McLaren problems could take “quite some time” to fix
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Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Apr 2013   |  9:11 am GMT  |  133 comments

JA on F1 technical adviser and former Williams chief engineer Mark Gillan believes it will take McLaren quite some time to fix problems with their 2013 car.

The Woking-based team ended last year with the fastest car, but decided to go for a significant change, rather than evolve the 2012 design. They have been well off the pace in the first two races of the season, with ride issues among their problems.

The team has just four points, 62 less than championship leaders Red Bull, with Jenson Button and Sergio Perez scoring a ninth place each. However Button was on for a top five result in Malaysia before a pit stop problem slowed his progress.

Although McLaren are renowned for starting slowly, but improving the car quickly through the season, Gillan told the latest edition of the JA on F1 podcast that it might not be so easy to do that with this car, as the problem is not simply aerodynamic, but more fundamental than that,

“I was surprised at how slow they were at the beginning of the season,” said Gillan. “They’ve had a couple of poor starts, but typically get it sorted.

“The fact they are obviously concerned about the development and how quickly they can improve things probably means the problems are down to suspension and the pick up points into the chassis which are quite difficult to change quickly.

“If it was just purely aerodynamic changes, I’d expect them to deal with it within a race or two, so it’s probably going to take them quite a while.”

If the McLaren does require new mounting points for the suspension, there are two options – to build a new chassis, which takes 90 days or cut the affected area out of the existing chassis and bond in new pick up points, but this adds weight and requires the chassis to be in Woking, which will not be possible over the China/Bahrain period.

But even if they start building a new one now, the chassis wouldn’t be ready until the Canadian Grand Prix, round seven of the championship, at the earliest.

To listen to the full interview with Mark Gillan on all of the teams plus interviews with James Allison, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, make sure you listen to the April edition of the JA on F1 podcast available to download directly here.

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133 Comments
  1. AuraF1 says:

    Interesting analysis but if the car is so vastly off the pace then Jenson shouldn’t have been even close to the top 10 let alone top 5. It may well have been the nature of the track or Jenson may simply be a better driver than he gets credited for – but wasn’t he ahead of Kimi in the last race until the wheelnut incident?

    It’s obvious mclaren are deeply concerned but if the car was utterly unfixable you’d have to assume they would have moved back to the 2012 car with minor mods on it which would be within the mclaren financial heft to do so.

    It’s a bit like saying red bull are not happy with the tyres – true and obvious – but they still won!

    1. Joel says:

      Exactly my thoughts. The car is not as bad as projected in the media. Although, I respect the professional opinion by Mark Gillian here – I think the doom and gloom is overblown.

    2. BadName says:

      As you pointed out, Red Bull are concerned about the tyres, and won. McLaren are concerned about their chassis, and has a total of 4 points scored. That is the reality of it. The two teams couldn’t be further to the opposite ends of the spectrum, apples and oranges really.

    3. Formula Zero says:

      Yes Jenson is a good driver. If he did finish on 5th place that would’ve been a great result. But because he didn’t finish the race, it’s impossible to tell where he really fitted in the pecking order. Hypothetically lets say Jenson did finish 5th & consistently 5th in every race for the rest of the season. That makes McLaren the 9th & 10th best car out of top 10 cars & 5th best team without any kind of championship hopes. That’s a bad result for McLaren, worse result because they had the fastest car last year. And because of the similarity in rules this year, I’m shocked to see McLaren’s performance. The reason McLaren has not won constructor’s championship since ’98 because they are always playing catch up. No matter how well they develop the car throughout the season, playing catch up in first half of the season is going to make them winner. My prediction is that if McLaren can’t fix their issue by round 5/6, they are better off investing in next year. Revolutionary cars might be good for next season, not 2013.

      1. Formula Zero says:

        Correction, playing catch up in the first half of the season is NOT going to win McLaren any championship.

      2. iceman says:

        I don’t agree that it’s impossible to tell where Button would have ended up. We know what strategies were in play and had seen the relative pace of the cars prior to the problem at Button’s last pit stop. I think it’s pretty clear he was on for 5th place at worst.

      3. George Matthew says:

        Ok, they were two seconds off the pace in Australia and were only one second in Malaysia and the pit crew stuffed JB up for a possible podium place. Mark Hughes also wrote on Sky that Mclaren’s season depends on a major upgrade for China. If Mclaren get that right, don’t discount a Button win.

    4. Yak says:

      Don’t forget, Kimi was struggling with the car in the race (and I think quali as well), Alonso was out of the race, Alonso’s rear-ending of Vettel also caught out and set Massa back, di Resta’s quali was ruined by strategy and weather, followed by both Force India’s being heavily delayed in the pits and then retiring from the race, Grosjean had good pace but like di Resta was caught out in quali and started out of the top 10. And then other possible points contenders like Sauber, Williams, Toro Rosso… well, they’re not doing particularly well at the moment.

      So aside from a supposed slight improvement in the McLaren for Malaysia, there were also other factors that helped Button. Of course, Button’s known for being good in dodgy track conditions, and I recall him saying the McLaren is off the pace in the dry and full wet, but strangely competitive in intermediate conditions. So those factors probably would have helped in both quali and the early phase of the race.

  2. goferet says:

    Hmm… I don’t know.

    Jenson seemed to think the team was on the road to recovery so much so he was even talking of being a championship contentor.

    Anyway irrespective of whether Mclaren manage to sort out their car, there’s some fundamentally wrong within the team for even with the fastest car, the fans can’t be 100% confident that they can get the job done consistently >>> strategy-wise and operationally-wise.

