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VIDEO: What a driver brings to car development
VIDEO: What a driver brings to car development
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Mar 2010   |  2:05 pm GMT  |  217 comments

Here on JA on F1, we are always trying to bring content that you the readers have asked for, to answer your questions and help bring you closer to the sport.

One question which we get regularly at this time of year, when the new cars come out for the start of the season, is “How much does the driver bring to the car, in terms of lap time, from his development ability?”

Ever since Fernando Alonso famously claimed to bring 7/10ths of a second to a car in the development stage, there has been a desire to understand what the driver actually does to improve the car in its early days of testing.

So I went behind the scenes at McLaren to make a video on this subject and you may find the answer surprising.

Let me know your feedback.

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Excellent again James... this is really good ..'in touch' stuff.

I was suprised at they seemed to imply the driver only has a say in the post designed car... in getting the last it of performance out of it...

I thought they would have said a good driver tells us what he needs from a car at the designe phase..

James if you are in a position at these factories to ask questions could you ask:

Why do we not see any false starts anyomore? Drivers reactions are the same as they used to be. Remember there used to be the fuss over drivers jumping lights... why have we not seen a single driver do this in absolutely years....


reading this thread about false starts reminded me of certain cars extremely fast starts in 05/06 I think?, could a rumour that these cars detected the jump start sensors signal turning off after the lights went out be true? a reasonable human reaction time was built into the system to avoid suspicion, and the car automatically let the clutch engage, I imagine that is a slightly simplified version, I find it an ingenious solution and whilst not very sporting maybe within the rules at the time?


Wow that's an interesting conspiracy!

I thought I'd actually heard that they don't use the jump start sensors anymore, due to the cost of installing an removing (eg street circuits) and because video is adequate to determine obvious jump starts. Not confident of my sources though...

1995 was ridiculous year where at some races 5-6 cars would be hauled in for penalties. I think the sensors were so sensitive that ANY movement at all was detected. After this time, cars at the very least had a push button brake to stop any movement.

Look up the amazing highlights video of the 1980 US Grand Prix on Youtube and you'll see the way it used to be!


One of the reasons they don't jump starts anymore is that the time in which the light turns green is randomized: It's not a set amount of time that the drivers can predict. There's also no human they can watch for cues. If the drivers can't predict what the right time will be, they have to just watch the light change.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Fisichella was good at jump starts. Now being that he is not gonna be around anymore you'll probably rely on Sutil to take up that role


Talking of great videos, you should all take a look at the BBC F1 preview videos; EJ seems to be a little tired and emotional...


I'll feed that one in


There are several reasons... I remember several 'jumps' most notably DC's jump at Indy 2000. Firstly, launch control. Without the need to be precise with the throttle and clutch, the push of a button is not as tense an exercise with the car and computer doing all the work. Second, from last season, KERS. Again, the technology of the car diminishes the need for the start to be the all deciding factor except for someplace like Monaco. Thirdly, disparity in car performance. It has been a very long time since we had more than 2 cars equally matched.


I am aware of rule changes removing traction control. I should have been more specific because the point I was trying to make was the fact that since 2000 the technology has been dialing out the possibility of jump starts. Also, I was referring to the increasing use of throttle mapping which uses the computer to anticipate the amount of throttle response in a given situation. IN terms of equality of equipment, I was referring to the anxiety the driver feels on the start line. My whole point was that starts are just not that important over the course of the race.


My original remark did indeed refer to 'jumping the lights'

Eric, regarding your points:

Launch control is no longer allowed and was not allowed last year.

But even despite that, even if you use a button, because reaction are the way they are, someone as before should have anticipated the lights and let the button go fractionally early... but it doesn't happen even for brand new rookies... no one ever jumps anymore?!!

The technology does not diminish a drivers instinct, and you could argue that not having kers made it even more important to get a good start.

I am not sure how equally matched cars reduces a driver making a jump start.

Lets add this to the mix... I thought traction control at the start was removed last year. There were articles on how we would see wheel spin like in the olden days... well I have to say last year I did not see much of that either.. Are we being hoodwinked?

Jonathan De Andrade

I kind of disagree with Dave when he asks: "why do we not see any false starts anymore?" I'd remember of the Ferrari F60, which all drivers that drove it found it very tough to do so. Massa said many times on the media that the F60 was very hard to drive, either Kimi. Badoer didn't do much as Fisichella reduce its performance on track when was moved from Force India to the Maranello's team.

James, as you said, I really found the answer surpising. You said once that Fisico could not be blamed for his bad performance last year. Would you agree that F60's 'drivability' problem was by any chance related to the lack of presence of driver during development stages?

Congrats for the video and website. amazing job!


I believe the original comment referred literally to false starts, from the red lights switching off.


I think you misunderstand Dave P's question.

He's talking about drivers jumping the lights; i.e. moving off before the red lights go out.


Hi James,

A big fan of the blog- a quick suggestion.

I notcied you pushing out lots more video content, which is great, however a lot of readers are at work and viewing videos is not ideal.

Would you be able at a usual write up/blog with the post?

I will watch this when I get home tonight!




More videos, please. I cannot possibly see a problem here. You do not have to watch them while at work.


View the videos at home?


by all means keep videos rolling!

The bags under the eyes of the McLaren guy in the blue tie were priceless!!!! the quote that a driver can bring half a second even more priceless



James, please, keep it BLOG with added videos (sometimes), don't make it VIDEOBLOG. Please.

That doesn't mean I don't like your videos - they are great and insightful!


Diversity ain't a bad thing...


Don't worry - it will be what it is, based on the daily postings, just with more diverse content


James, that is perfect! Looking forward to new insights!


Good to see you on the box again mate, even if it has a keyboard attached!


Great to see you in front of the camera again James! 😀


Thanks for that James - great video!


very interesting insight behind the scenes!


Great video James, havent seen you on screen for quite a while. Glad your back!

Id like to know what Jenson brought to the change in direction on the last test just before Hamilton took over. He obviously found something in the setup.

Any ideas?

michael grievson

Excellent and very insightful. Thank you

Robert in San Diego

Really liked the look at the inside workings of a factory like McLaren. The problem was that no one answered your question. Does Lewis bring more to the table than Jenson? Did Fernando help bring faster times? They all skirted around the question and seemed to suggest that the set up by the team would bring the fastest time whomever the driver was.


Well, they can't quite come out and say that the best payed person in the team usually doesn't have the techincal understanding and/or training to contribute much, if anything, to the design process.

That would be rude. True, but rude.


I agree. And like the man said, not really true that some drivers are so much better than others re "development".

All the same, many thanks for an interesting video James. But was it 6 or 7 10ths Alonso brings?


drivers don't design cars, they drive the wheels off them during the season. In preseason they just drive and drive and drive and then feed-back engineers who feed-back designers so the next upgrade is optimal.

Summarising drivers drive and feedback.

engineers work with drivers to bring the most of the car.

Designers design upgrades.


I am still confused after that video , it seems that the engineers don't want to give much away either ...


First off: great feature, James.


They seem quite open on the subject to me.

What I understood from the video is that it's pretty much a team effort to develop a car. A less-than-great driver with a great development team would still be able to develop a car better than a brilliant driver with a mediocore development team.

In short: no matter how good a driver's input is, if his team is unable to efficiently use that input to improve the car, they won't get anywhere.


Great fun watching the engineers trying to gingerly step their way through the fragile driver-ego minefield.

But surely there were still more than enough nods and winks in there to let you know how they really felt.

