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McLaren set for first winless season since 2006
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Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Jul 2013   |  8:37 am GMT  |  125 comments

McLaren are a team who are used to winning races however they are facing the prospect of their first winless season since 2006 and second since 1996.

The Woking-based team finished last year with the fastest car, as Jenson Button claimed victory in the season finale at Interlagos in Brazil. However, the team chose to radically change the design of their car and have since struggled to understand and successfully develop it.

Button or Sergio Perez have failed to finish higher than fifth in the first nine races of the season to leave the team sixth in the constructors’ championship, behind Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus and Force India. At this point in 2012, they were fourth, in 2011 they were second and in 2010 they were first.

That’s quite a fall for a team who in the last five years have finished second in the standings three times and third twice.

McLaren, who have not won the constructors’ championship since 1998, currently have 49 points, which is a third of the total they had at the same point last season when they sat fourth in the constructors’ standings. It’s also a quarter of their total in 2011, when they were second and a fifth of their total in 2010 when they led the way.

To match their end of season points total of 2012, Button and Perez will need to score 329 points between them. That’s the equivalent of seven 1-2 finishes plus a further 22 points in the remaining 10 races. They would need 448 to equal their 2011 total and 405 to match their 2010 effort.

The team are renowned for being strong in developing their car strongly throughout the season. For example, in the last two years they have scored more wins and podiums in the second half of the season than in the first.

In 2012, they had two wins in the first half of the year, but five in the second half. In 2011, it was two wins after nine races and a further four in the remaining races.

But McLaren have already said that they are putting a lot of resources into next year’s car, which will feature a 1.6-litre V6 turbo engine so even scoring a first podium of the season may be difficult. If they fail to do so, that would be a huge disappointment for the team considering they had 13 podiums in 2012, 18 in 2011 and 16 in 2010.

Button has insisted he is not tempted to leave the team recently saying: “If this was a team that was consistently finishing fourth or fifth in championship then of course I would look elsewhere.

“But this isn’t a team that is finishing four of fifth in the constructors’. This is a bad year and in years to come this team will be fighting for world championships. I am not looking around like some people might think.”

Button admitted a win would be difficult this season, but he’s confident the team are making progress. He said: “Of course, a win in 2013 is going to be difficult, but I actually think the team is working very well right now. In Germany, our tyre-usage, strategy and management of the race was as good as it’s ever been.

“It would be good to have a car with a little more pace to enable those calls to have a bit more impact at the front of the pack, but, for the moment, we can be satisfied by doing the best possible job in qualifying and on Sunday afternoon.”

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125 Comments
  1. goferet says:

    Yes it’s puzzling what’s going on at Mclaren but looking at their history, it appears they do have these dips in form from time to time e.g. Late 70s, 1996 and right now.

    And by the looks of it, Newey and Bryne have been the biggest thorns in Mclaren’s side for they have a knack of producing strong cars.

    First Mclaren had to live through the Williams era of the mid 90s then a little break for the team in 1998/1999 only to suffer some more at the hands of Bryne from 2000-2004.

    In summary, Mclaren have had near misses over the years such as 2005/2007/2012 but due to operational errors and reliability woes, they have always ended up with bread crumbs.

    Under the current regime, one can’t confidently say Mclaren have the best personnel under any department be it engineers, strategists, drivers, team principal and soon to come Honda engines, so Mclaren are kind of lost out at sea and real radical team changes are needed before the team can even begin to see the lighthouse at the shore.

    P.s.

    Mclaren won their only WDC since 1999 when Ferrari’s Bryne retired but haven’t won another since Newey came out of retirement

    1. Random 79 says:

      ‘Mclaren won their only WDC since 1999 when Ferrari’s Bryne retired but haven’t won another since Newey came out of retirement’

      So…F1 Maths:

      Byrne Retirement + Newey Retirement = McLaren Championship ;)

      1. Becken says:

        You can have another variable on those equations:

        Newey+McLaren= ZERO championships.

        Isn´t amazing how McLaren can screw it up even with Newey on board?

      2. Random 79 says:

        Well noted Becken.

        My algebra is a touch rusty, but I’m pretty sure that you can also say:

        Newey + RBR = Infiniti

        :)

    2. bearforce1 says:

      I was really surprised to read that Mclaren had a win less year just in 2006. I thought they always won a a race each year. I suppose that shows consistent Mclaren are in that I thought of them as the team that always produced a top car every season and always won at least one race.

      I like all the teams and fine it a little sad when a teams form drops like this. I hope they bounce back but after seeing what can happen to a top team like williams it is a little depressing.

    3. Optimaximal says:

      Adrian Newey has never been ‘retired’.

      1. Rob Walker's Ghost says:

        Perhaps Newey should have retired, after all he was in charge of much of the design on the car which killed Senna when the steering column failed.

      2. Optimaximal says:

        Wrong. That was Patrick Head – he was in charge of engineering and was the guy who ok’ed the steering wheel modification, hence why he was the one found guilty after the case was closed of manslaughter, but Italian law prevented him being convicted..

        Adrian was just the chief aerodynamicist if I remember correctly.

      3. Paul Kirk says:

        Hay Rob, I thought the steering column failed as a result of the crash!
        What a thoughtless and cruel comment!
        PK.

    4. hero_was_senna says:

      Ant to think that at the start of the year everyone was saying that Mclaren wouldn’t suffer like Ferrari did in 2012 because THEY are Mclaren..

      I doubt this will be much comfort to them either

      http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/108948

      Teaming up again with Byrne. I can’t wait.

      Although if you believe all the hype, Ferrari won’t have an engine comparable to Mercedes or Renault.
      To this day, I still can’t work out why people think that Mercedes is going to be the strongest engine. They were the best when Ilien designed their engines. But until the 18,000rpm limit was imposed, they regularly failed on track.
      As to Renault, haven’t they been acknowledged as the least powerful of all the engines? Didn’t Mclaren veto Mercedes supplying them with engines?

