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That McLaren/Ferrari start
That McLaren/Ferrari start
Posted By:   |  11 Mar 2009   |  11:36 pm GMT  |  37 comments

Here’s a shot of the practice start I was talking about in my post on Tuesday. Kovalainen in front, Raikkonen behind, but the Ferrari was ahead after 300 metres or so, fantastic grip off the line and it’s the first part of the start which makes the difference.

I mention it because it also caught the attention of some of the engineers from other teams I spoke to.

I’m finding this McLaren under-performance story fascinating. There are many who think it’s a new approach to testing in a season when testing will be banned from two weeks from now onwards. McLaren have even run Monaco parts along with the rest of the job sheet.

Ex team principal Ron Dennis stepped in today to say that everything is under control and that they will fight for the title. I’m sure they will but the car lacks grip right now.


UPDATE: Here is a video that a number of you tipped us off about. Thanks for the link, folks.  [ Moderator ]


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Rupert Pilkington-Smythe

Dennis did admit however that they are behind schedule and Haug has also come out and said "we're not where we want to be".

The thing with McLaren is that they don't just want a competitive car, they want a car that will blitz the field and for this reason, I think they may have gone too radical, too soon.


I don't understand how such huge changes in testing procedures can be the reason for McLaren's apparent woes. Sure simulation will be more important than ever now and McLaren are strong in this area. But F1 teams have been testing cars for 50 years (obviously) and i don't see how a team could get a full picture of how their car performs and indeed reacts to changes if they are running it so far away from its limit.

I'm not suggesting that this is what McLaren is doing, however the best way to test anything is to test it under conditions representative of those in which the final product will be used. F1 cars are driven close to the limit at all times...maybe someone here could answer this for much genuinely useful information can McLaren be gleaning from tests if they are not pushing their car?


After all this speculation when they show at Melbourne whether they're fast or slow it'll be a story.

lower-case david

hopefully the link won't get all chewed-up, but video of said start: [" rel="nofollow">link ]


Thank you James, for providing us with good part of some of the stories that go untold after test sessions. It is always good to have a good start, but i am not sure with so many changes to the regulations with a view to improve overtaking, if a good start counts as much as it would have done in the previous seasons. But then, it is always good to have a good and clean start.

Don't ask me how, but, I think mclaren will be fine by the time the circus arrives at down under.

My money is on kimi this year...


It's absolutely clear Kimi departs first than Kova. Here's the link for the video, you can clearly hear Kimi dropping the clutch earlier. [" rel="nofollow">link ]


The term 'lack of grip' James is a term that angers many mechanics and engineers across the motorsport spectrum because it's a term that actually means very little in isolation. An engineer can't work with it.

It's an engineers worst nightmare for a driver to say 'there's just no grip' from Cadet Karting to F1 🙂

Now McLaren may very well be in trouble, however I haven't seen a detailed analysis of the visual dynamics of how the McLaren car is driving. There's been comments here and there but not much.

I noticed in a video from Jerez how Heikki was taking the hairpin so much different to everyone else. Quite literally coasting. Braking early, coasting around the apex and then gently applying the throttle.

Now this correlates to what we are seeing in videos on the web from Cataluna and from your earlier comment 'they are putting the throttle on 50m later than everyone else'.

Now the term 'lack of grip' doesn't describe much, nor does 'lack of traction'. The problem is they can mean TOO many different things depending on context.

Getting on the throttle late doesn't mean 'lack of traction'. You can get on the throttle early and still have a lack of traction just as you can have super traction but get on the throttle late.

What I haven't seen from the McLaren yet is how the car handles under early throttle. I haven't seen the McLaren been put under any sort of acceleration load. How can we say they are having traction problems when they haven't even applied the throttle? Maybe they have but I have yet to see a video showing it.

If the car, like last year with Mclaren, had slightly excessive wheel slip under accelaration we could say that they aren't getting maximum performance from the tyre under throttle. But what we are seeing at the moment is completelty different. We don't know if they don't have traction because they simply haven't shown us (apart from the start line video refered too in your post).