Anytime I hear some of the bolder driver development claims, I usually can't help but recall the Joey character from Friends and his obvlivious self-aggrandizing when talking about his soap-opera writers.

I get an image of rooms full of aeronautical PhDs, all spectacles and male-pattern baldness, rolling their eyes and snorting.

Smashing video James, enjoyed it a lot, thanks.


Drivers do tend to have sizeable egos don't they? the younger ones anyway!


Again James, Absolutly 1'st rate!!! I look forward everyday to your material.....Also,I must complement the bloggers that are attracted to your site. They are, by and large,six cuts above the rest and truly refreshing to read! I do, at times, look at the ramblings on other blogs,as a form of self-punishment.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Superb video James. It's like you've never been away from TV. Bring back the good ol' days!




Really nice video - i'm enjoying this new side to your blog. Are you planning more videos as the season goes?


Hard to say what the answer was there. Obviously the driver plays a role, and has a lot of input once the car gets on the road, and can make (as they said, half a second). But when it came down to the crunch about whether any one driver is better at this than another, I didn't get a clear answer.

But it was probably the right summary - a happy and confident driver will push the boundaries more, and feel confident that he will get consistent response when he does so.

But the engineers can only get the car into that state if the driver is capable of describing his problems well - and, of course, in a way that the engineers can understand.

So it isn't the driver that brings that last half a second. It's the drivers and engineers combined, and being on the same wavelength.

By the way, was interested to hear that DC took his McLaren steering wheel to Red Bull. Says a lot about how that comfort with the controls is an important part of it.


"...if the driver is capable of describing his problems well – and, of course, in a way that the engineers can understand."

I always wondered about that aspect of Kimi. Do we dare hope he was more articulate with his engineers than with the media?




Kimi was so decent he would tell his engineers what was wrong, and how he'de like the car. If they could'nt do it he would just shrug it off. never fazed or fuzzed. Nice guy that...Kimi


Hi James, thanks for the video.

I would be quite interested to see an in-depth post about expected race strategies, and the relative importance of qualifying this year compared to last year.

One common thing said about how the races are likely to play out is the benefit given from new tires - with no refuelling, they'll big a larger difference in relative lap times. So, if one car is behind another and pits first then delivers a number of hot laps, that would put them in front when the other driver pits. In some cases in testing, we saw a significant drop in lap times when new tires were put on - 1-2 seconds a lap for several laps, in some cases, if I remember correctly. However, this only works if there's clear air in front of the car after pitting - if you come out just behind another car, unless you can overtake quickly you'll have lost the benefit and instead be at a disadvantage.

Last year, coming out behind another car was "annoying" but this year it could cost you several places. This will put an awful lot of pressure on the pit crews to be both fast and consistent.

Is my thinking above along the right lines...?


I think this is a great idea to show everyone what goes in the background in F1. Thanks for the great video!


Hi James,

This is great, you have just raised the bar higher with this video.

Like it. Maybe you should copy-right all your video and compile them at the end of the season ... "Behind the scenes of F1 with JA - DVD" 🙂


Great stuff James! Thanks


Wow a real interesting insight James, look forward to more of these insights in the coming season. It would seem though in terms of development the drivers have the least input.


I'd be willing to bet that some drivers like Alonso and Barrichello would jump at the chance to rebut some of those comments.


Great bit of TV/Video. It is good to hear the engineers perspective on lap times. I always thought 7/10ths was a bit of a wild claim.

A few 1/10ths is possible and lets face it..this season that might be 6-10 grid slots!!!


Great video. I'm enjoying these new video posts James, keep them coming.

Chris McDonnell

Excellent video James, I hope you do more of this throughout the season (video from races, etc).

I always thought Alonso's claim of 7/10ths of a second had to be wide of the mark so its great to hear how they view it from the engineering side. I'm sure high quality drivers like Alonso do bring more than others though.


On the seven tenths aspect, one possible area if it is true would come from McLaren adapting from the Michelin to the Bridgestone tyres. The modelling of the tyres is difficult, so driver feedback on getting them working would be one area that Alonso would be expected to have an edge over Hamilton/Paffett/De La Rosa.

In the spygate material I remember a reference to weight distributions. It is the sort of thing that a driver could test in a car or a simulator or on the track and say that feels much better.

Otherwise drivers just make the car slower. By reputation, Trulli does this less than most on a Saturday...

Tangui vd Elst

this is absolutely great and I hope we'll have more of these vidéo reports as thé season unfolds. It's actually quiet interesting to have a view of the McLaren factory, seems like an amazing facility and would love to see more of it.
Thanks for the great reporting.


What a fantastic insight and a wonderfully produced video! I think video is a great way to report on such a dynamic sport- keep up the good work!


It sort of seems that opinion is divided, or at least that they are expressing what the driver does in slightly different ways. Basically the driver doesn't add time.

Phil Prew and Mark Williams seem to be suggesting that the car will do what it is designed to do, and this is led by the design concept and process rather than the driver. What the driver is doing is fine tuning the performance, or telling the engineers what they need from the car to achieve the ultimate performance. Scott Bain seemed to be saying that the driver has more input into the actual design process. I don't know if I have that right, but the two accounts don't match up exactly in terms of tone.

It gives a bit more creedance to Eddie Irvine's comments (from "The Edge of Greatness") about Schuamcher being a poor development driver becasue he drives around the problems. To put it another way, he changes his driving to adapt to the car's handling characteristics and gets the maximum out of car in a shorter time. Logic suggests that if Fernando is capable of bringing 7/10ths to a car it is actually because he is getting the most out of it more quickly rather than actually developing it.


It's standard human psychology to think that your part in the process had the greater impact. These guys work tireless hours and often the driver gets the plaudits for something they may have done. I'm not saying this is a big issue, just maybe a subtle one in the background as they work as a team.

Whatever Mr Schumacher was doing it seemed to work for him with his 7 world titles. Drive around the problems, develop the car....whatever. 🙂


How about the driver *always gets the paludits?


Great to see you adding original content and not rehashing press releases or Autosport stories (which I feel you sometimes do). That's why we are all here.


Sir, James was talking about Schumi's return at least a couple of weeks before Autosport mentioned it...


he picked it up fron EJ or probably from the bbc, then he gave an analysis on why he was pretty much certain schumacher wouldnt return which turned out not to be the case. EJ got everything spot on waaayyy before james. It didnt appear on his blog till a while later.


And you think you'd get a better quality blog from Eddie Jordan then?

I can see it now... " 48 years ago I bought a wheel nut and that very same wheel nut was used on the hire car that took Michael to the track today so you could say that Jordan DNA was responsible for his eighth world title".

In fact, I'm going to keep a tally on how many times he mentions "Jordan DNA" this season. From memory, Jordan DNF was more apt.


Quite insulting to say that James "rehashes" other people's reports I think - the likes of Autosport just report basic facts at best, with little or no insight, whereas James makes the effort to analyse what's behind facts, statements and behaviour, and write his own informed interpretation.

I have to say I was never a fan of James on TV, but his journalism and writing makes for interesting reading, and is by some margin the best writing on F1 on the net.

So James, I'd rather you stick to writing - I didn't particularly enjoy the video (though I welcome video content), but mainly because I found those button-pushing engineers/designers infuriating - I know it's a team sport but they clearly want more credit for building the cars, but it's only the drivers who have the balls to drive those cars to their very limits and beyond (sometimes past breaking point, risking their lives), showcasing their quality - and I think that cars are only elevated to greatness when driven by great drivers.

As for great drivers, I can believe Alonso when he says he improved the car by so many tenths, because great drivers can develop a good car and make it a great one.


