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McLaren: We need to give drivers a better car
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McLaren: We need to give drivers a better car
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 May 2010   |  5:06 pm GMT  |  18 comments

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.

Button: Wants more from the brakes (Darren Heath)


What caught my attention was his comment about Jenson Button, who lost the championship lead in Monaco after a pair of fairly ordinary results there and in Spain.

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
McLaren Transcript

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18 Comments
  1. Mouse_Nightshirt says:

    I’m not really surprised that the brakes have come up as an issue for Button. I remember a few years back when Rubens moved from Ferrari to Honda that he wasn’t a fan of the Honda brakes and asked to get his own.

    As far as I can remember, Brawn kept the same brake suppliers as Honda had, so Button will have had years using a different brake setup. Even if there’s a couple of tenths in it per lap for Button, it’s enough to completely level the field between Lewis and Jenson, at which point we could see some electric battles between the pair of them.

  2. Jude says:

    Alonso also did ask for different brake materials when he joined Mclaren, right? Not so sure.

    1. michael grievson says:

      Yeah I think your right. I’m sure alonso used the same brakes that he used at Renault

  3. Nathan says:

    “… there is nothing about Jenson’s driving style relative to Lewis’s that says they want to exploit the tyres any differently.”

    So much for Button being much better on the tyres then.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      I think he’s referring to balance or suspension settings (since tuning the suspension is essentially just an attempt to maximize tire performance).

      They exploit the tires in the same way, but Button just exploits them less aggressively (i.e. they have a similar aggression in turn-in and yaw, but as said above, Hamilton is harder on the brakes and perhaps more aggressive with throttle application).

    2. Jodum5 says:

      He doesn’t say anything about that. It seems he is implying their driving styles don’t require the team to make any changes to the car to allow any or both of drivers to get the most of the tires.

    3. Nick H says:

      But look at the wear on the tyres when they come off both cars…….Jensons are always less worn than Lewis’s

    4. Michael says:

      I think this quote just points that they both use the tyres well enough (I.E. they get enough GRIP out of them) that major changes don’t have to be made to suit them as individuals.

      I don’t think that it means to discount the (what i think has been pretty well proven) difference between Lewis’ and Jenson’s driving styles and the way that their individual styles CONSUME the tyre. Rather, they are both able to get optimum grip from the tyres, just in a different manner.

      I think the only time a team would commit the resources to develop two different suspension geometries (and the subsequent knock-on of small aerodynamic tweaks for each individual car) is if one driver was having a significantly harder time getting GRIP out the tyres. Otherwise, its a waste of resources.

      I think there have been quotes from McLaren personal directly commenting on Jenson “taking less out” of the tyre than Lewis on this website in previous articles. (I am thinking most likely from a follow-up of Australia or China)

  4. Brian says:

    Can’t really tailor a car to ones liking when the rules change every 5 minutes. Thought this was why FOTA was threatening a break away series, in order to get stability in the rules.

    The constant rule changes are costing the teams huge money.

  5. PaulL says:

    Speaking of tyres, what on earth is going on with the 2011 contract.. I heard from ESPN-F1 that Pirelli have already signed?

  6. Dulait says:

    I think we’re finally reaching the equilibrium that Martin Brundle and James (correct if I’m wrong James) expected pre season with Lewis about 2-3 tenths quicker than Button all things bring equal.

    Lewis has struggled somewhat to come to terms with the whole tyre management balance that must be struck this season, but I think he’s finally learning to manage it. If we were playing by last seasons regulations, I think Hamilton would be showing Button a clean pair of heels, but Lewis’ more aggressive driving style has had to be tempered moreso than Button’s, whose naturally smooth rhythm was tailor made to the current regulations.

    I expect the current pattern to remain throughout given normal circumstances. Button will be readily waiting with an excuse when he is out performed, but although I admit to be no keen fan of Lewis overall, he has the decency to admit when he was beaten fair and square unlike his team mate who will usually volunteer an excuse such as, “The car felt really weird in Q3, I think something must have broke on it”…………….

    1. Tim says:

      Button hasn’t once beaten Hamilton in dry & normal conditions. This tyre wear argument is a complete nonsense. Hamilton hasn’t had a problem.

      What is true that when you’re behind in wet/dry conditions you will push more and use more tyre up like lewis did in china and Oz. But in dry conditions there is nothing to suggest Lewis is any harder on the tyres. He’s beaten Button in every dry race so the idea Button’s style is tailor made for the new regulations is wrong.

    2. john says:

      yeah i like that, button is full of excuse, why he have to blame the car every time struggle.

  7. CH1UNDA says:

    My concern is that McLaren are quickly cutting the image of efficient chasers rather than leaders. First, 2009 and now 2010. They should be getting the engineering right from the start of the season not trying to catch up with the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari. So what happens after they close the gap to Red Bull? Why isn’t there an indication of changes in the pipeline that will put them ahead of the competition rather than at par?

    1. Nick says:

      I think this is unfair, admittedly they built a dog last year, and this year it isn’t the fastest but they are chasing the same team as the rest, probably producing the best car of the rest of the field, wait till next year and than the year after till such harsh judgements are made, remember ferrari’s car wasn’t the best last year and this year they are still not the fastest should the same judgement be made?

  8. chris green says:

    It’s easier to find 2.5 seconds as in 2009 than it is to find 0.8 seconds in 2010.

    I think the 2010 mac is not too bad.

    I think Hamilton needs to settle down and use his head a bit more. The reason he has had to overtake a lot in 2010 is because he has dropped the ball
    a few times.I think he was more impressive in 07/08.

    Button is good when everything is 100% ok – when it’s not, as is often the case in F1, he seems to get easily flustered.

    The teams final quali performance needs improving.

    oh yeah – and put the remote away when you’ve finished watching tv.

    1. De Vrie says:

      If lewis had not had bad luck a couple of laps from finish, he would be right behindth leaders. Enough of the cliches already. Needs to think more, harder on tyres, and now the latest; wrecks brakes as he breaks later than anyone

  9. carl craven says:

    I don’t see Button complaining in this article. What I do see is a driver talking to his team about what he needs to improve his performance. It’s called feedback.

    I haven’t heard him complain a whole lot. I have heard Lewis complain a great deal.

    I heard him on the radio in Monaco complaining to his team because they told him to back off because he was running the risk of putting his car in the wall or something similar.

    I don’t think Button is doing so bad considering it’s his first season in a new team after 8 years with another and he’s with one of the best drivers in the history of F1, in terms of talent if not statistically at this point.

    Button is doing ok. Whatever you might call normal, Button still has 2 wins to lewis’s none, and leads him in points. Even Bernie E has lost money on that point.

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