      As to Newey coming out of retirement, he went from Williams to Mclaren to Red Bull. He has never left the sport, although I guess there are many that wish he would!

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        Mclaren veto Mercedes supplying RBR that should have read.

      2. Sean Hastie says:

        Didn’t he try join jaguar f1? N went on gardening leave for a year before joining red bull and I know jaguar turned into red bull but thought he tried to go a year earlier

    5. Andrew Woodruff says:

      Newey has never retired, and he did win the Championship at McLaren, twice with Hakkinen.

      1. Simple says:

        It’s the constructors championship that counts, not the drivers

      2. Andrew Woodruff says:

        Ok then, he won it once in ’98, along with two drivers titles, when clearly the McLaren wasn’t too shoddy! It was only Schumacher at the height of his powers that prevented more success for Newey at McLaren in the the three years 98-00. By 2001 the Ferrari dream team had really kicked in, which then dominated for four more years as we know all too well. Even so, Raikkonen came close in a Newey McLaren in that time.

        While I’m defending Newey’s record, though Lord knows why that is necessary, there is a strong school of thought that says the McLaren setup styfled his creativity, and therefore they didn’t get the best out of him. I would say the Red Bull era firmly bares that out. It also begs the question of why McLaren refuse to learn from past mistakes, and continue to zig when other top teams zag. This is true of both the long term strategy of two design teams for alternate years, and the short-medium term decision to reinvent the wheel for 2013 when they already had a solid 2012 base to build on.

  2. Phil Glass says:

    A brief look back ..with 19/19 vision.

    Ron Dennis failed spectacularly when he lost Newey, followed by Kimi, followed by messing up Alonso’s tenure with the team.
    Yes, Hamilton got his wdc 2008 with McLaren, have to say partly because Ferrari backed the wrong driver, although Lewis certainly did enough to win it.
    Button was doubtless a match for Hamilton, but Kimi was also available, was he not, for 2010?

    Decisions seem to have been led by the heart, and not by hard logic. Can we look forward with Perez? ? difficult to answer with a resounding YES.

    1. Cliff says:

      McLaren rely on their drivers to do a large number of PR/Corporate days; Kimi would never have agreed to that!!. On the flip side, a driver like Kimi would need a decent retainer. To be able to pay a decent retainer, the teams need to generate extra income by making drivers available for PR days, you just need to decide which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

    2. W Johnson says:

      It always amazes me how some Ferrari fans try to deny Hamilton his WDC 2008 title….that somehow Ferrari let him win it.

      And McLaren made mistakes also for Lewis Hamilton but he still won the WDC and in spite of several dodgy FIA decisions favouring Massa…..

      1. Ezio Auditore says:

        “Several dodgy decisions favoring Massa”.

        Wait what?? I seem to recall only one: Spa. If you want to blame someone, blame Hamilton. He should have wrapped up the title with ease. Instead kept throwing the ball in Massa’s court. Massa did well to capitalise.

    3. Matt says:

      Kimi wasn’t going to go to McLaren. I feel like he became fed up with them during his first stint with the team.

      I feel you can’t blame him for Newey. I don’t feel that Newey did enough during his time at McLaren to justify his position.

    4. Quade says:

      As much as I admire Alonso’s skills, Lewis would have won the championship in his first year if he wasn’t a rookie and McLaren hadn’t made the initial error of backing Alonso who was slower.

      Ron Dennis mistake was backing Alonso until it all blew apart in Monaco when Lewis publicly got angry with McLaren for giving his win to Alonso, and Alonso began blackmailing the team with emails he and Dela Rosa had exchanged about Ferrari’s technical details.

  3. Nick says:

    A little bit sensationalist for this website – 2006 was only 7 years ago. And there is still a long way to go this season. Mclaren has been steadily improving – it wouldn’t be too ridiculous for them to pull off a win by the end of the season.

    1. Sebee says:

      How does that Supertramp song go?

      Somthing something, you’re nothing but a something something? :-)

      There is no way. Sharp end is too sharp.

      I have a conspiracy theory that McLaren are laying low and surrendering even to their engine supplier in this period to keep the engines. There is no other way to explain 2012 to 2013 drop in my view. Hope is that there will be a reward at the end of the wait. I guess we’ll have to wait for it.

      1. Jake says:

        Does not compute.
        They have a contract for 2014 and will switch to Honda for 2015. Why do you think they need to keep Merc sweet and why would they drop themselves down the order that far even if that was the plan? Merc has a plan for domination but it starts in 2014. I would think they would be happy to see a Merc powered car leading the championship rather than a Renault powered one.

      2. Random 79 says:

        Don’t mind Sebee, this is a pet conspiracy of his and he’s perfectly entitled to it.

        Sure it doesn’t really make sense, but then again that probably means it’s true ;)

      3. Jonathan says:

        oh come on!

        there is a very simple way to explain McLaren’s lack of form.

        For some reason obviously unknown to us McLaren agree with ferrari that the future is pull rod front suspension. Ferrari introduced it last year and took half a season to unlock its potential. McLaren agreed this was the way to go and decided the difficulty in making it work was worth the pain – presumably the gain will be greater in 2014 and learning lessons now is considered good.

        The other thing these 2 teams have in common is the use of the old Toyota wind tunnel whilst updating their own… has a Toyota engineer been feeding them both false data?

    2. Quade says:

      Yes, its way too early to write off a McLaren win. I still believe its possible, F1 can be unpredictable.

      1. Jake says:

        It is possible, however it is very unlikely. The more development time they spend on this car means the 2014 car will suffer. I think they have now set a target this year to beat Force India, I do not think they will develop this car anymore than required to meet that target.

    3. Neil Jenney says:

      In 2006, soon to be 4-time WDC Sebastian Vettel joins BMW Sauber mid-season as its third driver. Point being 2006 is a lifetime ago in F1. Given the year on year downward trend, I think McLaren’s fall from grace is valid fodder.