Er.. isn't there something of the insulting in suggesting James should stick to the writing and that you didn't enjoy his video? Not sure that constitutes positive feedback.

Ferdinand Salzberg

I don't think they were looking to get more credit than they deserve, it seemed to be an attempt to answer the question honestly, and I thought they did a good job.

You can't imagine how much hard work these "button-pushers" put in to make a quick car. They definitely deserve more credit.

Anyone involved in developing a car would consider Alonso's claims to be an utter joke.


"I have to say I was never a fan of James on TV"

And I have to say I've never understood why people come on the blog and say that; if you didn't like his TV stuff, fair enough, but why do you *have* to say it?


It may be my engineering background, but I think you are overstating the importance of the drivers. Just look at Button and Hamilton's 2009 seasons.

Quite where does the driver bring the performance from? Big balls just add weight. But seriously, the aerodynamics go through iterations in CFD and then a wind tunnel, the suspension design is driven by the aero, the engine work is done by engineers - drivers just ask for 'more' and 'better'.

Personally I think that the car has an ultimate pace determined by the aerodynamics the tyres and the engine. The driver can suggest changes to the weight distribution and the springs and dampers to make the car feel better to him.

If the car has a massive set up problem then the driver might be best placed to advise, but this doesn't change the potential lap time.

I do admire your adulation of the drivers though. The passion is good to see. I think of engineers would love to share it and get behind the wheel, but the teams could do without the injuries and damage bills.




Boo, hiss. If you want to make sure we can all enjoy this sort of analysis gratis, then don't gripe.


I never rehash, I always analyse and add value

less talking, more racing

i agree on this one with james.


Have to agree ... this blog is always a LOT more in depth that practically any other F1 site on the internet ...

On the subject at hand though James, do you think there could be a case of engineers not wanting drivers trying to claim credit for their work, especially the "7/10ths of a second" type of credit??!!!


james doesnt rehash, he takes the basic/shallow information we get on autosport, f1.com, crash.net etc and goes indepth on each matter thats why am on here everyday..


I might be mistaken but Alonso comment was to make a point he was a driver with experience that know how extract extra ths of the car by providing a better setup. It is very hard to ping-point the exact number in terms of ths.

I am guessing an unexperienced driver does not know how to do it (like Lewis was the first year). They might trail and error until the experience let them know how best to setup the car for optimum performance.

A 1/10th might mean pole, second or second row. I do believe that Lewis is faster driver than Alondo , however Alono excels in setup experience and consistency. I think he is the very best in extracting every bit of performance based on his setup choice and driving style of any given car.


The video confirms what most knew or suspected, Alonso brought nothing timewise at all to McLaren. The magic 0.6 or 0.7 of a second he claimed was just a threat, blackmail over the Ferrari info he was using and trying to keep to himself. This is why he was squealing about Lewis using "his setups".

He has a generation of Journalists getting fat on happily feeding the legend of Alonso the Incredible, a happy public swallowing it all and baying for more. Not everything you read in the Spanish press is based on anything close to reality or fact, let alone any real knowledge or understanding of F1.


I suggest you reading and watching not only Brittish media. There is a world outside David-Lewis and Goliath-Alonso. Alonso brings nothing, Alonso proves nothing, Alonso cheats everything, Alonso this, Alonso that, but still Alonso is one of the most wanteds on the grid if not the most wanted of all. Strange though...


I live in Spain and read the Spanish media, that is truly distorted, hence my comment. I could also mention the flood of Racist comments that appear unchecked on the websites of these papers on a daily basis.

"Alonso is one of the most wanteds on the grid if not the most wanted of all"

If that was true, why did Santander have to buy him a Ferrari seat ?


No, that's not really what the engineers suggested. Simply that it would be hard to quantify. And it has been well-documented that Alonso basically tricked Lewis into using a poor race setup at Silverstone. Did he? I don't know, but Lewis was well off his pace.

You seem to be a fan of Lewis, and anti-Alonso. You have every right to do so, but you should realize that the door swings both ways.


Well, Lewis has said that he wanted to try different set-ups to Fernando in Monza and Silverstone and it was a mistake. Nothing to do with Fernando trying to trick Lewis.


Regarding remark about Silverstone - I believe that each driver has a mind of his own and if somebody sugests you should use this setup you decide by yourseft if it suits you or not... But still - it's Alonso somehow related so probably it was his fault as always.


The video confirms nothing, alex m.

less talking, more racing

he has a chance now, to show he is special. First beat massa clearly. Then fight for the championship against hamilton and vettel, maybe schumi as well, and come on top. If he can't do it, bull sh... walks.


I think this is another excellent new dimension to the website.

These are the kinds of people that we (punters) dont get to see or hear from so this video plugs that gap.

More more more pleae 🙂

(by the way whats with the other videos? particularly some lady selling jewellery???)

less talking, more racing

so. Was alonso full of it?


For sure they gained 6/10ths in 2007, just as they did a week ago, but some other driver would probably be able to find that time too at that point of the season.

Anyway, I do believe that McLaren actually signed Button also because of the feedback. When developing the car, you probably want consistent runs on the limit all day long without any mistakes invoked by the fact that you team-mate is maybe 2/10ths quicker on a given day. Jenson should be able to stay away from frustration if it happens and should be able to stay concentrated on the team-work and not overdrive.


I am not sure about button and feedback, if I remember rightly he always use to use Rubens set up and just tweeked it slightly, in terms of set up and development work that was more Rubeino area rather than Jenson.


Oh, I did not say JB will beat Lewis, as I find it hard to imagine it. But his development skills are not in question. It has nothing to do with him copying setups from Rubens - he couldn't make the tyres work because of the car/driving style caractheristics, not because of the lack of development skills.

What I wanted to say is that one of the main reasons behind McLaren's decision to bring another top driver in the team was also development skill.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

That’s exactly right. JB’s development skills are as good as Buemi’s. Otherwise, he would’ve score more points with Honda. Plus he would’ve won at least 3 or 4 more races last season. He used Rubens’ set up throughout the season. In reply to ‘Untold It’, that’s rubbish mate. Not many drivers can find those extra 10ths. It takes a very special and highly skilled driver to find that from a car. Look at the McLarens last season. Hamilton scored more points than any other driver on the 2nd part of the season where Kovy was still way off the pace. So, personally I’d love to see JB beating LH. But in reality it will be a rare occasion.


Alonso claimed 0.6 sec, not 0.7 sec.

It is used officially now as a time measuring unit in F1 - 1 Alonso


one thing i want to ask ... can they add a few tenths by being nosy and pushy at the factory ? ... ( make the engineers work more 🙂 ) , MS is known for that i presume .


Unlikely, but almost certainly they can do the opposite.


Hi James,

Great video, I loved it!

Well-well, the next step would be of course to ask Alonso about that infamous 0.6-0.7...

Regarding this video: immediately that fateful year, 1994 came to my mind: Senna who was not comfortable in that Williams and was trying to bring home those extra 0.5s he knew the car was capable of (because he was so much quicker in qualy). In one lap he managed to squeeze everything out of the car but in the long runs -it seemed to me at least- there were problems. He was pushing the engineers...

Anyway great stuff, I love this website!


Excellent video.

So when Ferrari were talking about Kimi not being a good development driver then were they just talking nonsense?

What does this say about Schumi since it was widely accepted that he was perhaps the best development driver out there?


@Bayan - Ferrari have never said Kimi wasnt a good development driver. On the contrary his engineers have never had anything but praise for him. Are you pulling this from someone who said this on a forum or something? If you have a legitimate source to that statement, then you should post it. I sure have never read anything remotely like it.