    Now at times as these, shouldn’t Mclaren take drastic measures by asking Paddy Lowe out of his gardening leave in a bid to understand the car a little faster seeing as Lowe is credited as the designer of the 2013 car.

    Right, Mclaren are known for being pretty good at in-season development. But in the past, Lewis helped out in the process.

    This time, it will be interesting to see how quick the team emerge from this hole.

    1. McLaren78 says:

      Irrespective of whether Mclaren manage to sort out their car, the title is gone, or if they manage to somehow (don’t know how) win this year’s title, they will be nowhere for the next 3 years. Everyone will stop development of this year’s car in the summer to focus on the new 2014 regs cars. If they carry on trying to make this the fastest car they will jeopardise next year’s car. The only hope is to short everything out in the next 3 rounds.

      1. Alex says:

        It must surely be a concern. If the rumours of Honda providing engines from 2015 prove to be accurate then this might just add to their problems. Not only have they got to design a car for 2014 but then they’ve also got to think about integrating a new engine for the 2015 car. So surely the 2014 car needs to be dependable and ideally quick from the start so that the team can start making preparations for the Honda engine in 2015? Could these considerations limit the resources the team will be willing to devote to this current car so that they can focus on the longer term?

      2. Doug says:

        My thoughts are that they have deliberately gone radical this year as they know that they will just be an also ran customer team in 2014. If they can get this car to the front in the next 2 or 3 races then I would expect them to win a title this year due to it’s wide development window.
        I really doubt that they’ll stop developing this car (if they get it winning) to work on the 2014 car, which they know won’t have the same level of integration as the ‘works’ cars.

        This is a landmark year for McLaren being their 50th aniversay..if they can turn this around they remain one of the top teams…if they can’t…oh dear! :-(

      3. George Matthew says:

        What’s wrong with Mclaren and Honda, if anything last time Mclaren and Honda partnered up, they won a Constructor’s Championship

      4. John M says:

        But this is probably exactly why they so drastically changed the 2013 car. They must be looking at the 2013 car as the development path for the 2014 car, whereas they saw the 2012 car as a dead end for development. They may have been able to stick with the 2012 design and be more competitive in the short term, but sacrifice long term competitiveness.

        I may be wrong, but that sure seems like the most logical explanation for the drastic change from 2012 to 2013.

      5. David says:

        +1 makes sense to me.

      6. hero_was_senna says:

        “Everyone will stop development of this year’s car in the summer to focus on the new 2014 regs cars.”

        I’m not so sure. Ferrari is already working on the 2014 car with a certain Rory Bryne. Mercedes has so many chiefs that I’d imagine Costa is working on this years car and the others are already working on next years.
        Mclaren have alternating teams working on alternate years. The only question mark for me, probably stupid, is that there’s only one Adrian Newey at RBR

      7. iceman says:

        But Adrian Newey has two brains :)

    2. Seems all cars need sorting, no matter how good they are or are not out of the bo. Weren’t Lowe and Hamilton in place during design for the 2009 “experience” and wasn’t Button the new kid in town at the time? Kinda makes ya wonder who was in a position to have the primary design input and who really did the work to get things turned around, eh?

      1. Warren Groenewald says:

        Button was at BrawnGP busy winning a championship in 2009.

    3. Gazz says:

      Paddy lowe was the designer of this car, knowing he was already going to Mercedes…… why would they want him anywhere near the car? Tim Goss was the designer of last years car and did a much better job than the famed Lowe so I have no doubt he is working round the clock to iron out the problems. McLaren where stitched up…

    4. gwinasia says:

      Bear in mind that Jenson is a good talker and a dreamer

      1. gudien says:

        In the end it’s the results that matter, assuming the McLaren team is after good results.

  3. Jonathan says:

    It beggars belief that a company with such resources and talent can produce such a uncompetitive car. There’s no doubt that it will be improved throughout the season, but at the moment they are simply handing points to the competition – and it’s not like the other teams are going to sit on their hands and wait for them to catch up!

    Will this “revolutionary” car be the basis of the 2014 model, or did they throw the baby out with the bath water when they decided not to evolve the MP4/27?

    1. David says:

      This comment could’ve been used for last year’s Ferrari. Innovators take chances. Sometimes they get it wrong. Some play it conservative and are destined to stay in mid-field, others take chances. Sometimes you fly, sometimes you fall.

      1. Robert says:

        +1. All McLaren did was copy the best bits off their leading contenders, but in the case of the front suspension they knew what that did to Ferrari last year. I applaud the innovation, if not the actual immediate results….

      2. Niko says:

        Not if you are McLaren…

    2. Bring Back Murray says:

      They need someone to go in there and take them by the scruff of the neck. Shocking underachievement and lack of focus for, histroically, such a well-run team

  4. Bring Back Murray says:

    Is it coincidence that the relative decline of McClaren has been occuring in conjunction with the growth of their road-car programme.

    When they only had F1 to focus on, they seemed to be stronger.

    This could be the season when McClaren really does start to slip more towards the mid-field than a team regularly fighting at the front. With teams such as Lotus and Mercedes up and coming I think there is a real danger of this happening if they don’t get their act together – and soon.

    1. Colombia Concalvez says:

      It is McLaren

      1. Bring Back Murray says:

        You forgot to put the full stop. Is is McLaren.