      On a side note, it’s interesting to me that both Mercedes and McLaren had better results as partners than as separate F1 entities. Here’s hoping the Honda deal brings McLaren back where they belong.

    4. Random 79 says:

      Agreed, but looka t this way:

      Only 16 years ago Williams won their last WDC, and where are they now?

      Sure it’s only 7 years for McLaren, but where will they be in another 10 or so years?

      Different team, different case I know, but food for thought.

      Nothing lasts forever.

  4. McLaren78 says:

    James, I think you fail to mention that McLaren had quite a few podiums in 2006, so this is poised to be their worst season since the mid-90s.
    Back then Senna had left, the team was going through changes and you had a very young Mika plus Brundle, Blundell and a young Coulthard.
    Now, Hamilton has left, the team has gone through changes again (Lowe to Merc, new regs) and you’re left with a young Perez and a Button at the tail-end of his career.
    Given that next year the relationship with Merc will be strictly professional and Honda will need 1-2 seasons to fully integrate with Macca, I can see a repeat of mid-90s (really hope not though).

    1. Tom Westmacott says:

      +1

      I can’t see them competing for the championship again before 2016, they’ve really disadvantaged themselves in getting to grips with the new car format. Will Button and Perez still be with them in three years’ time?

      1. Simple says:

        I don’t expect that Perez will. I see Bottas at McLaren at some point. Ron does love a good Finn!

  5. Irish con says:

    I think that is a certainty. The real question is Lewis Hamilton going to have his first winless season in the sport? I do think he will win 1 someplace but it will be very hard with a lot of tracks coming up with the track tempatures usually high.

  6. Ashish Sharma says:

    And it might be the first time since the 1980 season that they have finished the season without a podium. Sad day indeed

  7. If you look at the stats, they didn’t win in 1996 but I gave them such a shock they got WDC with Hakkinen (not sure about spelling) in ’98 and ’99. Then 2006 shook them up and had near miss in ’07 and won WDC in ’08 so this says to me that 2seasons after a winless year they come back strong.
    I know stats don’t always show the whole picture but I hope McLaren pick themselves up, as a complete F1 fan I don’t enjoy seeing any of the teams loose as much ground over 1 winter as they have.

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      It’s commonly said in F1 that engineers do not unlearn any of the concepts they have worked on.
      Bear in mind that Mclaren were found guilty of cheating in 2007 by copying the Ferraris systems, I’d guess that 2008 included many lessons learnt from the previous season, no matter that the FIA took an interest in their design for Ferrari IP rights

  8. Andy says:

    I’ve never understood McLarens policy of alternating designers. They always seem to be playing catch up at the start of the season. Add to that the way the car looks under braking, it always looks too stiff.
    In recent seasons, they seem to have the same problem, you would think they would have sorted it out during the design stage by now.

  9. Andrewinwork says:

    They’ve suddenly aquired the feel of a mid field team; they’ve lost their box office driver (like him or loathe him Lewis brouht in the fans which oiled the sponsors wheels) and Paddy Lowe also following will have left them rudderless. As for next season if Mercedes produce an all conquering engine then they’ll be chasing the works mercs and Force India but if Renault produce the best engine (based on current form this looks increasingly likely) then they’ll still be chasing the works Mercs and Force India who are themselves trying to catch all the Renault engine cars.

    Either way short and medium term isnt looking good. In 2015 if Honda nail the engine development straight out of the box then they’ll be back to their 2012 status of fastest car saddled with poor pit practice and strategy. In 2016 they’ll repeat their practice of scrapping their 2015 car in favour of a new design for 2016 which will be off the pace and difficult to develop.

    1. Optimaximal says:

      How can you feasibly say Renault look to produce the best engine when there’s no data to back that up, other than the fact that their current, technically-unrelated engine, has been the engine to beat because of its economy and drivability characteristics in the last few runs?

      Surely the fact that Williams had to bail for Mercedes because the Renault engine is significantly more expensive signals that the French marque hasn’t got everything right?

      I know this is F1, but more expensive doesn’t always mean it’s better.

      1. Andrewinwork says:

        I’m not sure i understand entirely what you’re saying but as we all know the only true indicator of future performance is past performance. I agree that these will be new engines therefore speculating will be somewhat of a leap in the dark however the current Renault engine is more fuel efficient than the Merc so it is apparent that they’ve stolen a march on Merc in this area. As fuel efficiency will play such a critical role from next year, on current performnce it would appear that Renault have an early advantage.

    2. hero_was_senna says:

      1) I had never heard of Paddy Lowe before last winter. He certainly wasn’t a “star” designer.
      But what no-one seems to have said, is that his last car he over saw, ie the MP4/28, is hardly setting the world on fire.

      2) Why do you suppose the Renault will be the best engine? Because you have seen pictures and heard it on youtube?
      Renault haven’t had the best engine since they finished with Williams in 1997. They were always there or thereabouts, but the last few years, it is accepted that they are not the most powerful engine out there.

      1. Andrewinwork says:

        1) I can’t really comment on who you’ve heard of but in recent years McLarens main strength has been their incredible ability to develop their cars; this year their development is really struggling.
        No, not seen any pictures on youtube or anywhere else, my comment was based purely on their current engine being more fuel efficient – as this will be a key factor next year it’s apparent they have an early advantage in this area. Whether they can carry this over to next year is to be seen but on current form they do and that’s all we can judge on at the moment

    3. Adrian J says:

      Yeah, shame Tim Goss and Neil Oakley also jumped ship…oh wait, they didn’t…

      McLaren have a policy of nurturing talent from within. Not saying it’s the right policy, but I would say that if anything, Paddy Lower leaving might introduce some continuity into the design office as they have the same guy heading every car…

    4. Doug says:

      Thank you, you’ve just won ‘Optimistic Post Of The Week’, congratulations!! :-)

  10. Clear View says:

    Honda will be on with McLaren by 2015 so on the idea of a WDC 2 years after a blank then looks like maybe the Mclaren/Honda brand will be back with a bang.