Take it easy.

I remember reading it somewhere that an anonymous team member mentioned it. Unfortunately I don't document everything I read everywhere and this wasn't recent so I'm afraid I can't provide the source.

Can you provide proof that you've read everything out there? IF not then maybe you missed this!!


Well Kimi is driving around fixing his own WRC car at times. So it couldn't have been that bad. 😉


He's certainly getting plenty of practice!! Costing Citrean/Red Bull a small fortune in write-offs :O


For those talking about Alonso's claims, it might be useful to remind that he never said "I brought 6 or 7 tenths to McLaren", but "the McLaren engineers told me that I had brought 6 or 7 tenths". Which, BTW, kind of answers the question.


7/10ths was the number related to this which I heard when I went around McLaren

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Guys I don’t know what Fernando said during his private conversation with the engineers, but as far as the news report goes I read in numerous reports that Fernando claimed that he brought 2/10ths to the car. Ron Dennis even denied that claim in numerous interviews alongside Whitmarsh. I wish I had the reports with me. But surely you guys will find it somewhere. However, the link suggests 6/10ths. Well there’s no doubt Fernando did a brilliant job developing the car. Schumacher, Alonso & Hamilton are by far the most worthy champions over the last decade for this reason. On the other hand, Kimi’s carelessness proved to be the downfall of his career. If he was as good as those 3 drivers in adopting new teams and cars he would’ve been able to keep his WRC car on track at least for one whole race. So the answer is somewhat true, even though 6/10ths is a outrages figure


so can you confirm the above statement James? once and for all? even off the record?


It's six tenth.

Here is the link to the Reuters news from August 2007:


Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, separate topic. Any thoughts on Mark Webber's comments that "Michael Schumacher will fail" in his comeback.

An article on the physical strains of driving an F1 car would be great as a discussion point.

Webber seems to have become the most bitter driver in F1. He is forever whingeing! Anyone remember his comments on Sebastian Vettel at Fuji 2007? @2m30s



Ram'd from behind by Vettel while under safety car when on for a 2nd step podium!!!! He had every right to be upset.

Bet Dietrich Mateschitz had a few choice words to say that day after missing out on 3rd spot too.

less talking, more racing

he had reason to be upset at fuji 07.


I am puzzed by some of the puzzled comments above, I thought the video was perfectly clear. The drivers have no input in the car design, they have a preference in the seating and control ergonomics. They give feedback to the engineers as to the performance/effect of various parts and can often suggest what needs to be trimmed or adjusted to achieve balance or grip.

It was telling that one guy said that they can only imagine what it feels like to be a driver, well the opposite is also true.

The only thing I was skeptical about was the last comment in the video "a happy driver brings tenths" he did not then go on to say how much down an unhappy (as opposed to neutral) driver would be, my guess is a lot.

James did not ask in this video by how much the ideal setup was differing for Jensen and Lewis, with their very different driving styles. However James, we trust there is more where that came from. Many questions remain.

Did anyone see Gadget show yesterday? Was the F1 sim rig recognised?


I think the unhappy driver is the one who is half a second off, as referenced in the video, which in current F1 is a lot.

The distinction between qualifying and the race is important too. Qualifying is much more variable, with tyres losing their edge in less than a lap at some tracks and the drivers anticipating grip levels to a greater degree. A happy race driver is Button in Turkey. A angry-happy driver like Webber in Germany can work too.

The thing to work out is the 'Barrichello drop-off' after the first stint.



on an unrelated note, can you please list the top 3-4 tracks in terms of tyre wear ? I would imagine Barcelona would be one of them. What characteristics make a track hard on tyres ? Is it asphalt quality/composition and number of medium- or high-speed corners ?

Thanks in advance.


Load through the tyres combined with sliding over abrasive surfaces are bad. Bumps that the drivers feel and induces slides, locked brakes and wheelspin contribute. As F1 cars use wings, high speed corners have more load than slow corners. Long high speed corners make this worse. At Monza, wing levels are reduced, so it isn't as bad as some tracks.


Great video, thanks. Really interesting to hear more from the people behind the scenes in their actual place of work.

Surely you could argue though that a driver does have a certain amount of input from information and input from development during the previous season (the beginning of last season was a little different obviously with very new rules and regs).

I'm a designer myself, but it seems a bit much for the designers to take most of the credit here without really acknowledging data gathered from the previous version of the car.

On the other hand, maybe last years' Red Bull brings more to development!


Oh great. videos now. After the start of the season a podcast maybe? 🙂


If I remember correctly Alonso never made that statement, it was Pat Symonds who said that in an interview.

PS: I think that number was actually 6/10ths of a second


Thanks for the link. I remember Pat Symonds making a similar statement, maybe I missed this one or got confused between the two


I was under the impression Alonso had 6 tenths with him, but perhaps its all academic. hahaha


James, Your introduction to this video was very professional and it seems TV camera likes you, bravo. Perhaps you should create your own TV show "TOP F1"?

On the other hand, who is the best car performance builder among current drivers? My TOP drivers are Alonso and Kubica.

What are your opinions?


Barrichello is very strong, I'm told by those who've worked with him


That's what I've heard too... Rubens is probably the best in F1 at describing what the car is doing and then working to make it better.

Jenson used to use Rubens' setups when he hit a dead end with his own..


Fewww! I'm feel relieved after reading your comments, guys! I thought I didn't understand spoken English any longer. So, I am not the only one who didn't draw a clear conclusion out of what the engineers said in this video.

I guess the problem is that people who are involved in F1, are rigidly tied to political correctness and loyalty to their employers.

Perhaps the answer lies out of the cold scientific minds of the engineers.

Once I heard that Schumacher had a special ability to express his sensations to his engineers. Besides, he is a natural leader and by hard work and charisma he is able to push people to work harder and in a certain direction. Trust, leadership, faith,... must be ingredients into the mix.

When Alonso said 0.6/10ths (I think it was 0.6 not 0.7), he was simply putting a number to his ability and leadership. He was selling a product: himself. In any case, in 2006 McLaren won zero races, and in 2007 they won 8 races. If the likes of Alonso, Schumacher or Hamilton didn't add a few tenths to the car, would they be earning the salaries they get?

Congrats to you James, because you are the only one who ask the questions we would like to ask if we had access to these people.


For God's sake, engineers and scientists don't speak proper English anyway... LOL.


What about drivers then?


spot on save the metric system plays with your mind, man seriously 0.6/10ths equals 0.06 tenths which equals 6 hundredths of a second. The rest of the post is spot on


Well, I didn't want to give away that I'm a genius at Maths. 😉


Congratulations James.

This is definitely a step forward for your content.

It's really good to hear your commentary again which reminds me of good old days.

I am sort of addictive to this site.

I visit it everyday, including Christmas eve.


Good video James, these are the kinds of questions that many fans have, which can help give a better understanding of the sport.


I think driver input is huge on several fronts. Computers and wind tunnel data are NOT matched to any driver. They are purely empirical. Driver styles are FAR from empirical and without that input, it becomes impossible to dial in our out changes to the car. Some drivers, Schumacher for example, make a huge difference in development because they use empirical data merely as a starting point to move the car towards their driving style.


Good video,James.

However, as other posters above have remarked, their answers are not as complete as I would like but that's the nature of the beast.

As I was watching this video I was reminded of the recent video of USF1's "factory," what a difference!


Interestingly enough I read an interview with Sebastien Buemi justv yesterday in the most recent F1 Racing where he effectively said the same thing. That the driver plays a big role in giving feedback and assessing what's right and what's wrong when out on the circuit but not much outside the car.

