunny with only a 10% chance of rain, so we will see whether the team has managed to close the gap on Red Bull and Ferrari in qualifying pace. It will also be interesting to see what difference, if any, the new ruling on adjustable suspension has on the field and if Mercedes have got themselves a little closer.

The Red Bull cars of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were fifth and sixth and cautiously remain the team to beat. However Vettel has said this weekend that he fears the McLarens here and the team needs to get one of the F duct rear wings as soon as possible to take advantage of the straight line speed advantage it brings.

“It is something you have to have, no matter if you have a midfield car or probably one of the best cars. It is worth quite a bit, and is quite a big advantage in terms of lap time. It probably depends on the circuit, but it is up to five tenths, ” he said.

But as McLaren’s chassis was designed around this clever idea, wth an inlet duct on top of the monocoque, they have the system optimised, whereas the others are having to place the air inlet duct in a less perfect place.

However Ferrari have brought one to Shanghai this weekend, although it has yet to activate it, Mercedes tried one, while Sauber already had one on the car. Williams has one in the pipeline.

Through the speed trap Kobayashi and Hamilton were clocked at 312km/h on Shanghai’s long main straight, with Alonso at 311 km/h.

The morning session was overshadowed by a spectacular accident for Sebastien Buemi in the Toro Rosso; an upright failed and both front wheels came of the car in the braking zone at the end of the long straight. He was not able to get out in the second session.

There was also concern for Fernando Alonso who stopped after just six laps with flames coming from the engine of his Ferrari. The team has yet to release details of what happened, but said before the weekend that it had no engine worries, despite the failure on Alonso’s car in Malaysia. Alonso said after practice that he has “zero worries” on engines, despite the fact that he now has just six units – one of which has done qualifying and the race in Bahrain and will used for the rest of this weekend – to cover the remaining 16 races (including the next two days).

The two ultra long right-handed corners could prove quite influential in qualifying and the race with the six cars from the new teams being some way off the pace. Alonso lost 1.7 secs in final sector on a hot lap, mainly because he was held up by the Hispania car of Bruno Senna in the long Turn 13. The cars are in that corner a long time and if a much slower car is in your way at a critical point it shows how that could affect the lap time for the front runners quite significantly.

Chinese Grand Prix: Practice 2 times

1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.217 26
2. Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.465 + 0.248 22
3. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.593 + 0.376 26
4. Schumacher Mercedes 1:35.602 + 0.385 28
5. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:35.791 + 0.574 30
6. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:35.995 + 0.778 29
7. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:36.254 + 1.037 31
8. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.377 + 1.160 43
9. Kubica Renault 1:36.389 + 1.172 29
10. Alonso Ferrari 1:36.604 + 1.387 33
11. Massa Ferrari 1:36.944 + 1.727 36
12. Petrov Renault 1:36.986 + 1.769 27
13. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.421 + 2.204 32
14. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.431 + 2.214 33
15. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:37.657 + 2.440 30
16. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:37.804 + 2.587 31
17. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:37.867 + 2.650 29
18. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:39.624 + 4.407 35
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:39.947 + 4.730 30
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:40.233 + 5.016 27
21. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:41.008 + 5.791 32
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:41.107 + 5.890 28
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:41.345 + 6.128 32
24. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari

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62 Comments
  1. PaulL says:

    It’s quite a penalty to lose an engine in a race nowdays compared to 2008 where you got to change it for free.

  2. MacGraw says:

    Schumi 0.137 slower than Rosberg . . . . oh what a disaster. He’s so slow and out of touch.

    1. the corpse says:

      he is getting closer every session. And nico is going to start feeling the pressure soon. Now he is in the zone, but when schumi beats him, he’ll be the rosberg of the last years. Nothing special.

    2. Dario says:

      Yeah….he is sooooo slow….
      He should definetly retire!

      1. MacGraw says:

        My pseudo HTML tags saying “sarcasm” and “end sarcasm” got cut off it seems.

  3. thomas in Australia says:

    Interesting to see that the instinct to steer the car remains long after the wheels have (literally) fallen off the car.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJBB3tAzve0

    Lucky guy.

