McLaren heads into the middle phase of the season hopeful it has finally turned a corner with its pit stops and strategy in wake of Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Canada, operations director Simon Roberts has said today.
The team’s attempts to capitalise on the MP4-27’s generally strong pace since Jenson Button’s season-opening victory in Australia had been hampered by repeated errors in pit stops in particular but a change to its processes and personnel since Spain have steadily improved the situation, with analysis on this website showing that, while McLaren’s fastest pit stop remained behind those of chief rivals’ Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull in Montreal, the difference between the quartet’s respective times was a mere couple of tenths of a second.
Sporting director Sam Michael has targeted average stop times of 3s going forward and speaking with journalists in the latest Vodafone phone-in on Wednesday afternoon, Roberts said the team were now far more content with the situation. “We’re very conscious and we made changes to the way we do things. Obviously you can inadvertently increase level or risk or just get people slightly out of position. So the guys on the race team have done a huge amount of work all season really on trying to refine the pit-stop strategy and even the way we approach qualifying.
“So I think we were fairly pleased in Canada. Hopefully that’s turned the corner. We’re not planning anything different going forward. So no big changes but hopefully we can just consolidate on what we’ve been doing and keep it in the sweet spot.”
While McLaren’s execution of Lewis Hamilton’s Canada win was all-but error-free, a sticky right-rear wheel nut at the key second stop aside, the team’s overriding concern ahead of this weekend’s return to action has been trying to establish what has sent Jenson Button’s form so badly awry in recent races, a slump which culminated in the 2009 world champion’s worst race finish for four years last time out.
Roberts said that analysis back at the factory had shown there to be no fundamental differences between Hamilton’s race-winning MP4-27 and the one Button struggled so badly with, and instead pointed to “subtleties” with Button’s car that he was optimistic wouldn’t prove too difficult for the team to correct.
“We’re pretty sure at the moment that there was nothing untoward with Jenson’s car and actually nothing fundamentally wrong with the set-up,” Roberts explained. “But in the subtlety of these cars as they are at the moment there are differences and going into Valencia I think we’re quite optimistic that having identified that we can have a slightly different way of getting Jenson’s car under him for the qualifying and for the race.
He added: “This isn’t big stuff like fundamentally running a different aero balance or anything like this. This is absolutely down buried in the detail. We think we’re a step nearer to understanding it all, whether we’ve got it cracked it only time will tell. But a painful and interesting learning exercise for us.”