This debate about how much a driver brings to the development process may even have its roots in Schumacher-era Ferrari with the stories of Michael analysing reams of telemetry data from test sessions away from the circuit and picking the phone up to someone like Ross Brawn to discuss them and the development of the car in general.

I suppose the effect of Michael's actions in this respect would have been psychological more than anything else. To see the driver put in that much effort will resonate throughout the team and encourage them to perform the same inquisitiveness and self-criticism in their specific jobs during the development process. They then all turn up at the circuit on a race weekend knowing they haven't left a stone unturned and that their endeavours give them a superiority over their rivals. Maybe.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

That’s exactly how you build a team around you. I agree with you on this. That is why JB’s decision to leave Brawn was rather surprising. He has been with Honda team for so long & should know everything about Brawn team more than any other driver. Maybe Brawn was responsible as well for that. It is a 50/50 call. But JB said himself that he is getting half the money in McLaren compare to what he was offered in Brawn. So, he will have to prove what he can do with his new McLaren this season where LH has had the team in the palm of his hand ever since he started wearing racing costumes. I can’t wait to see LH driving for another team. Then we can tell what he brings to a new car with a new team. Maybe he will be the only driver to start and finish his career with the same team.


Yes in the Senna doc there is a part that hints towards this idea. That the driver is so involved and putting so much effort and care into the details that it forces everyone around him to step up their game.


Ha! look at this...

Q: How much will you be involved in the development of the next year’s Ferrari?

FA: Not a lot, as we are only drivers and not engineers, especially for me, as I will not get to drive the car. And this doesn’t give me a lot of chances to give any input up until February 2010, when I’ll get to drive the car for the first time. Up until that point I will try to understand how the team works and prepare for the winter testing as well as I can.

He can bring 6 tenths to McLaren but to quote the great man "not a lot" to Ferrari.


Testing restrictions.


At McLaren he was allowed to test over the winter and the 6/10ths (whoever originally said it) was the alleged gain made before the 1st race.

There is no major winter testing now. Therfore no input.

Nice stir!


The comments are not inconsistent. Alonso could easily have brought six tenths after testing with McLaren had started, if, for example, through his advice on the weight distribution, McLaren worked out how to make the Bridgestone tyres last over a twenty lap stint. The drop off on destroyed tyres could be two seconds, so 12s over twenty laps, i.e. 6 tenths isn't so hard to imagine.


Let us remind you that back in 2007 there was some more testing sessions that today (correct me if I'm wrong).

I remember Alonso driving a McLaren with white overall and helmet and no stickers on the car. Perhaps he had the chance of getting involved in the development of that car before and for more hours than he is able today.

In any case I have the impression that since he went to Ferrari, Alonso is trying to say only the right things. I hope he start winning again and go back to his cocky ways.

I guess you are as blindly Anti-Alonso as I am blindly pro-Alonso.


To be fair, Alonso was able to test the McLaren more and earlier than the Ferrari. Back in 2007 we didn't have the crazy testing restrictions we do now.


Thanks for that interesting and informative video. But like many in-depth reports, it also created more questions!

Here's one: While the driver is the pilot during races, since they are human and so are prone to errors and biased opinions based on personal preferences, I wonder if there is any use for a computer controlled car that can reproduce the exact same peformance lap after lap to give the engineers some very exact measurements and feedback on the car's performance which could then be tweaked infinitely. (Modern computer controlled player pianos that can reproduce every nuance of a human performance comes to mind; surely this could be done for a car as well.) Thoughts on this James?


I doubt there would be much benefit. The teams know what the drivers inputs are and they measure the load on the suspension and that tells them what the downforce is. Going by the video, the key point is making the driver comfortable with the car and getting the best out of the driver, rather than making the car faster.

Relative the electronic piano analogy, the tyres provide a significant control system problem for the artificial driver. VW has got a good system in a Golf, but for an F1 car the reaction time needs to be much faster and much more of the give and feel of the car is in the tyres rather than the suspension. Tyres are very difficult to model, and F1 tyres are very temperature sensitive. For the control system to be stable - avoiding highly oscillatory inputs, the system needs to be very fast. This means that it is unlikely that the engineers would get any feedback on what the car does when it gets "out-of-shape". The driver wants the car to move more slowly than he can react to, and the engineers are unlikely to see this dynamic behaviour as the car will drive to a program.

Also, the car and driver shouldn't be doing the same thing lap after lap. The progressive reduction in fuel mass changes the number of gs the car pulls in a corner, under brakes and under acceleration. Therefore the driver needs to brake later, at a faster rate, to a higher apex speed. Grip levels on the track will change too, with changes in temperature and tyre rubber going down.


Thanks for that. One reason I asked is because IIRC, there were reports a couple years ago that Massa had to be coaxed by his engineers into pushing the car harder to match what the telemetry indicated it should be able to handle. No robot would chicken out! haha (I kid, I like Massa).

Perhaps a driverless car would be impractical for driving around a full circuit given the variables you mentioned, but perhaps it would be useful for testing braking times/techniques in a straight line, starts, or perhaps to test grip on a variety of different corners, only one at a time in order that tire wear, fuel load and track temperature are not a significant part of the equation.

Everything else has gone digital, why not a test driver? 🙂


You are probably right. BUT, if such a system ever gets put in use, let me be the one to claim I predicted it first! 😛


I attended a presentation by Australia's Chief of the Air Force, and he commented that remotely piloted planes are more expensive than manned ones. We'd like to have pilots out of harm's way - F1 is meant to be drivers championship, so giving the drivers practice is a good thing, even it is only straight-line testing to give the driver experience with the systems and the braking loads.

Your point is whether is anything that would benefit from testing with specific pre-determined inputs rather than inputs that are known precisely in the post-test analysis. My sense is that the data collection so effective that the driver's feedback on what the tyres are doing (relatively un-monitored with just pressure and surface temperature available) would be more beneficial, but this is just my gut feel as a qualified, but in this case armchair, engineer.


I believe Alonso was just echoing previous remarks made by Norbert Haug, at the time of the Hungarian GP affair... and they were talking about 5-6 tenths, seems the figure increases the more we talk about it!

Anyway, always good to hear more from James..

brian fitzmaurice

Good stuff, James! I appreciate you bringing some behind the scenes insight to us. Thanks.



great video. I can easily see those engineers getting their ears pulled for being so transparent as to what they really think... To put it in popular pre-season words, their comments do not correlate well with those made by Lewis. Perhaps his words were blown away when the engineers got the wind tunnel running.

Anyway, I hadn't seen you on video since 2002 when I returned to South America after two wonderful years in London. Happy to see you're doing well. In my view this blog has got great potential so keep it up.


What Alonso said about 0.7 seconds needs to be related to the real world. To mean anything sensible, he would have needed to be handed a car which was developed to its full potential at that time and which, by his superior wisdom, experience and sheer brilliance, he succeeded in making 0.7 seconds quicker. Clearly, this was not the situation when he arrived at McLaren, the car was brand new, any passing motorist could have improved it at that stage.

If he means that he improved the car by that amount before his blackmailing period, we can compare his effort with Lewis's of last season, when he improved the car by over 2 seconds.

In fact, it's obvious that the driver and his team will improve a raw car; it it just that, raw, straight off the drawing board.

The driver will take it out and say maybe that it understeers on entrance to corners but switches to oversteer on the exit, so the team applies the appropriate adjustments and he goes out again. They keep doing this until, between them - as a team - they have improved the car. This is what we saw in the tests we all watched so avidly. It is a collaboration, not a slo effort.