      2. madmax says:

        Thought Colombia Concalvez was Ron Dennis in disguise but now I know better as Ron would never suffer the imperfection of a sentence without a full stop.

    2. Simmo says:

      While that is an interesting, and very valid, point, I don’t think the two things are that related.

      I just think that they have tried something different and it hasn’t worked. With the regulations being ‘reset’ next year, they will most likely be back on the right track (not that I’d expect to see them in Malaysia next weekend ;) ).

      You have to remember how both McLaren and Ferrari were at the beginning, and even at the end, of 2009 (again, when the regulations were ‘reset’). But then they recovered.

  5. Paul says:

    Out of interest why does it take 90 days to make a chassis? Does that include the design, part manufacturing and the FIA crash tests?

    1. Timmay says:

      Has to bake in an oven.

    2. Robert says:

      Nearly every piece is made of vacuum-formed, heat and pressure cured carbon fibre. They first have to program a CAD-driven router to cut a wooden (or similar) blank for each and every part, or even sub-part. Then then smooth that by hand, and then lay it up with successive coatings of carbon and epoxy. When the desired thickness and bias alignment is done, then then wrap it all in sealable plastic bags, that are then vacuum pumped so the bag applies even pressure over the entire part. And THEN they pop it into giant curing ovens…and they have to schedule the production around the oven use, because they can’t be fitting everything in there at once.

      And they do this for EACH and every part, and they need multiples usually.

      So 90 days is pretty awesome really….

  6. DMyers says:

    This is exactly the same sort of thing that happened to McLaren in 2009, so you’d have thought that they would have learned from that experience. They went from being the fastest in 2008, to being lucky to get through Q1 in 2009. It takes a special type of arrogance to make the same fundamental mistake twice within such a short space of time.

    1. Colombia Concalvez says:

      2009 was more about the Diffuser and not the over all car

    2. iceman says:

      I don’t see how you can say they made the same mistake, unless you know what was wrong with both cars.

  7. blackmamba says:

    I think nobody, including MacLaren, know what is wrong with the car. They are desperate for a more normal race weekend so they can gather enough relevant data so they can deduce where it does not correlate with the simulator. As yet they can’t fix it if they do not know what is wrong.

  8. AlexD says:

    I read that McLaren is facing a similar problem to the one of Ferrari. Alonso is struggling with front suspension of F138 (Ferrari opted for more down force at the cost of front tyre management)

    1. Anil says:

      Alonso is only struggling on low fuel and even then it’s only out of heavy breaking zones (final corner in malaysia for example). The problem disappears in race trim. That said we still have no idea how fast the Ferrari actually is!

      1. Yago says:

        Interesting point. I noticed Alonso’s inconsistency during qualifying in the last sector in Malaysia. Actually his final sector time with the medium tires was something like 3 tenths of a second slower than his time with the hard tires (and that’s quite a bit). He also had troubles there with the intermediates in Q3.

        That said, I think his problem is more tire related than fuel related, in the sense that in Malaysia for example it was amplified with the softer compound.

    2. Eric C. says:

      I haven’t read anything of the sort regarding Alonso. F138 is miles ahead of MP4-28.

  9. Doug says:

    Hi James,

    It’s interesting to read Mark’s conclusion that as McLaren are concerned it’s probably a suspension issue.
    Over on the Sky F1 site there’s an article by Mark Hughes saying it’s an aerodynamic one..and I quote..
    ‘The team is confident it has identified the main shortcoming of the car as an aerodynamic one, unconnected with the radical pull-rod front suspension and centring around the underfloor.’

    Is this McLaren putting up a smokescreen or just being hopeful that it’s an areodynamic issue?…although the detailed explanation of how the problem caused the kagerooing effect they had in Melbourne (unrelated to the wildlife!) gives the article a lot of credability.

    1. AuraF1 says:

      I think this goes to show that engineers can’t always agree! There’s more than one way to skin an F1 car etc…

    2. Formula Zero says:

      We will find out when the racing gets under way again. If it is an aero issue McLaren might be able to improve the performance by round 4/5. If they are still off the pace by then, McLaren will be battling Force India & Sauber. It is a shame, but that’s F1.

  10. hero_was_senna says:

    I question the comment about if it was aerodynamic it would be solved in a race or two?
    I’m not a techie but from memory, didn’t the 2009 Mclaren have fundamental aero problems which took until the German GP to get on top of?

    Is the pick up points different because of pull rod suspension. Something that many commented that Ferrari suffered from last year, when in fact the team stated that the suspension wasn’t the cause of the problem?
    Or are the pick up points different because of raising the nose significantly?

    1. blackmamba says:

      The 2009 MacLaren car’s main problem was that the team did not develop the double diffuser in the off-season, while Brawn got the jump on everybody.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        Bear in mind that the double diffuser was on the Brawn, Williams and Toyota. Every other team didn’t have it until the return to europe. In fact most teams went to the FIA to have it banned

    2. Elie says:

      I think both aero and suspension are intertwined – if you change the pick up points you effect the aero

  11. Jumpy O' VeRbUmP says:

    C’mon, McLaren – when the problem is mounting have a team bonding session.

    1. Bring Back Murray says:

      The guy who couldn’t get the wheel nut on sure needs it!

  12. Matt W says:

    To be fair, I was quite impressed with Mclaren’s turnaround in Malaysia. Aside from the problem that hit Button in the race, their race pace was actually really positive and Button looked on for a reasonable recovery.