    1. thomas in Australia says:

      Sorry, much better onboard shot here.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBRnOchb2CA

      Can’t blame the poor guy for trying to steer away from that wall :D

    2. Henry says:

      Yup I thought that was rather funny, he must have been able to see that the wheels were gone but still was tugging hard at the wheel! lucky there was a big run off area and with the wheels off the gravel trap worked very efficiently!

  4. neil m says:

    Did anyone see an F-Duct being tested?
    Remember that the duct you can see on the McL doesn’t stall the wing, it switches a greater flow of air from the airbox to the wing.

    I think Alonso managed 6 corners, not laps.

  5. Henry says:

    James; Do you know yet if Ferrari will be running their blown rear wing in the race? If so, surely they should see a significant performance jump as they had such good pace already?

    Unless of course they have engine problems…

    I am looking forward to qualifying alot tomorrow, I can’t wait to see if Red Bull still have their impressive pace or if they have lost some performance due to the ride height rule change! If they have had to change the set-up, Suddenly McLaren and Ferrari could be equally fast as the Red Bull, and we could have a very exciting race!

    1. Segedunum says:

      “or if they have lost some performance due to the ride height rule change!”

      There was no ride height rule change, it was a re-clarification, and the reason why it was prompted by McLaren was not because Red Bull were doing anything but because they wanted to gain some quick and dirty performance between qualifying and the race to try and catch up.

      1. Henry says:

        I’m very aware of the status of that rule clarification, but as it directly changes the development of at least a couple of cars on the grid I dont think it is too silly to call it a rule change. Either way it is a matter of semantics.

        I would be interested to see where you got your information on Red Bull having no system in place – I agree there is no concrete proof either way, but to any observer it was clear in Melbourne that in qualifying the red bull was regularly bottoming out, indicating a very efficient low set-up, but come the race somehow the car was still sufficiently off the ground despite having an extra 140kg of fuel in it. Similar in Bahrain. Maybe they have a hugely efficient suspension set-up or maybe not, maybe the car is just very fast. But I would hesitate to state anything as fact.

      2. Segedunum says:

        “…as it directly changes the development of at least a couple of cars on the grid”

        It doesn’t. All that’s happened is that McLaren have stopped work on a new system they were looking at.

        “I agree there is no concrete proof either way, but to any observer it was clear in Melbourne that in qualifying the red bull was regularly bottoming out”

        It’s still no evidence of a ride height variance system because the aeodynamic force has such an effect, and on various forums there have been all sorts of credible stories about ride height levelling systems that they might have adapted that are actually well known in normal road cars. No one can pinpoint anything.

    2. Spenny says:

      “Do you know yet if Ferrari will be running their blown rear wing in the race? If so, surely they should see a significant performance jump as they had such good pace already?”

      Only if the device worked.

      Aero is sensitive, and the way the McLaren works is more sophisticated than simply having a pipe of air running to the rear wing, so it is not simply adding a part, but looking at a complex set of interactions of airflow.

      It is not guaranteed that they will stall the wing. They could introduce some instability in the airflow that means that the wing would not start working properly when the device is switched.

      1. James Allen says:

        It’s there but not connected. Details in technical report later today.

  6. Ben Miller says:

    James,

    Do you have any news on any other developments to Ferrari in China? There is a lot of focus on the F-duct, but i’m just wondering whether they have brought in a new diffuser under the radar? I have seen pics and the rear seems to have been sculpted differently, and the vent appears larger – I could be wrong.

    Cheers

    1. Henry says:

      It seems that the Ferrari f-duct is not exactly the same as the McLaren because the duct is high up on the engine cover, and so there is no obvious way of the driver being able to control it. That doesn’t mean there is no driver control system, but it could operate differently and only blow enough air to disrupt the wing at certain speeds.

      1. Henry says:

        Alonso has been quoted as saying he has nothing inside the cockpit. But I think it is probably only being tested for now…

  7. Darren says:

    got a feeling this is Buttons weekend.

