McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale took part in the latest in the series of Vodafone teleconferences with leading websites today and it was an interesting discussion.
For Button it has either been victory, gained through tactical plays in changeable conditions, or minor placings this season and his best qualifying has been fourth.
My understanding of the situation has been that Button is quite happy with the general set-up of the car and that the final fraction of a second for him is to come from braking, because he is more smooth on the brakes than Lewis Hamilton and that requires different materials.
Neale said that the team needs to give the drivers a better car. Operationally McLaren haven’t always hit the sweet spot, particularly after the high of China. He confirmed today that the braking revisions Button is asking for are “second order of magnitude” items compared with big ticket items like a different suspension geometry, as McLaren provided for Juan Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen when they were team mates,
“If I am really honest I don’t think that Jenson’s fluctuation in form is anything to do with him, I think it’s us, ” said Neale. “I don’t think we have given him or Lewis a car that will put them on the front row of the grid yet so they have got their work cut out.
“In the early part of the season Lewis found himself in a few difficult positions and then consequently has done a lot of overtaking manoeuvres. We obviously let Jenson down in Monaco by dispatching the car with a piece of support equipment in it which was not great. Jenson and Lewis are working really well and in terms of their drives both of them are leaving nothing on the circuit. The obligation is now on us as a team to get the car to get the job done, and not for the drivers themselves to look at what they need to do next.
“In terms of tailoring the car specifically for him then there is nothing about Jenson’s driving style relative to Lewis’s that says they want to exploit the tyres any differently. They have slightly different preferences for braking but by the time you are into brakes, you are in second orders of magnitude compared to front suspension, wheelbase etc.
“So we are very happy that having these drivers doesn’t mean your chief engineer has got to open up two or three development paths which sap the organisation of energy. So we are not looking at different suspension layouts for one or the other and it means that we can then focus on getting more downforce and getting more out of the tyres which is essentially the only way we are going to close the gap to Red Bull. That and be operationally more effective.”
Neale added that this weekend in Turkey the team is feeling quite optimistic as the car seems to perform well on high speed corners,
“The circuit has long sweeping curves, Turn 8 being one of them, and at the moment our car seems to work better on the high-speed circuits. We have more of an issue on the low-speed corners,” he said.
To read a full transcript of the teleconference visit