F1 Winter Break
McLaren to take pain and stick with 2013 car
McLaren Honda
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Mar 2013   |  12:43 pm GMT  |  174 comments

It’s been one of the worst starts to a season for the McLaren team, but there is defiance from within the ranks that sticking with the 2013 design is a better path than reverting to the old car, which won the last two races of 2012.

Speaking in the Sepang paddock this afternoon, Jenson Button said that they would stick with the Plan A and work with the 2013 design. It meant that they would be able to “take more risks” than their rivals because they are chasing results.

“It’s better to stick to the plan and develop and improve what we have,” said Button, who has been in this situation before with BAR and Honda in his earlier career. “That’s always the way forward. At the moment we have a car and we try to make the best of what we have. McLaren is a front running team and they know how to develop cars. We are not where we’d like to be but we know that the curve of improvements will be better than other peoples…or it needs to be at any rate.”

Speaking earlier in the day on a Vodafone news conference, sporting director Sam Michael said that the team has a raft of new parts to experiment with during free practice,
“We have two lines of new parts, one is normal development that would have come anyway, and then we have some experimental stuff to work through on tyre degradation, some of which are back-run test items to help us further understand [the car], “Michael said in a Vodafone news conference.

“We will definitely be doing some specific tests during the weekend at Malaysia, and we have managed to do some work in the last few days.

“Whether that will resolve the problems in terms of our competitiveness I really can’t tell you to be honest because I don’t know yet.”

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Sounds very much like this weekend is now written off as an extended test with points a bonus if they happen. Looks like Spain when essentially a B Spec chassis is available will be the first real race! Until then it is learn all you can with what you have!


I'm worried for Maclaren. They seem to be on the same trajectory as Williams when Sam Micheals was there. The cars lack of performance can not be a matter of chance, if it was Redbull wouldn't be as dominant as they are. Technical staff do matter a lot and I'm concerned that MaClaren are losing their good people while proven losers are embedded into the team.


It is a shame that Mclaren have produced seemingly another poor car. They certainly seem like a team on the decendancy with the exodus to Mercedes.

I really think Ron Dennis needs to look at the heirarchy within the team. Whitmarsh has simply failed to get results out of the team and has now overseen the creation of two cars that are significantly off the pace (I appreciate it is still a bit early with the 2013 car) at the first race. These sorts of results simply wouldn't be acceptable to Ferrari, and until Mclaren become a tad more ruthless in terms of their team make up I can't see them discovering the kind of form they used to be associated with.

Mclaren seem to spend too long waiting for the results to come their way. The only way teams like Ferrari and Renault seem to be able to turn around down periods is by facing change head on. Ferrari in particular are not afraid to face problems and make tough decision and as such have remained in the title picture every year since about 1998 (aside from 2005 and 2009).


Emulating Williams? Time to 'go public'?


McLaren is a front running team no question about it. The history behind the name McLaren is enviable. However, McLaren's downward slide over the last few years & not winning constrator's title since 98 is making them look more like a midfield team. Having said that, they own the most races last year. So I will put it down to management team for not providing a competitive car to the drivers. McLaren is looking more like Williams team now a days. Playing catch up is going to make them champions. Otherwise they would've won more championships in last 15 years!! The current front running teams are too competitive, has resources & great development teams too. So, I see McLaren developing, but not winning. Button made a comment the other day saying that he is taking encouragement from Alonso's effort last year, which is good. But we all know that Alonso is the kind of driver that outperforms the car in every race. Button is a terrific driver, not convinced he'll match Alonso's performance from last year. And as far as Perez is concerned, I'll put my money on Sergio getting better results that Jenson in dry, simply because he is much faster. At the end of the day, McLaren need to stabilize the team quick so that they have a chance for next year. Is this year a write off for them? Should be if they don't win at least 1/2 races over the next 5/6 races. I'm not a McLaren fan, but I would love to see the historic teams like McLaren fight with the rest of the front running teams like they used to. It will be good for F1.


"Playing catch up isn't going to make them champion"


mclaren didn't win for 8 years with dennis in charge, they've got bigger problems than whitmarsh leading the team


Quite honestly, they have been a contended for a long period. It's possible for them to take a pause, gather the resources and put together a plan for the next challange.

Between the exodus as you put it, and the engine situation changing dramatically for them, I can see them saving up their resources and aiming for the ultimate goal. In my mind that is to make Mercedes' 2014 season a failure by out doing Mercedes for that season. I wonder if it is possible.


"It is a shame that Mclaren have produced seemingly another poor car."

What are you talking about? McLaren produced a comeptitive car last year but due to poor pit handling lost a bagful of points for Hamilton!


He might be referring to the 2009 car which was pretty terrible iirc...


I'm sure these sorts of results are no more acceptable to McLaren than they were to Ferrari, when they started last season with a dog of a car. Neither Ferrari made Q3 in Australia last year.


The cars overseen by whitmarsh have not been off the pace until this one. They've often been at the front but operational, technical and driver errors have prevailed to lose them championships. In fact the last truly off the pace mclaren was 2009 overseen by Ron Dennis before he stepped back from the F1 team role.

This constant slamming of whitmarsh is deluded. If he is slammed for overseeing a culture where drivers fail to reach potential or operational errors exploded - then yes I can see that but he has not overseen declining cars until this year.