    I think it is easy to get a bit too caught up in the doom and gloom. I think Mclaren have some work to do to catch up, but this isn’t like 2009 and I’d wager not as bad as Ferrari last year.

    1. Doug says:

      I agree, I think a lot of people who are castigating McLaren at the moment will have red faces by mid-season.

  13. Paul L says:

    Surely when they say fix they have to mean a suboptimal solution to repair the deficits. The core design sounds faulty and changing what they need to change is likely to hurt their performance in other areas, is it not?

    1. Quade says:

      @Paul L
      Your words are very strong. We cannot know if the fundamental design of the McLaren is poor, especially as the guys who design F1 cars are some of the smartest people in their field. You will find that many have distinguished backgrounds in high tech areas e.g. military aeronautics, robotics etc.

      Its better to say that the design isn’t translating to speed on the circuit. It might even be a setup problem with the drivers, who knows? Only McLaren know what the issues are for certain.

      1. mr. p says:

        i agree

  14. Elie says:

    Honestly James its exactly like I expected when the Mp4- 28 was launched. Surely Mclaren had to understand that the whole new concept would put them into the same boat that Ferrari experienced throughout 2012. Did they think they would be that much smarter at sorting out the car ??

    Like Mark Gillan said its not just aero it has to do with suspension also which won’t be a quick fix. I WAS really , really surprised when Mclaren launched this car in the final year of these regulations. They could well have the fastest car by Dec but by then they would be out of the running.

    Im not at all surprised where they are at the moment. Let hope they are in the mix by mid year.

    1. Doug says:

      Hi Elie,

      Thare are a lot of if’s flying about that you’ve taken as Gospel. If Mark’s right then this will take quite a long time to fix…but go over to the Sky F1 site & read what Mark Hughes has written about what McLaren say the problem is…it makes a much more convincing read (no offence Mr Gillan).

      1. Elie says:

        I don’t take anything as Gospel Doug. I had my own opinion when the MP 4- 28 was launched. Also I don’t read too much into what Skysports F1 have to say- not one of them tipped lotus to win in Aus and they had Raikkonen as 10: 1 – no offence Sky sports F1.

      2. Doug says:

        Hi Elie,

        Sorry if I miss read into your line…

        ‘Like Mark Gillan said its not just aero it has to do with suspension also which won’t be a quick fix.’

        It sounded to me like you were agreeing with Mark Gillan who says he ‘thinks’ (not knows) that the problem is suspension related, and that from this you deduced that ‘it won’t be a quick fix’.

        The article on Sky F1′s site by Mark Hughes is based on information given by McLaren that (and I quote),

        ‘The team is confident it has identified the main shortcoming of the car as an aerodynamic one, unconnected with the radical pull-rod front suspension and centring around the underfloor.’

        The technical description that then follows seems entirely believable.

        I’m no fan of Sky F1…but this story seems to be coming from the horses mouth..unlike Mark Gillan’s ‘theory’.

      3. James Allen says:

        Wait and see…Don’t forget what Gillan has been doing for a career for many years and the contacts he has..

      4. Doug says:

        Hi James,
        Thanks for your comment. I don’t mean to disrespect Mark Gillam, I’m just facinated that his comment sits on the other side of the fence from McLaren’s/Mark Hughes conclusion that it is an aerodynamic issue with the underfloor…maybe their opinion is a case of ‘wishful thinking’…I just can’t see why they would deliberately put their thoughts out in the public domain if they end up with egg on their faces..of course, it could be a case of talking themselves up whilst nailing a few key contracts.
        Time, as they say, will tell… :-)

    2. hero_was_senna says:

      “Did they think they would be that much smarter at sorting out the car ??”

      Great question.
      There is something within the Mclaren DNA that projects an image of arrogance rather than confidence. Maybe it feeds down from Ron Dennis, but it’s not something I have ever witnessed in any other Formula 1 team.
      The legend states that they can out-develop all competition over the course of a season, but history proves it’s required because they start off slower than the competition.
      When they started 2012 with the fastest car, what stopped their developing quicker than Red Bull?
      They say never read your own press, but Mclaren have come to believe that their engineering group is better than any other.
      The media buys into it too, after the launch of the MP4/28, Gary Anderson spoke of how great and exciting this car would be, and many others shared the same opinion, especially after their blistering first laps of testing.
      The subject of the pull rod suspension was almost swept under the carpet. Mclaren wouldn’t have the same problems as Ferrari, they are too good for that. Well guess what…

      I still remember Gordon Murray saying when asked if the Mclaren F1 would take any design cues from the Ferrari F40,
      “We don’t have anyone at Mclaren who can weld that badly”
      Maybe it’s endemic in Woking.

      1. W Johnson says:

        And the McLaren F1 turned out to be a legendary car and winner of Le Mans so Gordon Murray can say what he damn well likes…he has proved he knows what he is talking about….[mod]

      2. W Johnson says:

        hero_was_senna

        and Gordon Murray also has a sense of humour…!

      3. hero_was_senna says:

        I’d suspect that owners of a Ferrari 250 Testarossa, 250 GTO, 250LM or Ferrari P4 have never worried about the welding in their Le Mans winning chassis. LOL

      4. W Johnson says:

        Its a pity that you cannot find it within yourself to write more contructive points about McLaren. They are clearly not your favourite team but they are one of the best teams in the history of F1, precisely because of their meticulous attention to every detail and an uncompromising desire to be the best in the world. That is precisely why they are in my opinion the best F1 team.