What Alonso said about 0.7 seconds needs to be related to the real world. To mean anything sensible, he would have needed to be handed a car which was developed to its full potential at that time and which, by his superior wisdom, experience and sheer brilliance, he succeeded in making 0.7 seconds quicker. Clearly, this was not the situation when he arrived at McLaren, the car was brand new, any passing motorist could have improved it at that stage.

If he means that he improved the car by that amount before his blackmailing period, we can compare his effort with Lewis's of last season, when he improved the car by over 2 seconds.

In fact, it's obvious that the driver and his team will improve a raw car; it it just that, raw, straight off the drawing board.

The driver will take it out and say maybe that it understeers on entrance to corners but switches to oversteer on the exit, so the team applies the appropriate adjustments and he goes out again. They keep doing this until, between them - as a team - they have improved the car. This is what we saw in the tests we all watched so avidly. It is a collaboration, not a solo effort.


I accept engineers being charisma-challenged, but jeez, these are RACE CAR ENGINEERS -- can't they have just a dab of pizzazz? Is there a connection between their drabness and their employer -- I mean, do they reflect McLaren corporate culture?

Very illuminating piece James, glad you're here and looking forward to following the season with you.


Do you know any "RACE CAR ENGINEERS"? I thought not.

You don't get to such a position if you're not damn good at your job and have the strength of character to match. You've got to be able to take the feedback from the drivers, positive and negative, sort the BS from the useful and then molly-coddle/give them a kick up the arse (delete as appropriate) and send them back out to get a better lap time.

In many jobs you can get away with exaggeration, boasting and BS, but as an engineer in F1, you'd get found out in no time if you did that. The responses were as I would expect from professional engineers, measured, concise and factual.

To not understand that and imply all engineers are charisma challenged is so ignorant, I'm annoyed at myself for even raising to the bait!


Oh well. To charisma-challenged, add humor-challenged.


Thumbs up for all your hard work! There's always something new and insightful here, it is fantastic that you take time to reply and answer questions.

Intresting views from the engineer's......


what about Lewis' "3 points of downforce"? and wasn't it 6/10ths, not 7? it would be cool if someone would actually track down that words from Alonso, because now it's starts to be more of an urban legend than a documented fact.

as for the video: it doesn't actually give a clear answer about the importance of drivers' input: at first they (engineers) play it down, say that it plays role only when the car hits the track and is more about driver's comfort and car's set-up than anything really design-related, then they say that drivers "call them" to maybe check "some things" (which I understood as some serious solutions), and that they even have an influence on bodywork and aerodynamics - so that's quite contradicting I would say, isn't it?


Its not an urban legend. He really said that..



No, the drivers can relay how well the aero features and suspension are working with various settings. Schumi wont come back and suggest that they change a curve radius on the rear wing by 2mm the next time they build one. He can say that he needs more downforce at a certain speed at the rear and hope that the available adjustment will cover it.

He may have said that he needed more downforce in order to heat the rear tyres better, but that will increase the drag unless the wing stalls and so slow him on the straights. Whether the extra speed then gained on the corners is an overall lap time improvement or not will say whether it was worth moving the wing angle. This type of knowledge, instinct and feel and much much more is where the experienced drivers contribute their bit to the car.

Other than that they are just delivery drivers for the product. 🙂 (the product being the entry)

Remember last year the air was so hot at Bahrain that the tyres would not heat up.


Good video James. I hope you do more behind the scenes as the season goes on.

We have been missing this behind the scenes content for to long. I really enjoyed the behind the scenes stuff we had in the early 90's with behind the scenes with Williams. Mclarens the team and inside track.

I would be interested in seeing more on how the race engineers go about deciding the car setup before race weekends. Do they set gear ratios for the track first then move onto aero then suspension etc. That and thebiterations over a race weekend would really interest some of us I an sure. It would be bit too indepth for the mainstream.


Interesting content James.

Out of interest, does anyone know if JB's more clean-cut look (in the beard department) is a direct result of working with McLaren, or just coincidence?


Haha, clean up that beard hippie you drive for the Queens team now.


Bloody brilliant James, watch out BBC!


Amazing stuff James, Good to see you in a video after quite a while. The video looks pretty good do you have a professional crew to shoot these?

sorry for being a bit cheeky here but In this case will we have ads in these videos as well


Agreed, the video looks pretty good. The McLaren looks amazing, too! Maybe it's the shark wing, but it looks very low slung an sleek. In profile, it just is stunning!


Just want to pay you a complement on this fine video insight. Your website is second to none in terms of quality of content. Many Thanks!

Its interesting how the designers seem to concur that they bring the package (ie. the time) and the driver possesses the key to unlocking the ultimate pace of the car.



This is brilliant! I am more and more excited about how close the fans can get with the sport through journalists like you.

Videos are a great addition!




Oo, ooh, can we have TRANSCIPT of the video PLEASE ?

Some of us have to rely on Mobile BB (aka dial up !) with measly 1GB p.m. limit. Even if the video would work, it would cos arm and a leg !

Thanks, regards,


(once an F3 driver)


Ever read Nigel Mansell's autobiography? Check the input he had into the 1991 Williams car. He worked with Elf to get the fuel up to the standard of Ferrari's Agip, pushed Renault, and the rest of the team. Boutsen and Patrese weren't able to get from the Williams what Mansell's all-round input seemed to. I have little doubt he brought around "6/10ths" to the team.


What about the difference he made to the 1995 Mclaren? It had to be redesigned (read 'widened') to fit him in it!


"autobiography"... is the key word here.

While the I expect F1 drivers to have egos the size of small country's Mansell's was the size of a small PLANET, LOL. Nobody has typified more the WIN= "all me", LOSE= "bloody car/team/..'insert name of driver'..".


Nigel wouldnt be nigel without claiming that would he 😉

He's one of my all time favourite drivers, but nobody in F1 has ever held himself in higher esteem than Mr Mansell 🙂

That era was just amazing.


I agree with you about Mr Mansell.

I would agree with him though that I think he made a credible difference to the team in the early 90s.


You asked for feedback so here is mine in just one word. Fantastic!

Reading the other comments I am not the only one. But one point here, fantastic is not for the medium you chose to communicate in your blog but the content itself. Most of the people visiting your blog read also other sites and we read about the comments of the drivers. We don't read the comments of the factory people and this side is very refreshing. The medium is good as it is more direct than a written article.

Commenting on the video, I am not sure it is so surprising. Obviously we knew that drivers are irrelevant in the design phase. I think the commentary coming from the engineering team make sense. Each car has a specific capability. Setup can help but up to a point it will not change an inherent bad car to an amazing one capable of wins. I also think that what was mentioned about the drivers feel is also relevant. A driver feeling comfortable in the car will push more and deliver more.

And this can lead us to the next thought, what do great drivers do? Surely they do something important as they earn huge amounts of money for a few hours (around 60 hours per year) of competitive racing. My feeling is that great drivers feel comfortable in various types of cars and can deliver within several performance envelopes. Take for example Michael Schumacher that managed great drives and wins with the ferrari cars of seasons 1996-1998. Surely not the best of cars but he could push them to their limit which was enough to produce results. Compare that with Alonso in seasons 2008-2009. In a car that could not deliver a lot and probably he was not comfortable with, not a lot in terms of results.


Hi James, like a lot of ppl i access your ace site via my mobile but i'm having difficulty seeing your videos. Is there any chance you could include youtube links for them? Thanks:)


Great stuff, thanks James, keep it up!


