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Hamilton and Button show McLaren’s edge in the wet
McLaren Mercedes
Hamilton and Button show McLaren’s edge in the wet
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Aug 2010   |  6:57 pm GMT  |  57 comments

Red Bull got their 12th pole position in 13 races today, but behind that headline is an interesting story which gives McLaren some encouragement for the Grand Prix, particularly if it is wet, as it has been every day this weekend.


I spoke with Mark Webber after the qualifying session and he seemed to be more impressed with Lewis Hamilton’s improvement of four tenths of a second at the end of the session when the track was wet, than he was with his own pole position. Asking engineers from other teams they share that sense of wonder at Hamilton’s final lap. And given that it boosted him to the front row of the grid it may turn out to be an important moment in the championship story. Button too was able to improve in the final run, but not by as much as Hamilton.

McLaren have shown all weekend that they have the fastest car when the track is damp, something we also saw in China, but here it is noticeable that the McLaren is more sure footed on intermediate tyres and on slicks on a damp track.

Hamilton was fastest in the first two parts of qualifying. In Q1 most times were set on the intermediate tyre, although Webber set his on slicks. In Q2 the track was therefore ten seconds faster, but still the McLaren had the edge. Only in Q3 when it dried further and the track was another half second faster again did the Red Bull have the edge.

This could prove quite significant in the race tomorrow if, as expected, the rain continues to come in bursts as it has all weekend.
“They were better than us in Shanghai, “said Webber. “Obviously that was a very consistent condition, it was generally pretty wet. Many things have changed since then in terms of how cars have been developed.”

As far as qualifying was concerned, Hamilton did a 1m 46.2 on his first run, at the same time as Webber did the pole lap of 1m 45.7. Then the rain fell on the first corner and yet Hamilton still managed to go four tenths of a second faster on his final run. Team mate Button managed to find two tenths of a second on his final run. At the same time Vettel was 3/10ths slower.

Interestingly Webber and Hamilton were also first and second in final practice on Saturday morning and by a similar margin – a tenth of a second.

There is a lot of talk this evening about Hamilton being in a great position to attack Webber on the long straight after Eau Rouge at the start tomorrow. I’ve spoken to some engineers about this and there is no doubt that the tow down that straight is worth a lot, as much as 2/10ths of a second. But Hamilton is only one kilometre per hour faster through the speed trap than Webber, so it’s not as clear cut as you might think. Once through that phase and into the second sector of the lap, Webber will be able to open up a few tenths of a second gap and settle into his stride. The Red Bull seems to be 0.4s faster in that sector, which is heavily downforce dependent, than the McLaren.
“I don’t think tomorrow’s Grand Prix will be won and lost on the first lap. I’m expecting Lewis to be pretty close but it’s nothing unusual, we’ve been there before and we will try to do our best, ” said Webber.

The performance of Robert Kubica in the Renault is interesting. Although the times today have to be taken with a bit of a pinch of salt, as they are dependent on what time they were set and how the track was at that time, there is no doubt that running the F Duct has really lifted Renault’s performance.

Here the engineers tell me that it is worth half a second per lap, probably the most of any track, so that is the gain Renault has made this weekend and it’s got Kubica in the game.

A final note on Michael Schumacher. I’m told he went for a wet set up today in qualifying, which accounts for why he was quick in Q1. He hit traffic in Q2, which dumped him out of the top ten, but if his gamble on rain tomorrow is correct he will be worth watching as he comes through the field from the back of the grid.

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57 Comments
  1. Mikael says:

    Do you think Alonso as well went for a wet set up? Sure, he said he made an error on his final run but he was struggling throughout the whole session in my opinion.

    1. Marc says:

      Spain’s F1 TV broadcaster, La Sexta, confirms that Alonso, unlike Massa, set his car up for rain, explaining his lower grid position.

      1. James Allen says:

        It was mainly because he only had one set of new tyres and used them at the wrong time. Wet set up is less of a factor

  2. David Jones says:

    James, i think we should also praise Lewis’s performance – as ever this season he has been brilliant, and consistent. It is not just the McLaren that is fast, but also Lewis. There have been a series of postings praising Alonso, but he has made several errors this year, and looked poor today. Nothing so far similar for Lewis…..

    1. Banjo says:

      Nicely said.

    2. C Pitter says:

      It takes a lot for British journalists/British commentators to heap praise on Hamilton. There seems to be much resistance to it, whereas there is a kind of enthusiasm to eulogise about Button or Alonso or even Kubica. It always makes me rejoice when “finally” Hamilton gets the praise he deserves.

      1. Robert Lujan says:

        Hamilton did a great job today me thinks. Nut you just can’t away from Kubica. I think he and Sutil will be doing something special today if it rains! ” praises to all-mighty God “! Spa is just a brilliant race to awesome driving especially in the rain.