  11. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    IMO they can do it, with some luck, and understanding the car more even if it’s not developed anymore, as it was the case with Sauber in 2012.

  12. AuraF1 says:

    As a Mclaren fan all I can say is McLarens biggest enemy always seems to be McLaren…

    1. Clear View says:

      +1
      I’ve followed F1 for 30years and think all the teams do amazing work but what you say is spot on, surely they can see their own pattern of boom and bust, and do something about it. They have the resources, they have the staff (apart from Sam Michael [mod] – I don’t think he knows what’s real and what’s spin) they have the infrastructure and the know how. What they lack is direction and most of all common sense! If they ran a 1 – 2 driver system they would have a few more WDC/WCC (IMO) 2007 prime example.

      Come on Ron, where’s that iron fist gone? Can’t imagine how awkward the weekly meetings between Martin and Ron are these days.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        Bear in mind that between 1992 and 2009, Ron was at the helm.
        Total Championships?
        3 WDC in 1998, 99 and 08
        1 WCC in 1998

        Let’s not get carried away with Ron’s contribution. Having talent like Senna, Prost and Lauda driving your cars would win multiple Championships.

      2. Ezio Auditore says:

        ^?? O_o

        Ron was team principal from 81 to 09 He recruited Prost, Senna etc.

      3. Yak says:

        Well, in 2007 they would have needed a very different approach if they were going to win the WCC.

    2. Cliff says:

      +1,

      I can only hope that they are looking at the way they go racing. To be fair, they tried something different this year and it didn’t work, but they appear unwilling or unable to change and adapt their processes.

      1. AuraF1 says:

        Absolutely. I’ve known several people who worked at mclaren and I’ve visited the MTC before and the absolute attention to detail is astounding – they are totally data driven. They record everything… So how are they getting it so wrong? They have the data, they have the money, they understand processes – it seems that ‘spark’ inbetween all these has gone – or at least faded.

    3. George says:

      +1 perfect example that comes to mind was their quali in Monaco this year. The conditions were damp and qualifying had come down to natural skill (Button is great in the rain). He was poised to finish in the top 5 (I reckon). Mclaren suffered a power failure and u know how the rest of the story goes…

  13. Dan says:

    I hate to do it, but I must agree with Eddie Jordan’s analysis.

    McLaren seem to have employed the strategy of alternating car design and lead designer year by year.

    I can’t recall a recent season where they haven’t been playing catch up from the beginning because presumably they’ve had to learn about a new chassis for the first few races each year.

    Obviously, this is compounded by other teams (Red Bull in particular) being so good.

    I know they said that this year’s car was a calculated risk but it just seems obvious (even without hindsight) that evolution would’ve been better than revolution.

    1. Clear View says:

      Have you considered the possibility (i admit it’s only a slight possibility) that they are trialling as much 2014 parts they can under current regs? I believe that everyone will use the style of suspension they are using next year and after seeing the red team suffer with it last year maybe they thought it’s better to get to grips with it sooner than later.
      Also no-one at the team seems all that down about this year which tells me they are all in on this experimental year as they had calculated Red Bull would kick ass again (the calculated risk?) And wanted to get the jump on 2014 as someone would be challenging RBR and possibly push them to develope later in the season taking, wind tunnel time, CDF time as well as money and man power. Who knows, but I think this theory holds some water.

      1. Dan says:

        I can’t imagine a team such as McLaren writing off an entire season from the outset, particularly when they had the quickest car at the end of the previous season.

        I agree they may well have all but written off their season now though.

      2. Jake says:

        Interesting ideas but, why scrap the car that at the end of last year was clearly the fastest, in order to test parts for the 2014 car. There is no guarantee that the 2014 car will be any good or even that the Merc engine will be the best. 2014 is going to be a bit of a lottery. It does not make any sense to throw away the chance of a championship in 2013 on a gamble for 2014. I don’t get it, maybe that’s why I am not a team boss.

      3. Sebee says:

        More like 2015 parts.

        What can they do in 2014? Seriously.

        Anyone have a list of other Honda teams. Surely McLaren won’t be the only Honda team.

      4. John M says:

        This is my take on the situation, as well.

        The real question in my mind, however, is why McLaren aren’t coming to grips with it more quickly. It took Ferrari about half a season, but they did seem to figure it out. McLaren, however, seem to still be struggling, which given their past strength in development is a bit puzzling. Maybe the front end isn’t the problem? Or, perhaps they’ve thrown up their hands and are focused on next year, but that would seem pretty un-McLarenlike.

        I guess we’ll have to wait for next year to find out if the switch was worth it. Shame they’ve kind of tossed a season aside.

        Or, perhaps they have other design issues and the front is not the main problem…

      5. Optimaximal says:

        But we’re only just at the half season now..?

      6. Doug says:

        Half way through the season now & the whisper at the YDT at Silverstone was that McLaren have moved up quite a bit with the latest updates..
        Jenson 6th quickest in FP1 (Hungary).
        I don’t know if McLaren will get a win this year but I would put money on them getting a podium!

      7. Quade says:

        Sadly, the geometry, weight distrubution, engine torque etc make every aspect of the current cars (except the monoque) worthless for use in 2014.
        This is especially so for McLarens pull rod. The current McLaren has a high nose, but these are banned for 2014, when all noses will be mandated to be much, much lower than they are now.
        The suspension for a car with a high nose is fundamentally different beast from one with a low nose, different aero charercteristics, different behaviour in straight and cornering. Different.

        I tried to include some links to renditions of the 2014 car and easy to digest articles, but unfortunately the post refused to appear.