Now paddy Lowe on the other hand might have some explaining to do!


I don't think it is about slamming Whitmarsh, it's the entire management. It's obvious to everyone that the team is not stable at the moment. And this year's car has nothing to do with the drivers. Also having technical issue is also a big part of not producing an all round car. They had the fastest car last year, won most races as a team, the rules haven't changed much at all!! And this is the car they produce!!! Whitmarsh is an intelligent man & deserves to be in F1, but his car has no pace & hasn't been good enough to win championship. So, I guess he is media's best target. Just like Ross Brawn in Mercedes, Briatore in Renault or anybody that has been a part of a great team. The problem for Whitmarsh is that he doesn't have the championship to back up against the media bashing. I feel sorry for him, but this is part of any sport. He is the coach so he is the easiest target for anything that goes wrong.


I don't know the inside track on this but question if Whitmarsh is the 'coach' or is he the puppet?

As a team they look pidgeon-holed by what is actually quite a restrictive, rather than a permissive ethos... it seems everything in Woking is still being done 'Ron's way'. They clearly need a fresh outlook, a fresh philosophy and a fresh charisma - I don't think Whitmarsh can deliver this.

Jumpy O' VeRbUmP

C'mon, McLaren - bounce back at Malaysia!



'Bounce' may be construed by the unwise as 'lack of traction'.

Lot of negativity out there at the moment + unwarranted adverse comments re: Whitmarsh and Michael.

Been burned for my views more than once.

tom in adelaide

Unwarranted? How do you come to that conclusion?

This is F1! 9th and 11th deserves criticism.


Two kinds of useful criticism:-

'self-' : the team will be doing plenty of that in-house.

'constructive' : I haven't seen any of that yet made by 'observers'.

Simply saying that 'so-and-so should go' is banal.


I wonder why such stubbornness on this issue? Any ideas? Seems a no brainer to me to go back to the 2012 car - I suppose maybe they feel that there is less scope for development but in the grand scheme of things - they surely need to be focussing on next years car rather than spending extra resource on this years?


My understanding is that last years car is like a nicely done up heritage house. Pretty nice to have, but can't do too much more with it.

This years car is more like a new house being built that is running behind schedule. At the moment it is not great to live in, but the hope is that when it is finished with all the furniture in etc. that it will be much better than the heritage house could ever have been.

Let's just hope they get it built


Because teams plan their development for the first half of the season based on the new cars. Parts & money already invested for most of the season. They wouldn't even have a plan for the 2012 car. So going back to 2012 car is more likely gonna keep the around the same order or worse. Plus the teams won't have time to test or build new parts for the old car now. So it makes sense as far cost & timing goes to stick with 2013 car.


In 2012, I remember some people on this site, making exactly the same comments about Ferrari.

Basically they should ignore the 2012 championships and focus on 2013.

At the time, I responded by saying F1 mentality wouldn't admit defeat like that. These people are some of the most talented engineers in the world, they bleed competition and like Massa and reports of his weak willed ways, it's the same with the teams, their mentality is to fight


You have to expect that the actual 'parts' on the 2013 car are all improvements - it's just a gamble trying to get them to work together in one testing winter.

It was always going to be either a massive success and dominant car - or a wild mess really. Personally I applaud mclaren for taking a risk. They're often portrayed as a cold company run by machines and number crunching but this car showed there's some crazy gamblers in their midst!

Considering Ferrari are supposed to be ruled by heart over head they've opted for more conservative designs in the past few years. It's nice to see the 'smart' team throw caution to the wind. Though its sad to see they lost their bet so far. I imagine if they actually learn about the car and find its set up window it could be mighty fast - just the gamble is will it be too late?


A gambler is only a hero when his horse comes good.


What makes everyone think the 2012 spec car is going to be any better ? Ok it was competitive at the end of last season, but McLaren have done no testing and no improvement on it since then, while all the other teams have spent the entire off season developing their 2012 cars. They'll have no idea on tyre degradation and general set up and would effectively be starting again with little benefit in either the long or short term. McLaren will come good with the 2013 spec car, but it will probably too late to make any difference. The bigger worry isn't what to do with this car, it's why for the past 4 years have they been so far behind the pace in testing and the first 4 or 5 races ? I'm not saying Whitmarsh is to blame, but it's some coincidence that this has happened since Ron Dennis handed the reigns over to him.


From comments in other places, this year's car is something of a test mule for next year's car (front suspension changes etc.), so why go back to last year's car which they've stated is a dead end development-wise?

Plus, what changes would they need to make to last year's car to meet this year's rules? Again, rumour has it that last year's front wing was too flexible for this year's tests, which would probably need a new nosecone to fix. And then there are the new, heavier tyres.

I suspect that McLaren are better placed than we are to decide whether or not to revert to last year's car. But then again, they haven't made a brilliant start to the season 😉


Not to mention however many millions they've spent so far on this new car. If they just abandon it at the first sign of trouble, everything new they tried on the car was just wasted money, and they don't get to find out the potential of those developments.

Even in the short term, the 2012 car would already be behind the competition anyway. At the end of the year they were maybe just ahead in terms of having the best car. But everyone else has developed their 2012 cars over the winter, so chances are, even reverting back to the 2012 car would see them behind on track, not to mention far behind in developing the car.