  3. John says:

    Hamilton pulled a great lap out of the bag and i hope he wins tomorrow

    But According to The Official F1(tm) Website’s Living Timing
    ,
    Vettel’s sector times were as follows:-

    31.3, 45.4 and 28.8 (seconds).

    Even if we assumed the worse (the missing digits were nines and the page always round down) we would get:-

    31.399, 45.499 and 28.899 (seconds) which sum to P2 – 1:45.797.

    Assuming standard rounding, his sector times at worse would be:-

    31.349, 45.449 and 28.849 (seconds) which give P1 – 1:45.647

    Did Vettel miss out on pole by starting his fastest lap after the chequered flag fell in Q3? Or is there a mistake with the timing system?

    1. Pintos says:

      Watching again on iPlayer, Vettel was 1:16.924 through S1 & S2 so the rounded sector times must be wrong on the official timing, which is worrying??!

    2. 4wheels says:

      No mistake. At the end of the session the Live Timing always puts up the fastest sector times for that driver over the whole session. So those sector times of Vettels weren’t from the same lap.

  4. paddy says:

    Wow!! What a qulifying sesh! It could be (as they say in Dundee) “mental” tomorow!Could Schumacher do it?? What a result that could be. Imagine the press!? Hamilton v Webber on the climb after eau rouge hopefully will be worth waiting for, Alonso ripping it up through the field and Massa desperate to prove he IS still in it, Vettel… i dont know, the guy is super fast but i watch him waiting for something to go wrong?? And of course the weather, What an absoloutly incredible race we are in for, the way its going i might sell the missus and put what little profit there is on a Hispania one two and live like Flavio for the rest of my days! James, keep up the great work.Regards -Paddy, Dundee, Scotland

  5. Owen.C says:

    James I noticed the McLaren had a very distinct sound off throttle. Unlike any other car.

    I didn’t get a chance to hear the Mercedes team, but do you think the Mercedes engine now has the retarded ignition system?

    1. Ross Dixon says:

      I heard this also especially coming out of the last corner/ chicane

    2. OJ says:

      I heard the same… its for sure very different. Might be to keep the pressure on the diffuser?

    3. Banjo says:

      I hope so. Will come in massively handy at the high down force circuits.

    4. Nick F says:

      Ah. That’s a very interesting comment. I’d like to know the answer to that one too.

      Mclaren haven’t been hyping their updates this race (which is probably a smart call). It’s probably because of the experience of getting egg on their face after the blown diffuser update in Silverstone. They seem to have made a step forward…although having said that maybe Red Bull have gone backwards after having to change their wing. Of course its a good circuit for the F-duct too.

    5. F1 Novice says:

      Hmmmm could be that – keeping exhaust gases going to the blown diffuser even when off throttle.

  6. kaushal says:

    Update:
    Buemi and Glock has been penalised

  7. ashley edwards says:

    James

    Do you know what set up Mclaren are running?

  8. nash says:

    Mark looks like a man who fears no one these days – not even Lewis with Mercedes power with an McLaren F-duct.

    His quotes of “race not won on the first lap” and “having been there before (with Lewis close by)” are the exact psychological counter-punches he want to give to an eager-to-overtake opponent like Lewis (before he goes to bed tonight)

    I was never a fan of Mark (in fact I quite disliked him in the early days) but his psychological strength and firmness – especially proven by his comeback from his accident – have made me a big fan..

    Question… why is there no speedtrap at the end of Kemmel straight, right before Les Combes? Is there speed data available?

    1. Leo Sayer says:

      Underestimate Mark at you peril folks. From what I can see he is the ‘most complete’ driver out there at the moment. Sure he’s in a great car, but it’s interesting to watch how he builds his GP weekend, gaining much more info and progress during the 3 days than his more highly fancied team mate. If it’s all about how you use your equipment and apply your knowledge to the task (as did Lauda and Prost), then I think we are looking at a very special competitor. I apologise to all their fans, but in the driving of Hamilton and Alonso, I see remarkable pace, saddled by too much inconsistency.

      1. Les says:

        Mark still makes the mistakes that are ascribed to Hamilton and Alonso, just look at Melbourne and Valencia

        I think they are very evenly matched

  9. Banjo says:

    Thanks for the insight James. I missed the qualifying today, first one in years i have missed! Unfortunately haven’t found the time to watch it on iPlayer yet but from the sounds of what happened it’s well worth the watch so i’ll be sure to watch it later.

  10. sixtenths says:

    That was a truly Classic lap from Hamilton, almost getting pole, despite the track getting wet.

    With a challenging track like this and the tricky conditions, you can really see the top quality drivers making the difference.