    2. Yak says:

      I’m guessing when they’re alternating lead designer from year to year, they aren’t just throwing out or ignoring everything they knew from the previous year. You’re talking as if the next car’s lead designer is locked away with a team, isolated from everything that’s going on in the current season with the current cars.

      Also, didn’t McLaren start off last year locking out the front row for the first two races, winning the first race (and nearly a 1-2)? Lewis was on the podium for all three of the opening races, Button for two of them. Five or so races in they were only a few points off Red Bull. I’d hardly say they had an uncompetitive start to the season.

  14. Remco de Waal says:

    I don’t see them getting a podium either. The last season they didn’t get a podium was 1980.

  15. Tom in adelaide says:

    See ya Martin. You too Sam.

      1. Tomas L. says:

        add another 1000 for me please

    1. Cliff says:

      Not sure what part of the car Sam Michael designed, we can thank Tim Goss and Paddy Lowe for that! Martin Whitmarsh has to take overall responsibility as Team Principle, but before you get rid of someone, you have to have a replacement, and Ron’s not an option.

  16. MISTER says:

    Love the article. I feel ashamed to say I didn’t look at McLaren’s situation like that. It looked to me like a pretty bad season, but when you compare it with the past 3 seasons and add the fact they finished with the fastest car last year, it is an ugly image.
    Someone in the team must be feeling the heat right now.

    Great article JAonF1 team!

    1. Grabyrdy says:

      “Someone in the team must be feeling the heat right now.”

      Indeed. But who ? From whence came the colossal hubris that lead to this year’s car ? Martin or Ron ?

  17. Gord says:

    Obviously, car has no grip.

  18. Dougel says:

    Pedant’s corner: Newey never retired.

    1. Dougel says:

      that was in reply to goferet

  19. Kbdavies says:

    McLaren are renowned for their in-season development because they have always had decent feedback from drivers to base the development on. Unfortunately, neither Perez nor Button is capable of giving the engineers uncompromised feedback because of their inability to get the maximum from the car and their driving styles.

    Witness the 2012 season where McLaren development went towards Jensons’s feedback and it led them up the wrong alleyway until they went back to using Lewis’s set-up data.

    The 2009 MP-24 arguably started the season a lot worse than this one, but was wining races mid season (in the hands of Lewis). Irrespective of all the reasons that must be responsible for that (and i’ve heard many), one cannot under estimate the driver fedback which determines the direction of development.

    Whilst drivers do not design the car, they definitely steer in-season development; and if the feedback they give to engineers is compromised, then it will simply lead them up the wrong tree. It is no coincidence that McLaren are enduring such a season after the departure of Lewis Hamilton.

    1. Optimaximal says:

      I’m pretty sure Jenson was the go-to guy to get feedback from in 2011 because Lewis’s season was relatively poor that year.

      Secondly, it is a coincidence, because whilst he’s getting poles, Lewis doesn’t seem to be magically solving Mercedes tyre woes either.

      The car is fundamentally bad – so much so that it can’t realistically be developed without compromising the 2014 car. The loss of the technical director at the start of the season just compounded matters.

      1. Kbdavies says:

        I am going to clamly elucidate why it is not a “coincidence” as you put it. I expect you to put forward your argument why it is.

        Lewis’s “relatively poor” season had nothing to do with driving ability, hence had nothing to do with his feedback. He still beat Jenson on poles and equalled him on wins in his so called “relatively poor” season. Even Jenson could not drive the car that was developed based on his feedback in 2012.

        And regarding Mercedes, they are currently having the best season since coming back into the sport. Whilst their tyre woes are not solved, It is much better than the 2 previous seasons, but more importantly, they have not fallen back into the midfield as they did previously – a sure sign of good in-season developmet.
        Yes, it must be a conincidence that Mercedes are having their best year in the sport after signing Lewis, and Mclaren are having one of their worst. Merc are currently lying 2nd in the CC, are leading on the championship on poles and wons 2 races. Brawn is on record saying they would have given their right arm last year, to be where they are this year.

        Remember, they had Bell, Brawn, Wolf, Fry, Rosberg and Schumacher in previous years; and they did not achieve what they are achieving now. Lewis is simply a very important part of the jigsaw. Anyone who can’t see that is simply blinkered.

    2. Me says:

      “McLaren are renowned for their in-season development”

      Only because their cars are so bad in the first place.

    3. Quade says:

      Preach, brother. Preach!

    4. Robert says:

      You have HOPELESSLY confused tuning a car for development and driver set-ups. I have friends in F1, and from what I hear jenson is HIGHLY respected for what you damn him for.

      All teams develop a chassis for outright speed and to meet certain goals. But all drivers need individual set-ups, as they all have different styles. What JB asked the team to do was specific to his tuning of the chassis design, so that it would heat the tyres better. It not only heated them, it destroyed them for a few races…ooops. So it took 5 bad races to get it right…and then he flew. He won the first and last races of the season, and more than a couple of podiums.

      1. Kbdavies says:

        No i am not. Direction for development, and set up of the car are related. A car can be developed to have inherent undesteer or oversteer. This WILL influence how much laxity the driver has in set-up parameters – An “expert” like you should know that
        McLaren DID follow Jenson’s feedback regarding the direction of development for the car in 2012 – and they came to rue it later on in the season.

      2. Simple says:

        They ‘came to rue’ having the fastest car at the end of the season?

        Doesn’t compute.

      3. Quade says:

        “What JB asked the team to do was specific to his tuning of the chassis design, so that it would heat the tyres better. It not only heated them, it destroyed them for a few races…ooops. So it took 5 bad races to get it right”

        Such “brilliance” at setup. Wow!
        I think you just reemphasised Kbdavies point in different words.

    5. growers says:

      So why are Merc slipping down the order this season?

      1. Kbdavies says:

        Erm…please compare Mercs 2 previous seasons to this year, then explain your comment again.