Interesting. I would like to see that, and have them mount a challange in 2014.

We're only first race into 2013, and I'm already wondering what the first race of 2014 will be like.


I would imagine that the new front suspension setup will be something that can be transfered to the 2014 car so it makes perfect sence to sort it out.

Ferrari introduced similar last year if I recall correctly and it took them a while to get it working.

If pull rod front suspension is the business then not developing it would consign a team to not winning much in the future.


Gotcha. I thought there must be more to it.


Wonder if we'll see a return of the 'snowplough' which they took off last years car. Although it may make adjusting suspension more difficult now with the pull rod. Just hope it isn't an 'Earth Car' type disaster that just isn't able to be brought up to scratch. This only seems fixable with a total overhaul of the floor, fw, rw, sidepods and adjustments to wheel angles, suspensions rates and ride heights. Totally within McL's ability but lot of new ideas to test in limited practice sessions.


The rear wing and outlet geometry seems to be a big improvement - it looks more like the front wing and suspension rates are the step backward - it's like they've forced a total imbalance by only improving one end of the car...


This decision by Mclaren to go ahead with the radical car goes to the core of the company code i.e. to win races and not necessarily championships.

I mean, if I was after the championship, I would start work on modifying the 2012 car to fit the 2013 regulations right about now so by Barcelona I can start all over hopefully without too big a deficit.

Anyway, I hope Mclaren can get on top of this new car soon but recalling 2009, it took the team till Germany to sort out the car.

Meanwhile, this difficult Mclaren is the perfect opportunity for both drivers to show us what they can do and thereby scoring some major bragging rights.

If they keep planting it in places it doesn't belong then, the kind of recognition Alonso got from the team principles and the fans awaits at the end of the tunnel.


I totally agree with this.....

Question is, is the car as bad as they are making out. Not putting anyone down,but driver input in these situations usually can make all the difference.

We all see what works on the drawing board and in CAD does not always work on the track. Now the Maclaren finished the last few season as one of the fastest cars on the grid - even 09 when the car started the year similar to this one.

It'll be interesting to see how this one developes compared to .....sorry, I'll not go there yet.


I completley agree. Lewis had real issues with the 2009 and failed miserably to qualify the car for the first 5 or 6 races. He was done in 10, 12, 18 etc. The team have produced another dog but this time its Jensons fault. Hipocracey at its best.


I suppose with Sepang being a 'true' racetrack (as opposed to Albert Park), this weekend will allow us to see exactly where McLaren are with regards to the others, although no doubt McLaren already have a pretty good idea themselves. Regardless, this is a shorter season and McLaren don't have much time...


The forecast seems to be for a wet race, which might suit them but probably won't give a true picture of where they are pace-wise.


Best of luck to them. I don't doubt for one moment their ability to catch up and develop quickly - it's just frustrating that they keep having to do exactly that!

McLaren are a great team, a British success story on and off the race track and I want to see them win for their own sake and for F1. It is because of their success story that people have little or no patience with their constant mistakes.

(just don't develop too quickly, I don't them beating HAM just yet thank you very much).


(just don’t develop too quickly, I don’t them beating HAM just yet thank you very much).


But wouldn't that be a brilliant story for 2013..Mercedes v McLaren, instead of everyone chasing RBR?


Same name, different meaning: McLaren V(odafone) Mercedes.


James, can you explain why jenson said this was the best mclaren ever at the launch, and why many pundits including yourself said this was a step forward from last year? Jumping the gun too put it mildly


It is a step forward in design, but somewhere there's something in the geometry which isn't working.


This might sound dumb, but how can one reasonably claim to have a car that is a step forward in design but actually slower? In today's age it would be fair to assume the 'design' translates exactly to the finished product and if that product doesn't work it is surely a result of poor design (as opposed to poor manufacturing, etc.)?


Im curious did the "earth car" have the same front suspension layout? Is it something jenson prefer's we know he likes a balanced car that turns in. Ferrari showed there car is very pointy but too much oversteer at the beginning of last year . my point is has jenson taken the engineers in this direction thinking as it was McLaren they could sort the issues the Honda had just a guess. Did Hamilton recognize the route they were going done and that's one off the reasons he left fearing a repeat of 2009?


If they dont crack the back of their issues by mid season, i feel McLaren will be the first to focus all development effort on 2014.


They did that when they built this radical car. So this whole thing is about being "first to 2014".

The only error was the overconfidence of where they would be relative to others analyzing the jump off point of previous design (Dominant Car of Brazil).

They made a decision to build a Pre-2014 car and knew what they were carrying over thinking "That will set us back a bit.. but shouldn't be too bad."

Something isn't working and it's messing up.

They'll fix it.


Good. It would have been madness to toss out the new car on the basis of one race and some limited testing.


One thing that's confusing though is at the launch of the 2013 Mclaren, Jenson was of the view that the car was the best they have ever made.

And then there's Whitmarsh who tends to have numerous positive things to say, only to turn around and give a lots of explanations as to why this and this didn't pan out.


As others have mentioned its engineering to design great new parts - it's artwork to put the whole geometry together. I suspect the pundits saw a lot of really skilful new parts and even the drivers said the philosophy behind the car is a leap forward - but they lack the artistry to get it all flowing together.