Great video James. I didnt think the engineers were being evasive.

To me the key is in the amount of time a driver really gets to develop a car.

In the days that Schumacher was pounding round fiorano every day of the year, clearly the opportunity to be active in the development of the car was there.

I'm not so sure drivers can be so active nowadays due to lack of real testing, although I think those that are heralded as good dev drivers (like Rubens) will always help with the overall understanding of the setup that will most optimise the baseline setup.

I dont see a problem with Alonso previously claiming he thought he added to 0.6 of a lap. He clearly did something right in winning two WDCs with Renault (I dont think he is amazing by the way, but you dont win 2 champs without being a very good driver - no matter what the team or the car).


off topic, but I keep reading about the stalling of the rear wing on the mclaren. Can someone point me to the part of the design that causes this please (i.e a picture with an arrow would be great!)



yes you can win two WD championships easily if your main rival keeps breaking down and if you have an illegal mass damper! EASY!


nice video James.

glad to see someone interviewing the actual men behind the scenes. We never really get a chance to hear the opinions of the engineers and the designers.

hope to see more of such stuff. thanks


great vid, love the insight but how come nobody remembers what Hami was stating at the beginning of testing that he "spent alot of time with the engineers this year, because he had alot of input into the "car", I cannot remember where I heard him say this, but I remember him doing so. and no I do not like him and I can only hope that JB shows him up this year.


Don't discount everybody playing up their own part in making the car successful. We hear from the drivers because the camera's always in their face. Do the engineers fall about laughing when Alonso quantifies how much more car speed comes with his development? That reminds me of the tale that used to be told in the UK about how to get a 200 bhp Formula Ford Kent engine. Go to builder #1, he'll give you x bhp. Take it to builder #2, tell him builder #1 got x bhp, builder #2 scoffs and says "I can get you 5 percent more power than him!". After that, take it to other builders and tell them who's worked on it before, and they'll all claim to be able to extract more. After some time, your Formula Ford Kent should be making 200 bhp..


so do they, or don't they give .7 secs.


They DON'T in the development stage. They DO on the track.


Fantastic Video and Interviews.

After all the love Mclaren and Alonso shared in 2007, I was expecting Mclaren would confirm that specific comment from Alonso.

But seriously, I find really interesting the comment made by Mr. Williams (2:30 in video): "The key thing a driver does is to tell you whether you are going to get there and how you are going to get there".

The only driver that can say if a car will get there and how to get there is a driver that knows how a winning car feels like. The only way any driver would learn such thing is by driving championship winning car(s). A very few amount of drivers have such credentials and I am sure some teams value such experience more than others.

I thought Fernando Alonso said six tenths instead of seven tenths. In any case, I find it very interesting that in a recent video chat, a fan asked Fernando Alonso if a driver can give half a second to a car.

Alonso said that no driver can give half a second to a car. He said that due to the competitive nature of F1, the drivers are so good that from the best to the worst there is maybe 2 or 3 tenths of a second in difference per lap. Therefore, half a second is impossible. However, he said that what a driver can do is to bring all the experience acquired on previous years and teams in order to improve the car. Such experience can certainly amount to half a second lap improvement.

Fernando Alonso in Video Chat - part 1 (last question)


There I found a correlation between what Mr. Williams said and what Alonso said. This makes total sense as the car is only as fast as the driver pushes it, and an experienced winning driver knows how much the car should allow to be pushed.

At the end of the day, the telemetry is what engineers use to improve the car. The driver is the input and the recorded telemetry is the output. Good data in = good data out, but also garbage data in = garbage data out.

I think Alonso 6/10ths (7/10ths?) comment was referring to what he brought to Mclaren in terms of experience, rather than driving skills alone. Many F1 newcomers could be the the most talented drivers of the world. However, even Alonso himself as a rookie would not be able to push the development of a car from the get go as fast as the Alonso of today.


Interesting, but not very clear answers from the people in the video.

Also, they are McLaren employees, so are they gonna admit now that Alonso brought some serious speed to them? I do remember that the '06 car was a real turd! Not to downplay McLarens engineers, but they made a quick turnaround in '07 with a two time world champ!

Somebody away up had a link to a Reuters article that quoted Alonso as saying that he remembered how the car first felt when he drove it. I don't recall how the McLaren went during the first races of '07, but is it really that hard to believe that Alonso helped them make the car faster by six tenths? I remember someone observing that nobody threw their car through Becketts at Silverstone like Alonso in his turd of a Renault!!


Loved it! I was also surprised that the drivers have no say until the car is ready to drive, I thought they had a say in the design of it as well.. Do you think this differs from team to team? Say with a new team and an experienced driver?

It's funny how Phil Prew kind escaped your question about whether some drivers bring more.. Mark Williams explained things pretty well.. Thank you that was very insightful indeed.


These videos could not appear in better time as I have just purchased myself a projector and use every excuse to keep it blasting pictures away. What used to be a tiny YT video window on my monitor is now a massive 80" display on the wall without loosing any quality. Cannot wait for the race.

Brilliant short video, this one. And the blog is on its way to become a must read.


Thanks James. Yes please more videos. Behind the scenes with focus on the technical and the people we don't normally get to see. Also interested to learn more about the technical roles of the FIA people at the races.

Doesn't bother me if we never see a driver, Team boss etc in the videos.

Also suggest you develop your YouTube channel as you will get traffic from that source.


James, great stuff -thank you.

I really like the idea of you blog supplemented by videos - specifically dealing with things that you won't get elsewhere - such as the more technical side which a lot of us talk about but actually know very little.


What he seems to be saying is that the time he "brought" he expected to be his margin to Hamilton for the rest of the season.

I think that is a very naive expectation.


Interesting the different bias's with the closer to a suit you get the more commoditised their view of the driver's input.

To me it sounds like they are going to miss PDLR one huge amount and I think the Sauber is set to surprise big time in the young Japanese's hands.

I too think that Rubens did the quality input rather than Button and that Hamilton is not particularly strong and is often asking more about what he should expect than he inputs in what he thinks he needs.

I think Webber's relationship and dialogue with Newey has been a big part of the RBR move to the top.


Hi James

Just wanted to say great job with the video. Would love to see more insights on the blog.

Look forward to another big year!


Keep the video content coming, it's great to get the angles and the insights. On this one however, to me the value was the location, rather than the content. I thought the various speakers said absolutely nothing of value about driver input. It was mostly generalized waffle stating the obvious. The only insight was the implication that the drivers have nothing to do with it until the last minute.


James great video, explained to me what I expected the driver has input so he is comfortable an familiar in the car.

Engineers comply with this because it helps them go faster, and if comfortable they give better feedback the engineers can interpret. I'm a project manager interpreting the driver speak to engineer speak is my job(in a different but still complex industry) and this makes sense to me.

The closer an engineer can speak to a drivers language, or vice versa, the easier the job of interpretation and development. Possibly support for Alonso's claims due to him being able to talk to the engineers.

BTW just heard we in Australia are going to be seeing and hearing from you on our television coverage down here. Congratulations!


So he does bring times down right?

Doesn't matter by how much but he does right?


That is correct. I am presenting the packages from the track on Network Ten this season from most of the races


wow thats would be so awesome!!! looking forward to it


Grr James we want you on the BBC!


Awesome! Looking forward to it!!


The video content is great James, what a treat to have a looksee inside the McLaren factory and to see and hear from guys you NEVER otherwise get a chance to meet. Truly the unsung heroes. I think it is quite understandable that the engineers should wish to correctly emphasisze the importance of their efforts at producing the lap times. They are the ones putting in the long, long hours. I remember hearing a quote once that F1 is about 200 (pick a number) guys working their privates off to allow one guy to get off. Sadly - so true! And that one guy gets a kings ransom in the process - and the girl.