    6. Doug says:

      I’d love to know where you got the information that Jenson’s feedback lead the team to develop the car down a blind alley in 2012?
      As far as I am aware Jenson’s style couldn’t get the tyres working & following set-up changes on his side of the garage he went down a set-up blind alley. Lewis is an amazing driver who could lap Silverstone in a taxi faster than any other F1 driver IMHO, but, he tends to go with his engineer’s suggestions re. setup and is known not to give very good feedback to his engineers.
      I’m a LH fan because of his raw talent, but I am aware he’s not the greatest development driver…losing Pedro is probably hurting McLaren more re. development!

      1. Kbdavies says:

        I would certainly supply that information; if you could also supply where you got the the information that Lewis “is known not to give very good feedback to his engineers” and that he “tends to go with his engineer’s suggestions re. setup. Will that be fair? I hope so.

        I never suggested thet Lewis Hamilton is the greatest development driver, but what you claim about him is utter nonsense, as is what you claim about Jenson. Trying to seperate the driver feedback from the direction of development the engineers take for the car is ridiculous.

        If Jensons feedback was so prized, how come he couldnt’t drive the car that was set-up based on his feedback? Yet Lewis was getting poles and even lapped Jenson in the same car? How come the engineers reverted to Lewis set-up data to get Jenson out of the hole he dug himself too? And how come Mercerdes have improved (compared to last previous seasons)their tyre wear this season? Driver feedback has no impact on that? If you say it doesn’t, then there is no point continuing this conversation. If you agree it does; then it must be Lewis’s feedback making the difference.

  20. Adam says:

    They failed to make a front end design that could be adjusted in a short time frame sufficient to get the changes required to optimize a race weekend. Nothing more! The cost to fix it is a new chassis, IE starting again. Next year is an easier solution financially.

    You worry if they abandon the change to the front suspension made this year because that would hint that maybe they did not have the skills to design the issues out or it was a long shot strictly for 2013.

    Like the rear wing that did not work and became the F duct the following season expect McLaren to make lemonade out of the 2013 lemon. In the end you learn nothing out of what works, it only confirms what you already know. Knowing why something does not work and how to make it work is new information and puts you ahead of those that don’t.

    Imagine if 2014 Ferrari and McLaren are ahead because of the front end design aids the new 2014 style car aero and RBR and Lotus are starting where Ferrari and McLaren have already been…. That will be a very different season. They either are left behind for a season and then have the learning to do OR they start next year and have the learning to do.

    The huge risk for McLaren is that the pull rod design is no benefit or worse a negative for the 2014 design. Then they wasted a season. They must have thought in 2012 it was a key part for 2014 cars or they did take a huge gamble and lost.

    1. Optimaximal says:

      Testing a pull-rod front-end at the expense of a bad season was pretty much a no-brainer because they knew the MP-27 design was a dead-end for 2013.

      What surprises me is they didn’t take note of Ferrari’s set-up issues in 2012 because of the revised suspension and as a result, build workarounds into the car and the set-up workflow.

    2. Clear View says:

      Totally agree and I elaborated further on an earlier reply. I believe this is an experimental year, the suspension etc, I think they trying as many 2014 parts that the current regs allow. No-one seems too down about it in the team either, which tells me the calculated risk is to just write off the season from the start and get the jump on next year.

      1. Kirk says:

        I disagree, if you look into the article carefully, you will see that each year is worse than the last one, so they have structural problems, with a budget like they have, I’m not sure if an experimental year is acceptable.

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        The danger with that approach is that if the engineers don’t know why the car behaves in the way it does, next years car may have those design parameters designed in.
        Even during Ferrari’s strongest era, they refined the weaker areas of the design, they never changed it wholesale.

        I remember the twin keel idea being implemented throughout the F1 paddock, with the exception of the Ferrari, that retained the single mount under the nose.
        Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn were repeatedly asked why they hadn’t embraced the new design for it’s advantages.
        They had tested it and found that it’s advantage for aero was too offset by the weight of building components to run that system.
        Considering that in 2004 they won 15 races, I guess they were right.

        I think Mclaren had reached the end of the development with the lower nose and under nose aero they had and this prompted them to raise the nose. That is a huge change in F1 aerodynamics, and it’s been a tough season.

        Look at the leading contenders over the last 3 or 4 years, only RBR have kept their basic design concept constant, just evolving it through development. Everybody else has changed things without long term goals in place.

      3. Adam says:

        Great point, I had missed the lack of urgency from the team as a good indicator that it is part of the overall plan, which rather confirms this is a gamble to get ahead for 2014 and not a cockup for 2013 only. It really make no sense to go pull rod in 2013 only. Time will tell.

    3. Robert says:

      Kind of agree – of all the front-running teams, only McLaren has stuck with a low-chassis design (since the MP4-4!). They have NO CFD simulation data for a high-chassis design, whereas all the other teams made that move years ago. I think it helped the McLaren’s to LOOK the best, but they also knew it was compromising downforce. 2013 was the first high-chassis car, and it has problems – the front end adjustability is interesting, and not a factor I had considered.

      But the REAL issue is, as you say, a bad chassis design that cannot be overcome until next year. And who is to blame? Simply put – Mr. Computational Flow Dynamics! They didn’t have the data to tune their computer simulations, they made a few assumptions on constants and tuning parameters…and they are off. Maybe not a lot, but at least in part. And it’s too late to fix that easily. However, every run they make this year is refining that data, and will go into the CFDs for next year’s car.

      They ran that low-chassis design far too long, and got FAR too good with it. They had to make this change at some point – it has just been more painful than they expected, because their simulations of aero were worse than they expected. NO ONE to blame for this, NO ONE to pillory…not even Whitmarsh, as the hewing to low-chassis designs predated him too.

      This sucks, as a McLaren fan. BUT – I also know they have gathered an AWFUL lot of data this year, and their CFD will be much better next year. And teams these days LIVE and DIE on their CFD – more than even their drivers I would guess.