Whitmarsh himself said the car is faster than the 2012 car but its too 'peaky' - it only suits a tiny window of set up and falls out rapidly (in this way the car is like last years Pirelli tyres - the window of operation is so small most of the time you miss!)

In the eras of unlimited testing this would likely be one hell of a car by now - but with so little testing mclaren have blown it with too many risky changes in one go.


You can now see the wisdom of Hamilton staying grounded about his car while the Mac pair hyped away.


Good call! I completely agree with Jenson. Even if the old car were faster just at the moment, it carries all its original minor design faults and then all the bodges that happened over 2012, and that would make it almost impossible to develop rationally. The only way it would be adopted is if the 2013 car were completely unfixable. So it can't be.


James, what do you think, is this a worse start of the season than, say 2009?? Which car is worse?


I would argue this one is worse (others might disagree) but the difference is that in 2009 they started with a car that had minimal development time; all their focus and resources had been on winning right up until the end of 2008, which ultimately left them in the same boat as Ferrari with their F60.


We will know after this weekend. Melbourne had toouch rain for a start.


I'd say its different - the 2009 car was woefully underdeveloped as so much resource had been poured into 2008. This car is not lacking new ideas - it's just overwhelmed by a surfeit of them.

But mclaren turned even the 2009 dog into a race winner eventually - though it was too late - much as I suspect this year might turn into.


How can a team go from winning last year to complete U-Turn this year?

As I mentioned, I have a conspiracy theory, it is theory number 28.

McLaren is so gutted by Mercedes, and on the ropes regarding engine choices that I can entirely see a conversation going a little something like this: "We'll give/sell you engines for next 2-3 years but you immediately have to stop being the top Mercedes engine team."

And if given that position, which let us be honest McLaren is in, what would you do? For sake of survival and buying time to put Honda into place or do whatever else you need to do.

In my mind, I can't imagine any other possible reason why McLaren would go this far backwards, this quickly. From fastest to mid field with no rule changes? It is no accident, and no mistake F1 fans!


If Mercedes said that they were still going to give them engines, then...maybe 🙂

But there's no scenario where Mercedes would say to McLaren 'You guys are too fast, you're embarrassing us, we want you to start doing **** this year to make us look good and by the way we're not giving you free engines next year' and McLaren would say 'OK'.

Frankly if the situation was that bad with Mercedes and they were expecting to take a loss anyway then there was the option of possibly switching to Renault or Cosworth - then they could given Mercedes the old one finger salute and called it a day.

McLaren are in the situation they are in because they a completely new car that they don't yet understand.

Roll on conspiracy theory #29 🙂


These are hard core businessmen. They went after McLaren assets hard. Wolff needs to hang his hat on something. And beating McLaren is step one, even if it isn't exactly the right way. Wolff knows he can't win WDC this yeat and who knows about next year. He needs to have an accomplishment to show the board at Mercedes. It's a ruthless sport Random. But one thing I don't buy is that the fastest car of 2012 is suddenly this slow by accident.


Yeah I'm still a bit dubious, and I wouldn't say that Mercedes have absolute power over McLaren, but you're right about one thing: McLaren's options are definitely limited 🙂



OK. All logical. Althought, after pounding Mercedes for 3 years they have not submitted, and infact they have clearly taken a more combative stance toward McLaren, so that argument holds no water.

The trouble is that McLaren are in one heck of a pickle. And my point is that indeed, they have to first make it to that possible Honda happily ever after. Right now they are in absolute "Survival Mode" with their engine situation and Mercedes likely exerting some authority the way Ferrari do so over Sauber for example. And so I say to you again, is it inconveivable that McLaren submit in this survival mode to make it through next 2 years and then rise from the ashes. They know 2013 is not going to be a WDC year for them, and likely neither is 2014. So hunker down, save resources, yield to your supplier that holds pretty much absolute power over you. Renault is not taking anyone else on, and Ferrari is not an option we can agree, right?


First reply (12.19)

There is no doubt that Mercedes do not like McLaren for making them look bad, and there is no doubt that they poached their talent.

Mercedes did this in a desperate effort to improve their performance, otherwise the Mercedes board would have had to seriously considering withdrawing the F1 team and go back to just being an engine supplier (which is what they were best at anyway, but that's another story :)).

McLaren know this, so there's no point putting themselves in a bad position to making Mercedes seem more successful and thus give them more power over McLaren. On the contrary, the best move for McLaren would have been to build a damn fast car and destroy them once and for all so that Mercedes would be forced to withdraw their F1 team to save what little face they had left. In that situation, it's probable that McLaren would become the defacto Mercedes factory team again and so get their free engines again.

As for your riddle: The theory was good, the execution less so.

OK, second reply (12.32)

I think it is a conflict of interest, and as far as Mercedes is concerned I think grey is definitely the word to use.

If you own a business you don't go to a client and say 'here's a free product to make us look good, enjoy' only to go back later and say 'oh yeah, now we're in competition with you, that free product isn't free anymore and by the way we'll have your best staff too'.

It's absurd, but that's F1 for you.

In the end I think McLaren will improve the car, kick some proverbial (including Mercedes), and then down the track they'll sign with Honda and then (in theory) it should be happily ever after...at least for a while 🙂


"OK. Then riddle me this. What possible reason does a team have to completely redesign their car when they know they had the fastest car and rules are not changing?"