This just may be a new approach to testing. Maybe McLaren will look like top dogs come Melbourne. Just look at how Valentino Rossi approaches testing. I can count on one hand how many times Rossi has topped testing sheets. In fact in the pass he's been in the bottom half of the time sheets only to go on and thrash the rest in the race.

Wait and see innit 😉


Here's video of some other practice starts [" rel="nofollow">link ]


Regarding McLaren, there are rumours in the web that they are sand-bagging, but I think they have some serious problem with the car.

I loved your ITV coverage, I used to watch ITV F1 coverage rather than STAR sports F1 coverage. You can give F1 tips to steve slater 🙂


Could Kimi's rapid start be partly explained by the fact that he was starting on the cleaner side and Heikki was starting in the dirtier side of the grid?


I'm loving this....McLaren are playing games with Ferrari!!!


Seriously James, why are they lacking THAT MUCH grip? i mean it's like Mclaren are in a different Fomula!


I find it interesting that McLaren is experiencing grip issues when they have the most sophisticated tire simulation software.

Is it possible that they focused more on front end grip to suit Lewis' driving style?

I like the line of thinking that it is an aerodynamic issue. They waited a long time to debut their 2009 spec wing, and then tested two in a row.

They obviously need to clean up the wake coming off of the air box. Maybe the shark fin of some of the other cars helps to keep the air from either side of the cars symmetric line separated before they hit the rear wing, keeping turbulent mixing from occurring in the dead space between the air box and the wing?

Then again if it was something simple like that, I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem.

Maybe they should adapt Williams style flow conditioners around the airbox.


I imagine use of KERS by Ferrari could account for the difference?

Also, if this is a new approach to testing (lets ruddy hope so!!) I suppose on long runs KERS would not be used so the lap is consistent?


Now if that had been LS driving the macca I may be worried
But lets wait for the real thing in OZ


What's the point of testing Monaco etc set-ups whilst loosing valuable points in the first races? I have a feeling that Macca have been a bit over-confident and over-complicated again, just as at Monza 2008, Brazil 2008....Also, I dont like the fact that they never admit any of their mistakes straightaway, always coming with the silly PR stuff...


Having seen the video I think the difference is partly down to the KERS, the Ferrari seemingly gets a boost when their are next to each other...Also Kimi launches a sec earlier.


Thanks to all the folks (including you, Matt) who sent us the link to that" rel="nofollow">practice start. We might post it here soon anyhow, so no need to send it again. I'm sure you may be still pinging it to us because we are not clearing your feedback quickly enough! Blame it on all that sleeping malarkey that happens when it's dark ... Moderator ]


I'm surprised how much coverage this simulated race start has been getting. Sure it appears as though the Ferrari has far more grip than the McLaren but we don't have the data to know exactly how good the starts were from the 2 drivers. it would appear Kimi's was better.

We also don't know if Kovi was putting up any kind of fight in this simulated show-down. He may have been told to let the Ferrari pass instead of risking any silly pre-season collision.

Also exactly what parts were these two cars testing at the time? No doubt this would effect the outcome.

Is it not also possible the Ferrari used the extra horse power of the KERS for this start?

As for the rest of testing, I haven't totalled up the laps myself but it would appear Ferrari have done a lot less laps than some of it's competitors including McLaren. They seem to have suffered more reliability issues than most too. What good is speed if you can't finish a race?

As with every winter test there's always more than meets the eye, we have fun every year speculating but until all the cars are running the same set up at the same time, on track together for 70 laps or so it's hard to say who'll be on top.



(1) had a lot of focus on trying to win the championships last year (which will have impacted on work for this year)

(2) trying to push the envelope is creating disruptive airflow for following cars and have found themselves getting stuck inside their own envelope.

(3) needing to get a car that will work for Lewis' driving style, but don't have the experienced drivers a team needs for car development.

(4) with the rule changes, they've lost the 7 tenths that Alonso gave them in 2007. Silly Macca.

Will Macca win the WDC or WCC this year? No.


Kimi was on the clean side of the track. Heikki, on the dirty side.

Sometimes, the easy explanation is the good explanation


Personally I think it is understandable McLaren got it a bit wrong. They have such a sophisticated simulation and computing setup, but as anyone who works in Finance or IT would know, simulation and modeling is only as good as the source data you have.