      Next year can only be an improvement.

      1. Random 79 says:

        ‘Next year can only be an improvement’

        I’d love to say that was true…

    4. Keith says:

      Guys,

      I think you need to step back and think about a couple of things.

      There is no problem with suspension set up and the pull rod is not causing any problems, it takes a bit longer to adjust but that is nothing more than a slight inconvenience. If it truly was ‘the’ problem it would have been sorted. The problem is the same one they have had since 09 just now it is acutely bad. The aero is far far too sensitive. This car being the most aggressive yet has tipped it over the edge. If the suspension was pull or push rod it would be set up the same, ie rock hard to prevent changes of ride height.

      The only suspension to become must have next year will be the merc system. There is no way teams will look at the Ferrari and Mclaren and think pull rod front is worth it. Neither has any perceived benefit in suspension or aero.

      As for an experimental season? How do you think sponsors would feel about that? How many millions will their place in the constructors cost them? How many sponsors will it cost them? On their 50th anniversary? If they did not have poor reliability and operation errors they would have won the championship last year so why give up?

      I honestly believe before the car hit the track they thought they had something pretty special and so did everyone outside until aus!

      It is extremely likely this problem may follow them next year as their tunnel, CFD and sim clearly does not highlight ride height issues which must be why they can’t solve it. They will be extremely anxious in January when the new car hits the track because I don’t think they will know if the problem is going to occur or not.

      1. Optimaximal says:

        The sponsors can probably go swivel because they pay money to have their brands on the cars, not dictate performance goals.

        Vodafone are leaving because they’re already pulling out of most sports advertising once contracts end.

        Carlos Slim also isn’t paying for Perez’s drive (yet) either, so I’m not sure which sponsors are allowed to tell McLaren to keep at it.

      2. Yak says:

        If you paid millions to have your brand on the cars of one of the sport’s great teams, would you not be rather disappointed to see those cars fumbling about struggling to even get into the points? Would you not be disappointed that your brand isn’t being seen on TV because instead of fighting for wins or podium positions (where again your brand will be spotted), you’re somewhere outside the points not being of much interest to the feed director?

        If the sponsors just wanted their logo on an F1 car, I’m sure it’d be much cheaper buying some real estate on a Marussia than on a McLaren.

        Yes indeed Vodafone are withdrawing their sporting endeavours. This means McLaren are going to need a new title sponsor to pump their millions in. If they already have one signed up, are they not going to be a bit worried about the team’s woeful performance so far this year? If McLaren are still yet to finalise a deal with anyone for the post-Vodafone era, couldn’t this potentially affect negotiations. “So… you want how many millions for us to put our name on the car and in your team name so you can… flail about hopelessly in the mid-field?”

  21. Erik says:

    A team with the impressive pedigree and resources of McLaren should have the best people working there. Maybe the management needs to look at why the superstar engineers and drivers are heading out the door and not in?..

  22. cmscot says:

    It’s very disappointing, especially considering their resources. But the fact is that their driver lineup is just far too weak – probably 5th best on the grid – and this in an era when they’ve almost always been able to offer their drivers a realistic crack at the title.
    I hate to say it, but Whitmarsh really needs to consider his position – there seems to have been a consistent and steady decline year by year under his stewardship.

    1. Optimaximal says:

      Who would you honestly have put in the cars?

      Before you answer with obvious answers, consider who was in and out of contract at the time.

      1. Jake says:

        McLaren had a very good driver line up. It was a mistake on their part to allow it to change, particularly as there was no obvious replacement available.
        Whitmarsh has to carry the can for that one for developing the culture that forced Lewis to look elsewhere. That being said, I do not believe Lewis would be able to win a GP with this car either.

    2. Clear View says:

      Not sure if it’s 100% down to Martin, I think the root of the problem is the whole McLaren ethos of never simply admitting mistakes and learning from them. They just push on with blinkers on, the split design teams obviously doesn’t work, the last decade shows that but McLaren can’t admitt it and then change, they keep defending this system that is obviously flawed, plus Sam Michael just keeps the BS machine running 27/7 which doesn’t help I feel.

      1. Quade says:

        The buck stops at Martins desk, whatever shape or colour it is. He is the Capo di tutti capi, king of kings, boss of bosses at McLaren.

  23. M. Yoon says:

    as much as i like the guy, maybe times up for martin.

  24. straw walker says:

    After years of having a “mole” in every team, it’s tough to develop a car with what you have.

  25. Mark F says:

    James,
    Do you think this is because Perez is very inexperienced at the top end of F1 and Jenson is not a very good driver at all? I really want to focus on Jenson, I like the guy a lot, but he is just not a very good car developing racer. If you look at his whole F1 career he has never developed a car at all. With Brawn he had the best car and by mid season the car did not change at all and he clung on to the title. You look at his time at Mclaren when Lewis was there and Lewis made the car evolve. Now that Lewis is gone, Merc is evolving and Mclaren have gone no where. Just an observation… Your thoughts James???

    1. James Allen says:

      Well JB was at McLaren from 2010 onwards and in 2012 they had the fastest car, so…

      I think there’s only so much input a driver has and at the end of the day the design engineers make the calls

      It’s a poor car and its not fixable

    2. Random 79 says:

      ‘Perez is very inexperienced at the top end of F1′

      True, but the only way to fix that is to get more experience.

      ‘Jenson is not a very good driver at all’

      A WDC who got more points for McLaren overall than Lewis (another WDC) not a very good driver?

      I don’t want to rekindle that old debate, but come on!

    3. Jake says:

      Nothing wrong with Jenson as a driver, he is not top tier, but still very competent and certainly better than his current standings in the championship would suggest. As for development, it is speculation, only the team know for sure how he ranks in that department.
      Just because Perez is inexperienced does not mean that he can’t contribute to the car development. Driver feedback happens at all levels of motor racing. Perez should be reasonably familiar with this process.