      5. Doug says:

        Couldn’t agree more…they also don’t seem to need the deck well and truely stacked in their favour like a certain rival team..who prefer to service one driver..get special payouts etc!

      6. hero_was_senna says:

        I assume you believe Mclaren are the only team with that ethos??

        I respect Mclaren enormously, but I am as critical of Ferrari and any other team as I am of Mclaren. In my view, all teams take different approaches to the rules and end up with different designs because of this. Look at the nose vanity covers this year, some teams use them, others don’t.

        I don’t want to see red bull win again. I support Ferrari but if they can’t win, I want strong competition. I don’t particularly like Kimi but would welcome him winning too. I want a strong Mclaren too.

        May I also remind people, my hero drove for Mclaren…

      7. W Johnson says:

        hero_was_senna,

        You are being grossly unfair and incorrect regarding your comments about McLaren and their 2013 car:

        1. When did the team assert they could rely upon outperfom other teams with improving the performance of their 2013 car?

        Your beef may be with the media. If elemments in the media believe McLaren have this capability, there may be some truth based on past performances but that is quite different from your accusation that the team itself makes this claim.

        2. When did McLaren assert that they would not experience any of the problems faced by Ferrari with developing a push rod front suspension?

        Infact, reading statements from McLaren, quite the opposite where they admit to taking quite a high risk solution for 2013. That implies a high probability of failure!

        3. There is also a certain irony in your comments about Ron Dennis. In the film about your hero, Senna, the film footage showed Ron Dennis in a favourable light, standing by senna in his battles with FIA and Prost.

        So I say to you, using a famous Ron comment, “Where is the consistency?” LOL

      8. hero_was_senna says:

        Hats off to you sir or ma’am.
        All points well made :)

  15. Fazly says:

    Is it possible this significant change is part of mclaren on track testing of their 2014 invention? Or they just made a wrong move into 2013?

    1. Quade says:

      I was initially swayed by the 2014 argument, but the more you consider the 2014 changes, the more you realise that the current design has no bearing on next next year.

      2014 cars will have much lower noses, because of the radical changes to center of gravity due to the new V6 and the batteries for the Energy Recovery System (ERS). So it doesn’t seem like there’ll be much for McLaren to corelate with their high nose and extra wide sidepods. Also, the 2014 exhausts will come out right at the back to effectively kill off any attempts at diffuser blowing; this will have tremendous effect on the rake (forward angle of the floor) run on present cars. The 2014 rear will likely sit lower.

      1. Fazly says:

        Thanks

      2. Wanja says:

        Interesting fact: Before 2012, front pull rod suspensions have never been used with high noses, but Minardi used them on low noses way before, and they haven’t been the only ones. Apparently with a low nose, a front pull rod suspension has a much better angle allowing for more movement. So if there is anything that McLaren can take over to the 2014 car, then it’s actually front pull rods.

      3. hero_was_senna says:

        Pull rod suspension dates back to the 70′s when Gordon Murray designed it into the Brabham’s suspension.

  16. Rehan says:

    We keep hearing about the ride issues but nothing beyond that . James could you please elaborate in a more technical point of view. How can simply raising the chassis cause the geometry of the suspension change. Dont the suspension parts rise accordingly in the chasis lift. I’m a die hard mclaren fan and the sound of these issues taking longer to solve isnt great news.

    1. Quade says:

      Something deep in me whispers it could simply be a setup issue, with the drivers not yet getting the hang of their new fangled gizmo.

    2. Bunchies says:

      Think of where the suspension mounts to the chassis. If you raise the chassis, the mounting point rises up.

      If all suspension A-arms and whatever are the same length, then they will be pointing at a more acute angle.

      Think of the suspension angle as the hypotenuse of a right-triangle. If you raise the vertical height (as raising the chassis would do), then the hypotenuse must change to a more acute angle in relation to that vertical side.

      1. Rehan says:

        Yes but along with the mounting points on the chassis rising so will the mounting points on the wheel or drum. It’s only a matter of millimetres from last years chassis but such profound effect. There must be something else to it in my opinion. James ?

    3. hero_was_senna says:

      I found this link which may have some relevance to the issues they are struggling with.

      http://somersf1.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/mclarens-stuttering-start-my-initial.html

  17. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Yes the team has just four points, BUT 62 less than championship leaders Red Bull (not 42). Red Bull has 66.

    It’s hard to think they can close that gap anytime this year, it looks like McLaren and Mercedes have changed roles in 2013, but just time will tell.

  18. olderguysrule says:

    James,
    It seems to me that as important as the chassis problems are, the “pit stop problem” that Jens has is critical. This seems to be an Achilles heel for McLaren, more so than other teams. Could you find time to do an analysis on how pit stop snafu’s have affected the WDC & WCC over the years? There have been many over the years, Massa leaving the pits with the fuel hose still in the car is one I remember well.

    1. Alexander Supertramp says:

      Ironically, Mclaren beat their old world record of 2.31 sec. They set a 2.28 in Kuala Lumpur. Mercedes did a 2.29 and Red Bull have the new record with 2.05. More so, Red Bull beat the old record of 2.31 5 times during the race. Low 2sec pit stops are going to become the standard.CRAZY!

      1. And Red Bull didn’t have to botch an entire championship challenge in pursuit of braking the record, either! :)

    2. madmax says:

      Irvine’s one tyre missing in 1999 at some of the European rounds. Probably cost him the championship.

