[Updated] The McLaren team may have its problems with competitiveness on the track, having fallen behind Ferrari and Red Bull in the last month, but in the pits the team is now the fastest in F1.
The situation is the opposite of the start of the season, where they had the fastest cars, but had plenty of problems in pit stops.
At last weekend’s British Grand Prix the team set the two fastest stops of the day in 2.6secs and 2.9secs and all four stops averaged less than 3.0secs. This follows Valencia where they also set the fastest time in 2.6secs.
The performance in Silverstone was especially impressive given that the right rear gunner had been injured in Valencia, when his leg was gashed by a front wing endplate and started the weekend unable to take part in stops. But after practice on Saturday morning he returned to the crew and participated in all four of McLaren’s stops.
McLaren has done a lot of work since the start of the year, under Sporting Director Sam Michael, on incorporating new equipment of the kind used by other leading teams such as retained wheel nuts and quick release front jacks.
Ferrari continue to be consistently strong, with a sub 3 second stop at Silverstone on Alonso’s second stop, while Red Bull and Mercedes both had 3.1 sec stops.
McLaren have brought updates to the car, but have clearly fallen behind Ferrari and Red Bull in recent races. One of the main reasons for this is that they struggle to balance the tyre temperatures front to rear. This has been a particular problem for Jenson Button. This is preventing the updates from making much difference to overall performance.
McLaren has been experimenting with a device which opens a flap on the brake duct to allow hot air from the discs to soak through into the wheel rim to heat the tyre from the inside. They’ve had this on the rear for a while and at Silverstone they added the feature to the front wheels as well.
There have been big advances in warming up front tyres by both Red Bull and Ferrari, as we saw in the wet qualifying session on Saturday at Silverstone, where both teams were able to get front tyre temperature. Rear end aerodynamics is another key area where McLaren have fallen behind their rivals.