From what I heard, McLaren made the decision to go with a brand new car in '13 (as opposed to evolving the '12 car for 2013)... in early summer 2012.

At that stage the McLaren was suffering, Jenson was struggling to find a setup\tyre windows, rumours re: Lewis were surfacing AND the evolution to 2014 would be easier from a new car in '13 (rather than from the older car from 2012).

However, the '12 car suddenly came good... witness Button in Belgium and Hamilton in Monza and both cars (when finishing) scoring good points - USA, Brazil etc, etc.

Which is why some can't understand why they didn't develop the 2012 car for 2013.

Timing, as they say, is everything 😉


One more thing...

Don't you think it is almost a conflict of interest to have a team which sells engines?

If you are a manufacturer and supply 3 teams, you may have a preferred customer, buy you supply all 3 relatively fairly, and your goal is to sell them an engine. Some may not be able to affors best one and you sell them a slightly lower end model perhaps. You don't really care if one is more successful than the other.

But if you now also own a team, your goal now is two pronged. Sell engines for profit, and beat your customers. And how is that not a conflict of interest? And conflict of interest always opens up gray areas of behavior and motivation.



OK. Then riddle me this. What possible reason does a team have to completely redesign their car when they know they had the fastest car and rules are not changing?

EVERYONE develops in that case. They have been in the game too long to make a rookie mistake like that. Which is why I believe it is intentional - to not paint Meecedes in bad light. Lets be honest, McLaren have made Mercedes AMG look incompetent last 3 years, and this new management team wants none of it. They gutted the team, took their driver and I believe told them to "knock it off" making them look bad if they want to keep getting engines.

Another benefit of McLaren doing this self-sabotage right now is that Mercedes likely concludes that they have taken their tallent and there is nothing else for them to poach from McLaren. Stops the motivation for tallent "theft".


These are hard core businessmen.

They went after McLaren assets hard.

Wolff needs to hang his hat on something, and beating McLaren is step one, even if it isn’t exactly the right way.

Wolff knows he can’t win WDC this year and who knows about next year.

He needs to have an accomplishment to show the board at Mercedes.

It’s a ruthless sport.

All 100% correct.

The only point you're wrong on is saying that the fastest car of 2012 is suddenly this slow: It's not the fastest car of 2012, it's a whole new car they started from scratch.

If they had designed the 2013 car as an evolution of the 2012 car (as most other teams have done) then they almost certainly would not be in this position, but if they had ended up in this position with an 'evo' model then I would be with you on your theory...but instead they chose to go the other way and so here they are.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that they're incompetent, but in my view they have made a mistake.

Last thing: I also think that if Mercedes were that keen to beat McLaren then they would have done whatever they had to to acquire their technical data and whatever else they could get their hands on, whether it be through bribery or full on espionage.

As you rightly said, it’s a ruthless sport.


How about No?


You believe that this team can get it this wrong with essentially no rule changes?


The money from finishing higher is worth more than free engines I believe so it makes no sense for a front running team to lose. And to be honest mclaren have had bad season starts on many years.


How can you finish higher if you have no engine deal?

McLaren right now are in the corner. They have to use Mercedes engines. If Mercedes said: "Hey Ron. That will be $250m for the engines this year." What choice does Ron have?

I am not sure we fully grasp what a delicate situation McLaren find themselves in right now.


Mclaren have an engine deal? They can refuse to take up the option in 2015 though. There is a pricing deal in place.


Oh dear. Keep taking the tablets!


iPads? Got 4 already. 🙂


There's an old saying, that goes like this;

"Never attribute to malice, what you can attribute to incompetence."

Maybe incompetence is too strong a word, but I don't think there is any malice on Mercedes part in all of this. If it was true, and came out, the public repercussions would be disastrous for Mercedes, to the point where the Mercedes board would pull the plug on the race team, and stick to delivering engines.


How can you have incompetence to build a car from a team that had the fastest car last year? If they did nothing they would have been faster.

As for your second point...obviously this would be a one on one conversation. And when my theory can be explained be a conversation between two men I tend to feel those are more believable.

And may I remind you McLaren have some serious challanges they have to navigate through, engines being very serious. Let's see how they play the Lowe situation too.


'If they did nothing they would have been faster.'

I just finished a long reply to your reply, but I should have read this first: You already made my point for me 😉


Whatever they do to the car at this point would almost have to be an improvement.

They'll almost certainly catch up to their rivals at some point in the season - hopefully sooner rather than later. It's just a question of how much it hurts them in the meantime.


Although I have no doubt that McLaren will bounce back and be in the top in the next few races, I think Button's experience and mastery in changing conditions are overrated. As an example, last weekend he made two critical mistakes. First, he was one of the few to switch to SS tyres when the conditions were not right. He came back and switched it back to Mediums. Secondly, in Q3, he opted to run the medium tyres for 3 laps as opposed to 2 runs by the rest of the Q3 field, thereby "destroying" his tyres.

But, he seems to be a master-class punter. He made his bet and lost it - no one talks about it. Now, the odds on his next bet is slightly higher - watch for the accolades to pour in when he gets it right.


Last week's quali wasn't about tyre choice really - it was betting on rain and track conditions. McLaren wanted to move to dry tyres early, because they probably believed that more rain was possible later in the session. When it didn't come, it destroyed their qualifying as their tyres were done. It was a weather-related gamble, and they lost.