      If you look at the lap times compared to the Mercedes, Button had a good chance of a podium after a great drive were he completely throttled Perez. What a shame McLaren screwed up the pit stop yet again.

      1. olderguysrule says:

        madmax, that was the point I was trying to make. When they are “on”, they are the best in the pits. But it seems there are many, to many bit stop blunders as compared to the other front runners. Of course it’s all speculation and what if scenario’s.

  19. Quade says:

    Judging from the good progress they had made at Malaysia, its likely that they would have a fast car in China.
    Both McLaren drivers are not the best qualifiers, otherwise McLaren was strong enough for a podium in the last race.

    …Fingers crossed.

  20. Adam says:

    James I think the profound issue here is not that the geometry is incorrect but that it takes an absurd amount of time to make changes to the front end geometry, making McLaren reluctant to do so in the limited time on track for each session. No nipping to the pits for a change in a few minutes. I hear it is at least 45 minutes or half a session.

    They either get the front end right out of the box or they live with what they have for that session and hope that in the break in track time the long painful adjustment process is in the correct direction. They have to redesign and retool to allow faster front end changes…. Then they can get the most from it. McLaren are smart people, they will have applied a boat load of time to that problem and come Spain they will be able to make quick changes to the front end.

  21. Nigel says:

    It’s equally possible that they go quite some way towards solving their problems by the next race in China.
    They certainly seemed to have made some progress in understanding the car in Malaysia, and if the problems are aerodynamic (disruption of airflow in the coke bottle area when the car isn’t traveling in a straight line ?), then they could have a solution ready for the next race.

    In any event, we’ll know pretty soon.

  22. Scuderia McLaren says:

    As a McLaren fan, this is sooooo depressing considering the naked pace of the McLaren only a few months ago in the hands of BOTH Hamilton and Button. Sigh…

    I know it is early days but I am having déjà vu of 2009! Another season down the drain. Maybe some GP wins at best, towards years end I suppose.

    1. KRB says:

      It’ll be hard to be as bad as 2009, although I suppose Lewis got two wins out of it (and could’ve had four, at Valencia and Abu Dhabi, without pitstop or mechanical problems).

      It’s only two races in so far. It doesn’t look good for McLaren, but can never write them off.

    2. hero_was_senna says:

      I get your point, but they don’t have Lewis in the car any more.

    3. Sossoliso says:

      It is not that the car may not be fast enough.. What sticks out is the fact they (mcL)had a chance to collect some decent points in Sepang and what did they do? … Not a JB fan but have got to feel for the guy although he thinks he could be somebody this year i.e. thinks he could be a contender.

  23. Steven Pritchard says:

    Early indications is that there is not a suspension problem.

  24. Richard says:

    I think it must be remembered that we are talking fractions here, and that it is far easier to make something that dosen’t work properly than something that is very fast and agile. That said McLaren have been in the game long enough, but perhaps they lack the definitive expertise, and continuity in design to keep all the ducks in a row. The obvious comparison is with Red Bull who apart from driver management seem to do most other things all too well, certainly they have the continuity and expertise with Adrian Newey’s team. It’s obvious mclaren have done something without fully understanding it which is fatal these days in F1.

  25. Tim says:

    Could they not run the old car until they get the new car on song? Or perhaps run one driver in the old car to bag more points while another tries to sort the new one? Is that even legal or feasible?

    1. Timmay says:

      How can they get it on song without running it at race weekends? There is zero in season testing. And giving I dunno, Button the 2012 & Perez the 2013 would be a nightmare for the mechanics.

  26. Gareth says:

    This has happened way too much and it really is the time for heads to roll. Whitmarsh out, I hear there is a very succesful man who maybe leaving mercedes. If anyone can sort out this problem it would be Ross Brawn.
    The dilema is could Ross Brawn and Ron Dennis work together? Considering their history I must say no. But if Rons ego is the issue then Mclaren could end up going the way of Williams and even worse Lotus( pre 2010)

    1. TheBestPoint? says:

      Never had much time for Whitmarsh – too concerned with appearances and media perception to be effective as a TP of a F1 racing team.
      Has all the time for interviews but not able to lead the “car troubleshooting phase” as he calls it.

      In the space of 1 week he has gone from
      http://www.espn.co.uk/mclaren/motorsport/story/104527.html
      hint hint u no who I’m talking about
      to
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article-2303967/Martin-Whitmarsh-hoping-reunion-Alex-Lowe-McLaren.html
      full blown naming Paddy Lowe as culprit -in his oh so gentlemanly way.

      Doesn’t sound that confident in his current TD and the current noises he is making seem to back up Gillan’s opinion.

      Shanghai should be interesting to observe their progress – less smooth tracks will expose any suspension issues so ff Bahrain will be of particular interest too.

  27. Formula Zero says:

    As far championship is concerned, nothing has turned around for McLaren. Lewis winning the wdc is basically the only thing McLaren has achieved in the last decade!!

  28. PB says:

    So does this now put to bed the ‘fundamentally good car but something wrong with the geometry’ theory?

  29. Quade says:

    John Watson is saying that McLaren are suffering because they have a weak driver pairing:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/22031593

    1. iceman says:

      I guess he means like how they achieved nothing in 2008 when they had a bit of a mediocre second driver.

    2. gudien says:

      You mean, of course, how slow John Watson drove as the team’s #2 driver all those years ago at McLaren.

      1. Quade says:

        Or maybe his being so slow in his time has given him the unique insight to suss the problem as weak driver pairing.