Such videos are a great addition to the site. Thank you, it just keeps getting better.


Great work James. Would love to see more videos like it.


wait a minute.

(A) "a driver brings 6/10tenths to the (raceday) car"


(B) "a driver brings 6/10tenths to a car during the development stage"

firstly, i believe (A) is definitely true. i believe put Alonso and Piquet Jr in the same car and Alonso will bring an extra 6/10tenths to it. no argument because that what happened.

secondly, i passionately, vigorously don't believe thats ONLY 6/10tenths. it is a BIG, BIG error to try to quantify this in the first place, theres something fundamentally wrong with this notion. throughout the development phase (months), i believe the drivers eventually bring SECONDS and SECONDS to the overall speed of the car. it is a constant development, assessment, re-assessment, changing what works what doesn't. during testing i don't believe any driver is pushing with the same fire as he would do during qualifying or race, in the end the lap-time will only be an indicative of the car's performance based on the current set-up, the 6/10tenths will come later during maximum driver effort, driver skill.

in my opinion you just need a test-driver who is fast and CONSISTENT, and can explain what happens to the car each inch of the track and the engineers will analyse this information and try to find a way to improve the car's performance.

i believed Rubens was a better test-driver than Michael, but Michael was definitely the faster driver (more poles, more wins, more championships) than Rubens, so my question, who brought the 6/10tenths of extra speed to Ferrari during the 2001-2005 years? Rubens or Michael?


"i believed Rubens was a better test-driver than Michael, but Michael was definitely the faster driver" - whats ur basis?


the basis was from many comments from here. to quote a few ...

"Rubens set up and just tweeked it slightly, in terms of set up and development work that was more Rubeino area rather than Jenson."

"He used Rubens’ set up throughout the season."

"That’s what I’ve heard too… Rubens is probably the best in F1 at describing what the car is doing and then working to make it better."

"although I think those that are heralded as good dev drivers (like Rubens) will always help with the overall understanding of the setup that will most optimise the baseline setup."

"I too think that Rubens did the quality input rather than Button and that Hamilton is not particularly strong and is often asking more about what he should expect than he inputs in what he thinks he needs"


As for Michael, I read in one of his biographies that though he was also very good in describing his feelings about the car to the engineers, his methodology was that he'd rather have the car designed to suit his driving style, rather than work a problem up. He was good at adapting to the present car also, but he preferred to have a car which suited his own style, rather than extensive development on an under-performing car which didn't suit his style.

best example, Eric Barnard's designed Ferraris in the 96/97 seasons, whom openly disagreed with Schumacher's development approach. Barnard worked with someone like Prost, who he said was the best driver at describing the technical side of the car. However Schumacher he said, had a totally different driving style, and preferred lots of oversteer, rather than understeer (Schumacher was the kind of driver who would make hundreds of minute steering corrections throughout the lap, whereas other drivers were more smooth with the steering). Instead of trying to improve upon Barnard's current design Schumacher continually wanted something which meant that the car had to be redesigned from scratch, from the ground up and totally different from what Barnard thought was the best way to design. Consequently Barnard left, and Ross Brawn and Rory Bryne came in from Benetton.

Likewise the McLarens of the late 80s and early 90s were designed around Senna. They said McLaren had so much difficulty redesigning it after Senna left that it took them another 5 years before it was able to challenge the Williams and Ferrai and Hakkinen was to win the championship with it.

Therefore to think about as to a driver's contribution to car development, I think Rubens was perhaps a better test driver, whereas Michael simply morphed the car to suit his driving style. I also think this is what is happening at Mercedes now, As Ralf Schumacher said that Michael doesn't like a car with understeer, and Nico at the present is more comfortable with the car, therefore I can imagine why Ross Brawn says that they still have a lot of development work to do, even though on low-fuel it seems Rosberg can provide a lap-time which is just as fast as the other three top cars.



Very 'tasty' question at the end. I believe it was schumi because the engineers would eventually listen to him more than rubens.

I think James was looking at the 'development stage'

But what the engineers said was that a driver matters when they get to drive the actual car.


Great blog as ever James and interesting to hear from the guys that design the car!

Off topic slightly - what happened to the mobile theme for the site? I used to be able to view a much simplified version but now I get the whole site which takes much longer to load and has to be zoomed in to make it readable? Any chance of the mobile option back for us mobile readers please?



Bit off topic but I was wondering if BMW have any connection what so ever with the Sauber team now? If not then why has Peter Sauber chosen to maintain the name? it surely would not have taken long to get the name replaced. Look how quick the Hispania Racing name was created.




They are taking a marketing benefit from partially underwriting the team as Honda did with Brawn last year


Another very good article in a series you have done in the closed season, thank you.


just as a brief after word, James.

I hope you will keep this as the best written text-based blog on F1 with only the occasional interesting video!


Seemed good to see you infront of a camera again James.

I hope it wont be too long until I hear you commentate again!

Bit un-related but you put up with a lot of stick over the years of being a commentator at ITV, and I never understood it. You were very very insightful and you had a brillaint knowledge base.

You might not reply, but I just thought you would've wanted to know that I appreciated what you did over the years on ITV and throughly enjoyed it and miss your skill! But was good to see you putting it to use again.

Take care!



James is a very good commentator for Formula1.


Question to James Allen:

Any idea if the audio issues would be sorted for the BBC red button.

Basically on the main channel I can hear the engines very well but when you flick over to the red button the engine noise dies down. A shame really.


Hi James,

I really like your site, best in the F1 business! Nice to see you're getting into videos now as well, cool stuff.

And, talking about video's... I found the video below somewhere and I figured you might enjoy it. I think it illustrates the competition in the pit-lane between Ferrari and McLaren very well and in a funny way at the same time. Can understand the Ferrari engineers being annoyed since McLaren is trying to copy their ideas, but I can also appreciate the McLaren engineers trying to have a peek. Fun fun fun. Hope you enjoy it!



I've always wondered how they paint the cars. Any chance of a vid about this? It must be very precise, right, because paint weight must be crucial. Are the cars hand sprayed or by computer controlled machines? Are multi-coloured non-linear colour schemes (eg last years Toyota) stickered or does someone paint the shapes?


Just imagine if the Lotus gets to within one second of the established teams over the course of the season! First interview of 2011 with Jarno Trulli: "... for sure, the three seconds that I brought to Lotus makes me very 'appy ..."


Hi James,

I wonder why you have forgot to include in your article the famous quote from Hamilton "I was responsible for one of the upgrades that brought us three points of downforce"...really strange. At least, Alonso and Hamilton would have divided up the jokes of some posters.

What a driver brings to car development??? I don't know others, but let me quote Myke Gascoyne on Alonso:

"Alonso's ability to guide a team's development comes from his capacity to minimise human error when working with the engineers. A 'yes' when he tests a new part is always a reliable 'yes' - and that helps focus a teams development on the areas that bring real benefits, rather than dispersing their energy. Equally; his approval is decisive; it doesn't need further evaluation testing or back-to-back running to make sure."

So, at some point during a I do buy the Alonso's 6 tenths thing.

Good work with the blog.


is is possible that Mclaren, as Alonso's former team, are playing down how much a driver contributes to a car?


When you consider what they did to do the MP4/24 in the second part of the season, I think they know what they are talking about, mate


Great to hear James, you'll add a lot to the Aussie coverage!

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