As for JB's skill in changeable conditions, there is a REASON why only he and The Hulk could stay out on slicks in Brasil last year, when everyone else (including his own teammate) had to switch to wets. And we won't even mention Canada from a few years back, when he went from last to first in the rain. You simply cannot do what he has done in wet conditions and say someone is "overrated" in those conditions...


Button pushed Hamilton into the walls while he was going to overtake Button and claimed on the radio "What was he doing?" as if he din't notice he was getting overtaken.

If Button had played fair, he would have played 2nd fiddle to Hamilton in that race.


That comment makes no sense. JB and LH danced closely many times on the track at McLaren, and they were clean all times but that one. It was dark, in the rain, and JB was taking the racing line for the upcoming g right hander. You are entitled to believe what you wish, but it makes far, far more sense that JB really did not see him, or presumed that he had the racing line and Ham would be smart enough not to try and squeeze him for it. And either way, JB was ahead, and Lewis behind, so Lewis is the one that has to make a clean pass, it's not up to JB to move over for him.


Jensen talked about it: He said it was a mistake to come out on the SS in the rain.

But even though it didn;t work it was still worth taking the gamble - what else could they have done?


He's had some luck in the past with these calls, and then those desperately searching for anything to praise him for - declared him master of changing conditions (totally ridiculous).


To be fair to McLaren, in 2009 they started well off the pace (probably worse than this year!), but within 5 races or so races they'd largely solved the issues and the car was probably the best on the grid for the final 6 or 7 races.


Do you think McLaren are playing the long game here? They are changing engines & sponsor, so they don't need to chase results to satisfy Mercedes & Vodafone.

They also have a rookie, whose best years are a few years in the future, so better to get development pain out of the way now.

Do you think McLaren (and Ferrari's) decision to look at a new suspension configuration is to do with the 2014 rule changes? Maybe both McLaren & Ferrari are getting the pain out the way now and they will be the leading cars in 2014-15.

Or maybe McLaren have simply made a really bad car!


4 for 4 🙂


Very good point, Im thinking a bit of both. Looking forward to next year, however this year's car is a shocker!


I don't think so.

Thats like shooting themselves in the foot. The new sponsors will start believing they will be subjected to the same when their time is up.


When you rely on sponsors, you can't play "the long game." If McLaren does such, nobody would touch them with a long pole and the team would crumble.


OOO tough call, I still think they'd have better luck developing last years car.


They would have to re-crash test the MP4-27, have a new front wing that's compliant with the new technical regs, have a new underfloor that's compliant with the new technical regs.

Quote: Anthony Rowlinson, editor of F1 Racing magazine (apparently).


If you think of all the very bright people who have been comparing data on the old car with data on the new car at the MTC, you've got to have amazing insight to come up with your comment.

Do you have some secret you want to share?

I think McLaren have simply been a little too adventurous with the design & need more testing to iron out all the variables.

They will make this car work...the question is, how long will it take for them to get it up to speed?


Frustrating times!

James - do you think the renewed pressure on McLaren (to find performance) in 2013 will have any effect on their 2014 preparations?



During the launch period, you were sure this car was fast;

Due to how it looked.

What do you think now?

Do you think they can repeat what Ferrari did?

Keep it up!


I was sure it was different and the aero was advanced, according to the engineers I listen to.

But they've got something wrong in the geometry somewhere that means it doesn't ride or balance well


James, we often hear how complex aero is... but very little about geometry.

What's the harder to fathom? aero or geo?

If it's aero... McLaren could be on a winner here by Europe.


Doesn't seem like such a bad decision. Once they figure it out they should be a leg up on the opposition, and everyone else (except Ferrari) will be playing catch-up - if the theory is correct.


Something only a couple of mm out on the geometry can have a massive effect.

I bought new, one of the first batch of 10 Fantic 303 trials bikes imported into the UK when they came out. I never managed to get the rear mono shock suspension to work, no matter what settings I put the compression and rebound damping or the pre-load on the spring.

I could only describe it as feeling dead, no life in it to help get up big steps and the like.

It was about 6-7 years later when I got talking to Steve Saunders, ex multi British Trials Champion and Fantic works rider at the time of the 303, at a national trial I was watching, that I mentioned the dead rear end on the 303 and asked how he got on with it.

He told me that there was a geometry problem on, I think, the length of the arms of the linkage and that none of that first batch of bikes rear ends worked. Fantic had not really made this known at the time! The next batch was fine.

It can be that simple when you know......


I bet Lewis is smiling right now.


He won't be when Mercedes does his usual thing after 5-6 races, which is no development whatsoever, breaking down and fighting Sauber/Force India for the rest of the season.


Hell yeah....

What a great escape by him.


I bet Lewis knows the setup to cure that car.


Have to stay with the new car...it is the key to their future success, depending upon the 2014 rules changes. I think that so many of the changes they made are already featured on other team's cars (front-suspension: Ferrari, rear-suspension: Red Bull, high chassis: nearly everybody else, etc.) that they need to come to grips with them to know if and how to use them in the 2014 re-design.That may well scupper their season, but they will be much better informed for 2014's design. The only pain is that it does hurt JB in what may be his last good year to win a second WDC...