  30. aveli says:

    and what will they say if button is on pole in china?
    we had many comments about how hamilton would struggle this season and it came to nothing.

  31. John says:

    Im not sure I buy into the idea of suspension geometry being the core problem. If you remember during the first pre season tests JB was scratching his head as he couldent understand why the car felt good one lap to feel like a dog the next, His words were “the car is struggling for any consistency from one lap to the next”. This being said then the mechanical setup and so called “suspension pickup points” do not change from one lap to the next, once its set then its set. This leaves only tyres and aero as the other main areas to look at, Im fairly sure Mclaren would of soon ruled out the tyres as the problem. The really only leaves the areo as the major factor. I suggest that the areo is not fully attached in all areas and thus performance is fluctuating from one lap to the next. The reason for the areo dropping off is the problem they are working on. There seems to be a lot mentioned about ride height effecting things, could they be using some sort of progressive damper/spring setup that from one corner to the next combined with wind speed and direction is effecting ride height enough to upset the areo flow over one section of the car thus the areo is becoming “detached”? It seems to me that the progress made in Malaysia was far too great for the suspension geometry and pickups to be the core problem, as its suggested that would not of been fixed with in the few days between races.

  32. Tomasz Cieryt says:

    James, any news on this or just idle speculation?

    http://ca.autoblog.com/2013/04/03/toyota-may-return-to-f1-under-lexus-banner/

    1. Craig in Manila says:

      Or an “April Fools Day” joke ?

      It was posted on the ClubLexus site on 01 April …..

  33. Elie says:

    I don’t think it will take Mclaren all that long to be as quick a the lead pack. I think it may even come before the summer break. Its like Mclaren trying to say “anything Ferrari can do we can do better & even quicker”. The real issue will be consistency I think and getting the set-up right at each race will continue to be challenging giving the sensitivity of the high nose cars.
    Do they have the drivers to get everything out of it with this years tyres is the other big question which Ive always doubted. Lewis was certainly a guy who could make the most of what he had- Jenson & Sergio will struggle ai believe.

  34. Richardc says:

    I have said it before and will say it again……JB is no good at quallly! Put this with the fact the car is poor and there you have it. Mcl are well known for building fast but very complicated cars.But there lies the problem as they do not appear to have the staff to maintain or develop this car for the 2013 season. By the time they do it will be to late and the new regs will need to be addressed. As a fan of Mcl I am frustrated as this seems to happen over and over again with drivers having to push the car beyond it,s working capacity which leads to more problems. Someone or something needs to change if Mcl are to challenge again!

    1. Aaron says:

      I think you are right about JB, and I suspect the problem is compounded by his inability to drive cars he is not completely happy with. One of Hamilton’s assets was his ability to drag a half-decent pace out of a car that is not balanced properly. When JB is happy with a car he is one of the fastest guys out there but when he is not he has often been a second or so behind Hamilton’s lap time.

      1. iceman says:

        Given that he led the race in Malaysia and was running close to the leaders’ pace for much of the race, I guess that proves that McLaren’s car is in fact nearly perfect.

      2. Robert says:

        Not really. The performance in Malaysia was helped by the track being a rather smooth one, which helped hide the ride problems that have been bedevilling them – the team said as much during the quali. Go back to any street circuit, and they will be slow until they fix the ride problems.

  35. forzaminardi says:

    It certainly will take time to solve their problems if Sam Michael has anything to do with it…

  36. Mazirian says:

    Everybody seems to agree that traditionally McLaren seems to be slow at the start of the season, and good at catching up. This would indicate that they are somewhat slow (in F1 terms) to innovate, but excellent at reiterating and implementing outside ideas.

    I can’t help but wonder if this is a direct result of management style?

    The McLaren organization seems really structured. Such structured organizations are, in my experience, usually better at reacting than innovating. Innovation needs a bit of free-thinking, creative chaos, if you will. Highly structured organizations is more into following plans and holding people accountable to those plans, neither of which encourages innovation. They may also have trouble attracting and keeping really creative people, as they usually hate the structural overhead (meetings, documentation, etc).

    I have no way of knowing, and maybe I am totally off the ball, but I believe it might explain the pattern we are seeing.

  37. Scott D says:

    Can’t say that I see things quite as dark and gloomy as the article portrays, particularly after their relative competitiveness in the last GP, but we will see…

  38. Marcelo Leal says:

    Man, I would like to know how LH would be performing with this car…
    McLaren developed dog cars while LH was driving for them, and I never watched him out of Q3 or in a bad position other reason not bad qualifying decisions by the team.
    It would be great to see LH through the season’s test and how they would deal with it and how he could provide feedback for the team. Everyone knows about the raw race speed of LH, and how gifted he is… but I believe a lot of the develpment and improvements that McLaren has is much related of this talent that LH has of giving inputs and setup the car. Last year JB needed to copy the LH setup because he was lost… in RBR was the same, in the begining of the year SV was not handling the new car and was running with old spec. While MW have adpapted himself and sorted out the setup.
    Bring China ON!

  39. Matthew says:

    Enjoying the articles JA

  40. David Ryan says:

    Purely speculating here, but while I think there’s certainly something wrong with the suspension setup (the comments about the ride & inconsistency would suggest as much) I’m not sure it’s necessarily the root cause of the problem. I think McLaren’s biggest issue relating to the suspension is that it’s been so long since they used a pullrod design on the front end that trying to get their heads around it has clouded other issues with the car – predominantly, a lack of usable downforce. Gary Anderson did a very interesting comparison of the front wings of various 2013 cars at Malaysia for the BBC, and McLaren’s looked like it was about two years behind in complexity and development. Given the front wing generates getting on for half of the car’s overall downforce, and influences the rest of the car’s profile as well, that’s not a good position to be in. I suspect redesigning that to incorporate more elements would give McLaren a good starting point. Once they’ve got a consistent level of downforce to work with, they can then address any issues relating to the suspension.