    The McLaren may only now have a 1kph advantage in top speed, but in braking for corners, especially if it is wet or damp, Hamilton has a massive ability to do the impossible.

    This has all the makings of a great race, I cannot wait.

  11. Nando says:

    Could the red bulls lack of speed in the damp be due to the flexiwing? They won’t be generating the same amount of downforce so the wing isn’t going to drop which will have a knockdown effect on all the aero designed to work with a flexing front wing.

  12. sean cleary says:

    Hamilton FTW!

  13. Pierre says:

    Great post, thanks James.
    How do you explain Alonso P10, rain setup?

    1. James Allen says:

      They are less comfortable on the damp

      1. Ibrahim Patel says:

        Well ive gone on iplayer to see if these rumours are true about alonso and his rain setup. Initially i thought it was an error and misfortune which put him in 10th, but i had to take a closer look.

        Ive decided that pics from websites can be distorted as u cant say what session they r from…fp3 or Q. So ive got two screenies from Q3. Decide for yourself, but for me alonso has more wings fore sure, and hence a rain setup :P

        As james says, alonso has gone this way as ferrari are less comfortable in the damp.

        http://img707.imageshack.us/i/ferrariwings.jpg/

        http://img844.imageshack.us/i/ferrariwings2.png/

      2. gil_dogon says:

        I also noticed something strange in the official F1 site tech analysis page :
        http://www.formula1.com/news/technical/2010/836/781.html
        It says there that Massa is using the new low drag wing, where you would expect Alonso to use it after being officially declared Ferrari No 1 driver…..
        Do you have any info/explanation of this James ?

      3. James Allen says:

        It’s odd that it is described that way, as low downforce. When you want downforce here. That said, Massa was only a tenth slower than Alonso in sector 2, which is the one that shows downforce. Equally Massa was only 2kmh faster on the straight, which isn’t a huge amount, but both figures are indications that he’s running less downforce than Alonso

  14. F1 Novice says:

    My money’s on Button

  15. theRoswellite says:

    Spa……………what a place!

  16. drchroy says:

    James you are saying M.S has gone for a wet setup.

    “A final note on Michael Schumacher. I’m told he went for a wet set up today”

    Here BBC’s Jonathan Legard is saying

    (Rosberg set up for wet race. “Schumacher more towards dry race.” Mercedes admit frustrations in not solving overheating with blown diffuser.)

    (http://twitter.com/legardj/status/22362839135)

    So which one’s correct? I am getting a bit confused!:)

    1. James Allen says:

      Both have wet set ups, Rosberg’s is full wet, Schuey’s is a shade less so

      1. drchroy says:

        Thanks for the reply James. Appreciate it!:)

        Another thing I would like to know is why Mercedes GP is not able to solve any of there problems?

        I mean they had tyre heating problem last year and still they have not found a solution for it!

        They have not been able to solve there overheating problem with the blown diffuser.

        They from the beginning of the season were claiming that we will bring this upgrade & that upgrade, but none of this upgrade have been successful!

        Why is that? Is the base of this car totally wrong? Or the engineers are not all that good or what?

        If they are not able to solve there problem now then how do they expect to be competitive next season?

  17. Christine says:

    Hope Jenson remembers Seb Vettel likes to drive sideways off the grid. I’m hoping for a Mclaren 1-2 tomorrow. Still miss your enthusiastic commentary on tv James :(

  18. JR says:

    As well as what HAM achieved in his last Q3 lap, there was a point earlier that showed how good he is. At the start of Q2, following the rain in Q1, he came out wearing slicks on a drying track — as did all the other cars. As one of the commentators said, the first lap was just ‘feel the grip’ before setting a time. But on this first lap round a track with unknown and inconsistent grip levels, HAM set a time two seconds faster than anyone else!

    Mark my words, if it rains tomorrow the other drivers won’t see Hamilton for dust — or should that be ‘spray’?

  19. Trent says:

    James,

    The nose-mounted onboard appeared to show that McLaren have a small wing mounted to the bottom of the front brake ducts.

    Would this not constitute a moveable aero device?

  20. Alistair says:

    I must disagree with the article somewhat. I think that the McLaren drivers, especially Lewis and not the car, make the key difference in the wet.

    Lewis is a renowned wet-weather specialist. He’s the only driver, since Senna, to win a wet race by over a minute (Europe 93-Britain 08). Lewis established his dominance in the wet, over his reigning and double world-champion team-mate, Alonso, in 07, when Lewis was but a rookie (Fuji 07 et cetera). And Lewis has, on countless occasions, showed his wet-weather prowess (e.g., Monaco 08 and those myriad passes at Monza 08). Notice how, at Spa, Lewis was much quicker (about a second per lap) than everyone else on their first lap on a wet track: he feels and anticipates the grip better than anyone.