Button is gradually taking McLaren down to his level.

Perez is just another Button, so McLaren may as well get used fighting for a single point.

Until Whitmarsh is sacked, the rot will continue.

Hamilton was the key man at McLaren... now they have nothing.


Bullpucky. Jenson didn't design the car, the front suspension, or the rear suspension. He didn't ask the designers to FINALLY copy the higher chassis that nearly everyone else has been using for years. All McLaren did is pick all the cool stuff that other teams have tried and pack it into one chassis in one shot. That wasn't done for any driver, that was done so that they had more room to develop in the future, period. Do you really, really think the drivers know the ins and outs of the aerodynamics and set-up features of various suspensions? LOLZ...

I love it when people that couldn't drive a single lap in an F1 car and get it through two turns on the track personally criticise drivers... And the loss of Paddy Lowe is far, far worse than losing Hamilton...


The driver is a critical part of the feedback loop...

And not only that, there is a team spirit and motivational aspect of it too...

Who wants to push hard in the engineering department, when the driver will take out about 70 seconds of performance over race distance...

You may as well collect your paycheck, and make time for fun in the evening...


Really, so JB "takes 70 seconds out"? Let me ask you this - how then did Button take SECOND in the WDC two years ago, beating Seb's own teammate in the other Red Bull? And how did he do that despite apparently losing 70 seconds per race? You see, hater's numbers just don't stack up. They can't, because they are not based upon factual performances...for fun, let's take 70 seconds and divide it by the average 55 lap race distance. We get...1.27 seconds per lap. THAT would have to be the qualifying gap between Lewis and JB for you to say Lewis was 70 seconds per race faster that JB. But instead the average qualifying gap (ignoring rain results, mechanical disasters, etc.) was much more like 0.2 to 0.3 seconds in quali. So, IF both drivers were to drive at total quali pace for the entire distance of a race, the best a Lewis could beat JB by would be 16 seconds - and that's again bullpucky, because it ignores the fact that they simply don't have the fuel and rubber to actually drive at quali pace for more than 10 or so laps in a race (20%). In practice, it is probably as little as 2 to 5 seconds over a race distance, because of those limitations.

See, that's actual maths, not emotional [mod]



2011 disagrees with you.

Hamilton melt down every few races, Button beating him. In fact Button beat Hamilton over the 3 seasons combined which made Hamilton leave sulking.


Fairy tales are for kids...

Hamilton is too fast for Button... In fact, it still makes me laugh to remember the time, Button went against team orders to hold station behind Hamilton. He over took Hamilton, who was told by Whitmarsh and co, that Button would not snake past him... off course, Button did snake past...

Hamilton destroyed him a few moments later, as per normal...

Whitmarsh has an abnormal relationship with Button - he really should have been replaced with someone much closer to Hamilton's abilities...

Oh well, it will be fun to watch Button and Whitmarsh dance in 2013 with everyone firing shots at their feet...


The figures disagree with you, keep on living in Hamilton world.


fool lol


It would not surprise me in the least to see Button drops to 12th in Malaysia...

Then we will see who looks foolish...


Maybe so but Mclaren's problems barely hinge around any driver past or present nor will there current sink the team nor see them outwith the top 3-4 team minimum within the next 24mths causing a revert back to the key word....FOOL!


Brilliant and insightful ... not!


The mclaren starred Hamilton with Ron Dennis in charge at the start of 2009 when the car was far worse. All the short term memory loss button haters tend to forget this. The rot started before button arrived and when saint Ron was the boss.

And unless Hamilton outperformed button every race and every season then the statement you made is just wrong.

It's fine to be a fan of Hamilton but I do wonder why so many seem like insecure children to have to invent a history that didn't happen.


Rob, thank you for your very positive and informative input. I'm so glad you straightened that out for those of us who are confused as to why the car is slow. Check out Hamilton's qualifying times for the first 6 or 7 races in 2009, same could apply.


As an admirer of McLaren, the recent years are truly lamentable. From a decade or more of underachievement, to catastrophically mismanaging the dream team of FA&LH and in the process throwing away a WDC and finding themselves on the precipice of exclusion from F1, to the fiasco of lying to stewards, to cyclically producing woeful cars...this is painful to write. In which other industry would this record be acceptable?

James can you also shed some light on what the thinking was behind McLaren's decision to develop a new concept in the final cycle of a relatively stable set of regulations rather than develop the fastest car from last year? A risk too far maybe? Ever since in season testing has been restricted, it seems to me that playing catch up is harder than ever. Better to develop a strong base than throw every resource at attempting to find Herculean gains in performance. Looking at it from the outside and objectively, it makes little sense.


'To have more scope for development than the other teams'

Am I the only one who just finds this reason SILLY?

Such a huge risk just for more scope?


To have more scope for development than the other teams who evolved their 2012 designs


Lewis expressed surprise at the MP4-28's performance, co he remembered the car he'd worked with as "fantastic."

Could it just be that Jenson is meandering down one of his setup miseries again, with Perez flailing helplessly, unable to chip in as the new, "junior" driver? Or could it be that their simulator (as Lewis remembers it), does not correlate with the Toyota wind tunnel, allowing a dog to create impressions of being fantastic?

The car seemed a stunner on the first day of testing at Jerez, when Jenson set an eye popping time. After tinkering with it, the times rapidly became mediocre. Two and two makes this a setup issue.