  41. Wanja says:

    With respect, I doubt that it is a straight suspension issue. The teams should have pretty good test rigs by now that should uncover major suspension gremlins pretty swiftly, just by comparing it to previous data.
    Also the McLaren’s suspension setups have always looked quite stiff in the past years, I don’t see anything unusual there. The new line of the suspension rod may be something the aero department has no experience with though.
    However, packaging does have an influence on vehicle dynamics and aerodynamics and both are inherently linked together, building a pretty complex system that is hard to simulate – you don’t have yaw and turn movements in the wind tunnel, no tire deformation and throttle effects at the same time, and even if you did it would be hard to get a clear picture. And if it’s true that their car has a pretty small sweet spot, then my best guess is that their problem may be easy to fix, but hard to find.

  42. John Turner says:

    At least the talk of reverting to last years car seems to have died down, possibly due to the Better Result in Malaysia. I’m not technical expert, but I would have seen that as a Massive Backwards step, yes the Car may have been Quicker, but the full understanding of this Car and any Problem it may be carrying, is going to Push McLaren Forward over this Season and in Seasons to come.

  43. Brad says:

    James, I don’t understand. On one of the earlier winter tests JB went out on hard tyres on a green track and did a time something like 1:18.3 and massa made a comment that that was a seriously quick time and wasn’t bettered for most of that test other than by people on super softs doing low fuel runs.

    That being the case how is the MP4 so slow now, is it as a result of changes since then? If so then it can be reversed and corrected suitably quickly?

    I’d put money on them having 70% of the issue sorted over this 3 weeks with newer parts and then looking to correct it by euro season??

    1. Wanja says:

      I read that McLaren admitted that Buttons great time was caused by mistakingly installing some part in the suspension the wrong way round. Unfortunately that lowered the front to a point where the car was not race legal, so they can’t just turn it around again to fix their problem.

  44. Liam of Sydney says:

    I just still can’t quite figure out why McL would decide to design a totally new car rather than redesign the fastest car at the end of ’12. Seems nuts to me.

    1. Wanja says:

      Imagine this situation: You’re almost halfway through the season, the design for the next year’s car is due to get serious.
      Your engineers are getting out of ideas what could be improved on your current car. Sure, there are some in the pipeline, but your engineers think that they will soon need some fundamental changes to get new breathing space for further improvements.
      You know one of your hardest competitors, Ferrari, has just introduced an interesting car, some of their ideas look pretty intriguing, even though they’re having problems with it. Of course you’re talking it through. You know that most of the teams went for a nose that was significantly higher than yours and of course your engineers have discussed it and they feel that there is a lot of potential there. After all the whole of Formula-1 can’t be that wrong, can it? What will you do? Will you stick to your design that you believe is a dead end street, or make the changes that you think will be necessary to get more headroom for improvements? McLaren has often been quite aggressive in terms of development, of course you’re taking the chance!

      Now as your development of the next years car progresses it turns out that to the end of the season, the changes that you had in your current car’s pipeline have been spot on and it has now become one of the fastest cars around, if not the fastest. You feel that your next years car will have even more potential.
      Will you ditch its design and play the safe card, even though you fear that Ferrari now has everything on their car that you expect will give you the room for improvement with your new car? Of course you’re going for it! The new car seems to have anything it needs and it would be stupid to throw all the work out of the window.

      Now you’re entering tests, looks good first, but not so good later, but still you think you’ll get that sorted. After all: The competition’s tests are hard to judge anyway. No need to give up.
      Comes first race, everyone is letting their pants down and you’re standing there with a dong that is way smaller than expected. Tis is not the first time that happened and you managed to turn that around pretty quickly before. After all this race is rather unusual, you need to see the situation on a more common course.
      Comes Malaysia with the same car, a more usual course, and your problems have become less dramatic, but still you’re struggling. You now have some weeks of development time in front of you, what will you do? Mind you that getting the old car back on track will cost a good amount of time and money too, since the rules have changed, not much, but slightly. And can you be sure the old car will be any better? Hard to judge!

      1. Random 79 says:

        I’m both impressed and lost for words at the same time. Kudos :)

      2. Wanja says:

        Thanks

  45. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Many wouldn’t be McLaren fans anymore.

    The team should look for another management profile. They have taken many bad decisions or procedures lately, anyway results are not there because of somebody to blame, it never was bad luck, it never was the drivers.

    Reset the team. They are not performing according with their resources, they are not really fighting Championships, and people can get tired of that.

    You will prefer a smaller team that outperforms its resources and get results that you can talk about with proud, like Sauber, or Lotus.

    Ferrari is in the hunt lately, thanks to Alonso, and Mercedes has reset everything last year, so they still have some time to tell about their improvements, getting some good points so far.

  46. Goob says:

    Button is severely overrated… it was always going to be this way.

  47. Rob says:

    It appears the new car was based on Button’s driving style… now they have learned the lesson the hard way, they are lost at the helm.

    They need the feedback of a talented driver to give them some real direction. The engineers have nothing to work with…

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