In 2007 McLaren got bucketloads of data from Bridgestone as to how the tyres worked. And they proved better than any other team barring Ferrari at adapting.

This year they don't have a lot of source data to work with and I think that has really hurt them because they are not used to working in an information vacuum. That's why they are running so many seemingly inane tests, to acquire data for their simulations and models. This may help them as the development war kicks off during the season but you can put as much lipstick on a pig as you like - it's still a pig.

McLaren, I think, starved of data to base its designs on seem to have got it fundamentally wrong.

I think too, when you look at the past decade, McLaren have always been a bit peaky, a couple years very strong, a couple years mid pack, then back to form again. It shows just how impressive Ferrari have been since 1996 consistently one of the top two teams and even the outlier, 2005, they were still third best despite running around on the wrong tyres.


mclaren in a deep shit right now!!!...hamilton better improve his driving or he will become the next jacques villeneuve....


What do you think about this picture [" rel="nofollow">link ] ... I think everyone doubts to what McLaren do in testing even Schumi..


JA writes: You are not allowed to use KERS at the start until the car hits 100km/h.

The video doing the rounds is of one start. They did quite a few at lunchtime and at the end of the day. Clean side/ dirty side, sure there is always something in that and let's face it, they didn't both drop the clutch in response to lights did they?

We will know in Melbourne, but it's certainly fascinating piecing the picture together with the information available.


In" rel="nofollow">the vid it is very noticeable


looking at that video, the cars looks very similar off the line and for the first second / 1.5 seconds. that's easily enough to get to 100kph, then i think it's KERS taking over and possibly the mclaren backing off as they are looking mainly at wheelspin and traction off the line (like when they do their mini launches from the box)


JA writes: You are not allowed to use KERS at the start until the car hits 100km/h." [/Quote]
Ok James. I have just re-checked both the tech and the sporting regs again and I cannot find your statement above anywhere.

Also I would mention that the supposedly agreed change to the points system for this year, does not appear in the current 2009 sporting regs (05-02-2009 it still says 10, 8 etc.

So is there another set of regs that has not been published by the FIA. ? If so I cannot find it on their site

There is also an anomaly in the KERS application between the FIA tech regs and their interpretation on another well known F1 site.

However on a brighter side I see that stewards must hold an FIA Superlicense, living near the track or being a mate of (The now impoverished) Bernie is not enough 🙂


Calm down everyone. Pre season testing gives only an indication at best. Being as everyone out there doesn't have the whole picture its impossible to drawn any proper conclusion from these tests. Its all apples and oranges. Even Ferraris engineers don't know as they only know their test plan dont know what macca is doing, and vice versa.

The test will be the championship. I wouldn't even put to much significance on AUS as macca will always play the long game.


McLaren is in trouble because they cannot anymore rely on refining the concept created by Nick Tombazis for the 2005 car because of the radical change in rules. Also the Ferrari blueprints they had access to are pretty much useless now.


rpaco, i can't find anything either on the fia regulations, or in (the official website) about the 100kph limit. whether this is a self imposed limit by teams just because the rear tyres are too small, or if it's something recently brought in via the SECU for fear that KERS may have a secondary function of traction control, i don't know. might see if i can find out (although i'm loathe to use my contacts unless it's something really important...)

also, for the scoring system i believe that needs to be put to the FIA by FOTA officially, and the date that the FIA accept the submission for new proposals relating to the current year will be at the end of this week or the beginning of next.

Stephen Russell

What if the McLaren was using the KERS and the Ferrari wasnt 😉 lol


New point system is just a suggestion to FIA, who will be gathered on March 14th to dicuss the matters. So it's not guarantee that current point system will be changed at all or changed in the way FOTA intended. FOTA has no jurisdiction over ruling.


JA has a good point ... There is no start lights during the practice session is there?


As Kovalainen said in an interview :

<blockquote>"Certainly it's going to be an advantage at the start, it potentially gives a big benefit from the start to the first corner. "


using kers on starts is allowed, they just have to power it up during installation lap


I don't think they're allowed to use a Kers assisted start, so unless Kimi decided to play some mind games I don't think that's it.

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