    1. Enrico Fiore says:

      same here!
      and if Button wins again his title defence will be really be on.

      my money’s on JB.

    2. the corpse says:

      if he wins this weekend, my respect for him will sky rocket. I doubt it, it seems either vettel or hamilton’s race.

  8. eric bhoy says:

    I reckon they will have a very good result tomorrow James

  9. Jeremy (CapeTown - SA) says:

    So far so good for the McLaren boys!! Goodluck for qualifying
    and the race on Sunday !!

  10. Fritz says:

    Its hard to read anything between practices, in a way its like off season testing, we all know that come Saturday afternoon Sebby will take pole or Webber, one of the Ferrari’s or McLaren’s driver might get to be outside top 10. Clearly there must be something that Red Bull do right, they seem to always get their things right. This just reminds me of how Renault masterminded by Flavio were unbeatable in 05/06 despite not having the biggest budget. It may also be the case with Red Bull. I dont see any team stopping them but we know as the season goes that top teams tend to develop their cars faster.

    You can never wrote off McLaren, i have lost hope on Ferrari, they start the season stronger and their cars start to lose steam as the season rolls on and at times if they cant improve the car, they write the season off to concentrate for next years car, that not how McLaren operates, they tend to tweak bits and bits in the car and then its fast. I love Ferrari but they should never give up, for what they achieved, their records are safe.

    however if it rains, expect a red bull 1-2, I also think Button wont get pole but he will be the biggest surprise, that guy has such great on track thinking skills.

    Hope you guys all enjoy the race.

    1. Martin says:

      Fritz, you seem to be making a large leap with Ferrari. It won the last race of the season in 2006, 2007 and 2008. 2006 wasn’t a great example as Renault lost the mass damper, but Ferrari had the performance edge before then and retained after Alonso won most of the early races. In 2007 and 2008 McLaren and Ferrari basically matched each other. In 2009 the gearbox was fundamentally the wrong shape to optimise the double diffuser.

  11. Rich says:

    James, what happens if a driver uses up all their allocation of engines before the season finishes? Do they take more and pay a fine? Do they have to repair the old ones? Switch to wind power?

    1. Spenny says:

      There are clear rules. They can take more engines, but for each engine they get a grid position penalty.

      In terms of “new engines” the new engine may not actually be new, but could be a reconditioned old engine anyhow, so any engine that has had its FIA seals broken and has been rebuilt in some way is considered a “new” engine.

    2. Gilles says:

      I think there’s a 10-place grid penalty

    3. James Allen says:

      Yes they have a ten place grid drop for the ninth engine they use.

      1. Nick says:

        Is it the same for any more?

        i.e. 10 place drop for a tenth or eleventh engine?

      2. Faisal says:

        Yup, once you get 9th engine, as long you do not change it, no penalty. Once you need 10th engine, again penalty

  12. Robert says:

    Just seen Buemi’s bizarre accident. Would the new uprights have been tested by the FIA? If not maybe they had better be in the future

    1. Henry says:

      I’m pretty sure the uprights dont make up part of the car that has to be homologated, the ones in question were the first of a new batch. Whether new design or same as the previous ones I dont know, but it could just be that the had a faulty batch.

  13. jay jacob says:

    James, no mention of Mercedes’ work on f-duct; any news?
    Thanks.

  14. Segedunum says:

    Ferrari clearly do have engine problems. Even the first race told you that. Changing engines for fuel efficiency reasons is not a good sign.

  15. andre melo says:

    James, had alonso not been held up by senna, what could have been his crono?

    1. Faisal says:

      Alonso was not going to be fast anyhow. Ferrari were running race simulation, they’ve hardly done quali simulation in practices so far

  16. Richard Bell says:

    According to F1Factman on Twitter Mclarens f-duct tube passes under the driver and he can speed the airflow up by farting through it, one significant guff can gain him 1.2mph, could this be true?

    1. thomas in Australia says:

      Baked beans and onion rings for all!

      1. Gary Smith says:

        Of course it’s true. Look at the picture of JB in this article, he’s cleary just said, “Go on, pull my finger!”