    As for Jenson, his smooth driving style helps him a lot in the wet, assuming that he can keep/get temperature into his tyres: Europe 07 comes to mind; as does his first win at Hungary; and his two wins this year.

    McLaren don’t have the best car on the grid. But I firmly believe that they have the best driver combination: two world champions; two highly skilled and marketable drivers with complimentary styles; with no hint of antagonism between them.

  21. Nadeem Zreikat says:

    Am I right to say that Rubens used the harder tyre in Q3 for his best time. If so what are these implications assuming we get a dry race? The gamble may pay off?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes you are right. Hulkenberg used scrubbed softs

  22. Marlon Doogan says:

    Hamilton, did an outstanding lap, almost 2 seconds ahead of Alonso in worse conditions (remember he was behind Alonso and the rain kept coming down).

    Just you would give the lad a bit of credit James? But that may be asking too much

  23. Ng says:

    Hi great post by James , but I’m wondering if it’s really the flexible wing issue causing Ferrari sudden slump to the extent that Alonso fails to improve even when other drivers do , by a tenth or whatever . This point seems supported as whitmarsh is quoted saying ” the wings look more rigid now” suggesting the wings of other teams could be indeed flexing much lesser than before as FIA introduced test .Also , I have a further suspicion to this as we observe that Ferrari even in the dry , wasn’t really close or near the red bull s2 timing ( given that recent claims that they reach the bulls downforce level). They seem to be slower than mclaren in s2 as well if I’m not wrong ( if this is cnfmed , then it’s hard to not doubt where went so wrong ..)

    Anyway still a great job by Hamilton n I believe they r on a wet set up as compared to red bulls who probably went for a drier one . So if race starts wet , mark will be hunted down by mclaren , provided that there won’t be any collisons at first lap .

    1. James Allen says:

      Other teams say that the wings aren’t bending as much as before, but Ferrari and Red Bull passed the new test. The floor stay test in Monza will be more difficult

  24. C Lin says:

    I hope Hamilton wins this one.
    Alonso LOL.
    I hope Massa finishes ahead of his team mate or maybe Massa will get another special radio message! Dang!

  25. Rich C says:

    From the lack of any uproar can we assume that RB’s floppy wings have passed FIA’s new, stricter test?

    Or just that there *was no new test?

    1. James Allen says:

      No, there was a tougher test and they passed it.

  26. JohnBt says:

    Lewis will battle for the lead at Kemmel and if he does, it will be tough to catch him. He was really fast at all sectors and juicing every bit from his car.

    Weather forecast indicates light rain in the afternoon, but it’s never accurate.

    At Spa there will always be mayhem!

  27. Rob says:

    Eau Rouge in 7th gear @ 305 km/h – yeah baby it Spa-Francorchamps

  28. gil_dogon says:

    By the way Hamilton and Webber are one and two not only in qualifying and final practice, but maybe more significantly in the driver championship points ! It would certainly make for an interesting first lap and race tomorrow. Both of them have earned a lot of respect during the years and this season in particular, so I personally find it difficult to choose who to root for. I guess though the safer bet for this race is for Hamilton to win barring the unexpected …

  29. Grabyrdy says:

    The BBC weather forecast for Spa (for what that’s worth – not very reliable for Europe) says “heavy rain”. All day.

    Heeheehee

  30. Harvey Yates says:

    Has there ever been a season when qualifying has been such a lottery? I know there are ‘artificial’ limitations placed on the teams now, with different tyres and having qually divided into three, but even so it is remarkable.

    If one ignores the RB advantage and the three new teams, it is extremely difficult to predict where everyone else will be. I have a bet with friends where we predict fifth, sixth and seventh and now, more than halfway through the season, we haven’t had a winner.

    We’ve been doing this for five seasons and were never this far off the qualiftying positions except at the beginning of the season.

    I risked Alonso in sixth. The comments I received from my friends about me being prejudiced against him look pretty stupid now. As indeed do I.

    I am going to miss watching the race live, the first in 17 years, due to a domestic demand. I have the feeling it is one we will be talking about for the rest of the season and probably for years to come.

    The rest of the season could well start here as far as the WDC and WCC are concerned.

  31. mike says:

    the front wing on the redbull looks like an earlier wing as the cameras have moved back to the nose cone is this why thy passed the new test

  32. RickeeBoy says:

    Thanks James for being the only web site to nail what really happened in qualifying highlighting Hamilton’s superb lap and I think Mark’s superb sportsmanship ( in an era where there is none ) in saying that Hamilton’s lap was the most impressive was great. Like another writer on here – I’m not sure who to root for – Mark or Lewis – although if its damp which the weather forecast predicts – its a Lewis race but I still want Mark doing well. Looks like an exciting race.

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