  26. Gareth says:

    Issue is with Mclaren they haven’t really recovered since Newey left, this has been seen in the number of engineers going to rival teams and the ” Mike Coughlan scandal”. They are missing a natural leader in the team, Whitmarsh isn’t it, if i was Ron I would be trying to get Ross Brawn and Mike Gasgoine on board.
    As for the drivers, Button must be wondering if hes back in 2007 again, Perez has shown nothing to indicate a star.

    1. Random 79 says:

      ‘Perez has shown nothing to indicate a star’

      He’s taken the fight to Jenson a couple of times, that’s got to count for something.

  27. All revved-up says:

    Is it just a coincidence that McLaren’s performance drops just when Hamilton leaves the team? Or is McLaren slow because Hamilton’s left the team?

    I am not entirely sure it’s because the car is that slow. It’s not the best car, but it’s not clear that the car is that much worse than the Ferrari. I believe even Jenson was faster than Massa/Ferrari. Just as Alonso makes the Ferrari a threat at each race, I think Hamilton would have made the McLaren a threat at some races. Right now McLaren is not a threat at any race. Much like the 2nd Ferrari.

    If you don’t have a fast driver (but just two steady ones) the car is not going to look fast. A top team needs a top driver.

    1. Random 79 says:

      In 2012 Jenson was winning races.

      In 2013 Jenson is nowhere near winning races.

      It’s the car.

    2. Jake says:

      There isn’t a driver in the universe that would win a GP with that carbon fiber bucket of bolts in it’s present form.

    3. Kirk says:

      And the Ferrari is clearly faster, Alonso is a great driver but the problem there is Massa, he has shown some speed but a lot of inconsistency, any driver could make this McLaren look to much better.

  28. hero_was_senna says:

    Still at least Mclaren Automotive is doing well..

  29. Robert says:

    The reason that the McLaren sucks this year is simple – Computational Flow Dynamics. It requires tuning info, physical constant data, and tuning assumptions based around real-world data. McLaren haven’t HAD high-chassis car data for CFD modelling – every other team made the switch to a high-chassis years ago, and tuned their models with that data. So McLaren is playing catch-up in the aero simulation department, because McLaren held on to low-chassis cars about 5 or 6 years too long, while everyone else tuned their high-chassis data extensively.

    Blaming this on the drivers, or Whitmarsh, or any other factor simply shows a total lack of understanding of how cars are developed. This car was doomed the second it was spat out of the CFD simulation – because somewhere, hidden, there is a flaw (or worse flaws) in the aero. And it didn’t show on the sim…because the sim is flawed with bad tuning data. The McLaren computers laid an egg..and no amount of driver feedback will fix that, because it needs a new chassis design to fix almost certainly.

    And FWIW – I HAVE managed simulation projects, twice in my career. Once of them lost $50MM for United Airlines in it’s first year, before MAKING them a lot of money the next few. Bad tuning data at the start, bad assumptions feeding the models. I know of what I write… (Google Project Orion, United Airlines). The other was a hardware sizing simulation for large computer systems. It took 3 or 4 real world projects before it actually became accurate enough to totally trust. THAT is the nature of simulations. And that is what McLaren are going through now.

    Cue 2015, when McLaren will have two years of CFD tuning with a high-chassis, and HONDA power. It is no secret how Honda got to be the provider of engines for Indy Car – they beat the competition. Honda power, new McLaren CFD engineered chassis…it might be an long 19 months before then, but it should be entertaining when it arrives.

    1. Jake says:

      I get that the poor simulation data may lead you in the wrong direction, but why would this not be evident in the wind tunnel testing?

  30. Darren says:

    Read in Motorsport magazine late last year Newey’s take on why he felt he had to leave Myclaren with a heavy heart. Think he got overruled (was proved right) on one of the dodgy maccas…it my have even been whitmarsh again. If they could turn back time….. Anyway better go find my sunscreen as off to Budapest tomorrow :)

  31. Julian C says:

    I am a big fan of McLaren and the way they go about the commercial and presentation side of the sport. The team does live in a bubble though. They are operating in this utopian ideal but they do not have a strong lead or direction to push things forwards, with the ‘matrix management’ style. RBR have worked wonders as they have given Newey the freedom and support to have the mental space to pursue some of the more ‘left field’ ideas that make them so brilliant. Also, teams like Force India and Lotus (Enstone) just concentrate on getting a relatively simple car developed exceptionally well. McLaren try to be a bit ‘too clever’ for their own good. I have noted the comments regarding pullrod suspension and maybe this will give an advantage next year as you will need HUGE amounts of air for cooling (and therefore drag) so any underfloor efficency will be worth proportionally more.
    I do think, however, just like Williams, they need a strong leader. Williams have got their man, will McLaren do the same? After all, they had success under one man before (Barnard, Murray, Nichols, Newey etc) and although there are extremely talented people there (I’m talking about you Neil Oatley), you need an inspirational leader to get the best out of them.

  32. JD says:

    McLaren sadly for the past 20 years have fallen over themselves in order not to win.
    With the exception of ’98, when they were on the right tyres (Bridgestone) and Ferrari weren’t (Goodyear), they cannot produce a truly great car. At best they build a car that’s on a par with the best car of that year (i.e. ’07, ’08) and rely on having great drivers, ALO & HAM etc to flatter it.
    I’m afraid they are an ‘all the gear and no idea’ team and have been since ’92, but have had Senna Hakkinen Alonso & Hamilton to keep them there or thereabouts.

  33. Jarv027 says:

    For a team the size of McLaren not to win a Constructors championship for 15 years is simply not good enough!!

  34. ZioBuck says:

    Mc at the end of last season were on form . Mc bravely decided to change ( to show off ) instead of upgrade and stablise last years motor as per all the other F1 teams . It’s backfired . Top staff have left . I believe Mc are going through a transition point . And thank god Honda have dwcided to help them get out of the woods.

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