      2. jack_faith says:

        this dramatically changes the orthodoxy that a driver starts with an empty tummy. I suspect this is bound to backfire at some point. Look to see Jenson or Lewis getting out of the car gingerly, and walking oddly to the podium.

    2. Gilles says:

      LOL, you got me rolling over the floor !
      Maybe Jens & Hammie should eat a bucket of beans before every race then …

    3. Segedunum says:

      Unfortunately, follow-through is a big risk with that kind of system.

    4. Stevie P says:

      I had been wondering what the “f” in f-duct meant; and now we know… ;-)

      Beanz Meanz… a faster top-speed down the straights.

    5. AlexD says:

      It is not safe!

    6. Mark Crooks says:

      I wouldn’t like to be in the car behind, especially if the driver follows through :-)

      1. Zobra Wambleska says:

        Not a problem, it’s a filtered system. Part of the clean air act.

  17. Frankie Allen says:

    I don’t think this is the best track for the RBR’s, but I believe now that their car is that bit special that no one will be able to touch them over the season or catch up with the design until next year. If you have a look at last years car and the method it used for generating down force, it is not that difficult to come to the logical conclusion. Bearing in mind Newey knew exactly the compromise the rear suspension had on the diffuser and still stuck with it this year.

    We have a unique set of conditions this year which the RBR wrings the maximum advantage from. All the remainder of the grid suffer from the imbalance with getting down force from a car during qualification, with a set up designed for full fuel and the inability to over take without a 2.5 second lap advantage, puts RBR in the driving seat. They should just give that WCC cup to Newey now!

    1. Kinkas says:

      `@ Frankie,

      I can agree with you theoretically. There is no doubt that the RBR’s are the best car on the grid, and quiet frankly, I love it. However, this is racing, and machines developed to work on the extreme, and I am still not convinced that the reliability woes with that car are over. I hope that they are.

      Also, the development rate of the likes of Mclaren, Mercedes and Ferrari will be huge, especially considering the poor season the first and latter had last year and the end of double difusers this year.

  18. Nick Someone says:

    Does anyone know if Ferrari’s decision to mount their engines at a slight angle to increase the effectiveness of their diffuser could be having any effect on their engine reliability? I assume not, but I just thought I’d ask.

  19. Robert says:

    I have always wondered what constitutes a new engine. I often think of the Only Fools and Horses episode where Trigger talks of his broom having lots of different handles and brushes. Can the same be done to the engine or is their rules on what in the engine unit they can replace before it would become a completely different engine?

  20. JF says:

    Question regarding the F-duct: thinking back to Malasia and the F-duct it seemed that the Renault in particular and other cars were getting really good tows off the Mclaren. Would the F-duct reduce turbulence behind a car as it stalls the wing?

  21. rpaco says:

    I am still positive that the F duct air inlet on the McLaren is clearly illegal in the position it is occupying.

    3.8.7 With the exception of a transparent windscreen, antenna or pitot tubes, no bodywork higher than the top of the front roll structure will be permitted forward of it.

    Funny how principles you first saw demo’d on BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World” and then vanish, suddenly pop up on F1 cars, 30 odd years later.

    Pity Starlite, another Tomorrow’s World first tv demo has disappeared too, Ferrari could do with painting it on the inside of their engine cover. Then their “spark plug” problems would be less of a concern. In fact it would revolutionise all sorts of fields, not least the space shuttle.

    Does anyone know how to get Firefox to use a UK spelling check instead of US? (I have tried all sorts of edits in about:config.)
    http://itotd.com/articles/653/starlite/ if anyone cares to browse.

    1. YellowNRedStriped says:

      You need to install a British English dictionary to be able to spell check with UK spelling. See https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/browse/type:3

      You would then need to change the language used to English/United Kingdom to make firefox use the UK dictionary for spell check.

    2. Martin says:

      What is the front roll structure on the McLaren? There is a trapezoidal shaped thing about 200 mm in front of the steering wheel. It is far enough forward that a straight line from the top of the airbox to this thing is above the helmet. It is about the same height is the inlet, but I haven’t looked to closely at the curvature of the monocoque. This photo is one I found.

      Cheers, Martin

      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/butt_mcla_vale_20100203-4.jpg

  22. rpaco says:

    Weren’t the outboard mirrors supposed to be banned now?

    14.3 Rear view mirrors :

    14.3.1 All cars must have at least two mirrors mounted so that the driver has visibility to the rear and both sides of the car.

    14.3.2 The reflective surface of each mirror must be at least 150mm wide, this being maintained over a height of at least 50mm. Additionally, each corner may have a radius no greater than 10mm.

    14.3.3 No part of the reflective surface may be less than 250mm from the car centre line or more than 750mm from the rear of the cockpit entry template.

    14.3.4 The FIA technical delegate must be satisfied by a practical demonstration that the driver, when seated normally, can clearly define following vehicles.
    For this purpose, the driver shall be required to identify any letter or number, 150mm high and 100mm wide, placed anywhere on boards behind the car, the positions of which are detailed below :
    Height : From 400mm to 1000mm from the ground.
    Width : 4000mm either side of the car centre line.
    Position : 10m behind the rear wheel centre line.

    Can anyone remember seeing the drivers view being tested like this on scrutineering day?

    1. James Allen says:

      From Spain onwards.

  23. Eric says:

    I think Alonso’s second engine failure is a significant ‘blow’ to his championship challenge. I don’t think Alonso would respond very well towards being asked to be Massa’s #2 at this stage of the season. Effectively though, these engine failures means that Massa is the better placed Ferrari driver at this stage for them to mount a championship challenge. Towards the end of the season it could be very important indeed that Ferrari didn’t order Massa to let Alonso past in Melbourne.

    1. neil m says:

      That engine had already been withdrawn from quali/race, you can’t lose the same engine twice. Although it does represent the loss of ~1,500km of quali milage.
      Once again McL drop of the pace in qualifying, after being high on the timesheets in free practice. Maybe we should be asking what they are doing wrong on a saturday. Or why Ferrari and Red Bull won’t try any low fuel / soft tyre runs on a friday, and should it be mandated to give us poor saps a fair comparison over the race weekend.

      1. neil m says:

        sorry, I meant”loss of 1,500km of Free Practice milage”

  24. Triggster says:

    Five and a half fragile Ferarri engines for 16 races!! Farewell Amigo! Massa is already the Primo in that team me thinks.

  25. Boo Boo Foo says:

    Quite frankly, I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more front suspension failures on F1 cars recently. I say this because the recent trend towards extreme high front nose sections has resulted in wishbone mounting points which, quite frankly, are simply dreadful in regards to jacking forces.

    Take a close look at most of tubs to see what I mean. The average distance nowadays between the upper and lower plane of the wishbone mounting points is about 200mm. There’s a concept in suspension design known as “jacking forces”, and in essence, as a car designer, you want to avoid “jacking forces” – it’s bad ju ju, as they say.

    The location of the upper and lower wishbone mounting points on a contemporary F1 tub is such that the uprights are now very, very shallow. In effect, they run from approximately 40mm below the wheel centreline up to 80mm above the wheel rim, a total length of about 200mm on average. And the load they carry then transports through wishbones which are universally angled downwards, with an average distance of 200mm between the upper and lower wishbone planes.

    In effect, the loading forces are quite diabolical in terms of optimal suspension design. It’s a miracle we haven’t seen more epic failures to be honest. Granted, F1 cars aren’t exactly heavy beasts, but momentum is momentum. When you’re cracking -4g’s from 300+kph, the loads are incredible, and the current trend for extreme raised noses has resulted in ultra high jacking forces in the suspension geometery.

    That being said, I can unerstand why the designers have gone with raised noses – that is, managing air under, and around the car etc. I can understand that. All I’m saying is that everything regarding race car design is a compromise, and the increased jacking forces and diminished front suspension geometery is the compromise in this instance.

    It’s a susprise that more suspension failures haven’t happened recently, to be honest.

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