Their simulator correlated fine to the Toyota wind tunnel over in 2012, I see no reason why that wouldn't be the same in 2013.


Aero maps and geometry configuration are not part of either drivers job. The lament about 'development' drivers is fifteen years out of date. A good driver gives feedback they don't develop cars any more than good football players develop stadiums.


They are. The driver tests them in the simulator, for suitability and accuracy. If the drivers feedback is poor as you have noted, the team goes off on a horrible tangent.


I would definitely take a with a pinch of salt any assessment made of a car that didn't even exist at the time.

The stunning time on the first day at Jerez was a result of fitting a suspension component upside down, which lowered the ride height to a level that could not be used in race trim.


I'm sure they can find ways to recreate that effect. Afterall, it made the car blindingly fast.

By the way, Whitmarsh says they spent a lot of time trying to run in that same low configuration at the Melbourne race. Perhaps, the erring suspension part (if that story is true) will eventually be remanufactured, with the other bits redesigned to bring back the fast Jerez setup.


That is interesting, I had not heard that. I wonder if they have ended up distracting themselves with that mistake: convincing themselves they need the lowest possible ride height and compromising themselves by having to make the springing excessively stiff to compensate.


No, there is a serious problem with it. But they will fix it


No doubt they will fix it, McLaren always does.

What is confusing is the time Jenson set with what Whitmarsh says was improperly fitted components, which lowered the ride height.


The first test had a time set because they had assembled the front suspension wrong, with the car running so low that it wasn't in a raceable condition (presumably due to fuel load weight).

James, isn't Jenson's feeling for what the car is doing and general engineering savvy generally thought quite highly of in the paddock? If so how come the set up problems of last year can happen?


" isn’t Jenson’s feeling for what the car is doing and general engineering savvy generally thought quite highly of in the paddock?"

I'm hearing this for the first time, althought I have to acknowledge that I'm not privy to information from paddock.

Lets wait for a few races, or till they reach European races - McLaren is known for doing silly things that other teams don't do. However, their engineering depth (in personnel) is highly regarded and they will soon be up there fighting for wins.


Its not unchartered waters for Mclaren. They've been there before, especially in 2003 when the "radical" MP4-18 never even made it to the first race, and they had to bring 17 ( as 17D) out of its retirement house. The MP419 was a dud too, and they launched it as the "best and most advanced car" they had ever built.

They will bounce back. And unlike in the former years when they just had to worry about Ferrari and Williams, this time they'll have to worry about half a dozen competitors who have a foot in for the Top 8 every race.


Am I understanding correctly that Sam Michael is sort of taking over the technical leadership of the team now that Paddy Lowe is going to Mercedes?

He didn't do a very good job at Williams... so good luck to the Woking team if that is the case. Sam is obviously a very skilled and dedicated guy, but perhaps not the best person to be in charge.


Tim Goss is the one replacing Lowe, although apparently not with quite the same title.


Nope. I think he is being groomed as a replacement for Martin Whitmarsh (when he retires) - the same way McLaren groomed Whitmarsh when Ron Dennis was at the helm. In one of the interviews last year when Whitmarsh was asked about Sam, he did indicate on this.

I'm sure one of the reason why Paddy left could be that he was sure that he may not get Whitmarsh's position, when he retires.


No, Sam Michael is Sporting Director, he's not involved in the car design. He is in charge of the racing, strategy, dealing with the rules etc


It's probably best I'm kept a long, safe distance away from McLaren team principle Martin Whitmarsh because I'm in do doubt we are both currently residing in the same dark place. Put us two together for anything over 15 minutes and there's a real good chance we would forge a suicide pact.

Instead of manning-up to another weekend of exciting unpredictability saturated in gambling opportunities I'm fighting the urge to pen my own punting obituary in the wake of Jensen Button's woeful Australian showing.

"Revolution and not evolution is the way McLaren have gone this season" said one pundit prior to the lights out in Melbourne. As history tells us revolutions are all too often stamped out like betting slips, in this instance with the name Jenson Button etched upon them, all too often end up lining the bottom of a birdcage.

To your mind James Allen can u recall atime that Mclaren has started the season with a race winning 'Revolutionary' car shall we say in the last decade??


Can someone tie a rabbit foot around Sam Michael's neck ? That guy is jinxed .


Indeed, look at all the pit stop muck ups that occurred during races immediately after he arrived. I wonder what Sam thinks of it all?? 🙂


And NOW look at McLaren's pit stops. Best in the paddock. Why? Because those failures were tests of new gear, such as the front jack, that didn't always work. But when they finally DID get them developed, they have been nearly untouchable in pit lane (Ferrari are close as always). It is thought that a 2.0 stop is actually a possibility.

And I take that and look at the current car...and think - if only they develop the current car they way they developed their pitstops last year...


Yes, because all you need to breed success when you're part of a high ranking high perfomance multi-million dollar team in the top level of motorsport is a dead bunny appendage 🙂


true enough it seems



He went from a dying magazine to a top F1 team. I say that him and a horseshoe are one!


Sam Michael brought us the 2.31 sec pitstop. Maybe Williams wasn't the best environment for him.


James Allen..I'd like to see an article on exactly how McLaren are even now tackling this problem. Are their reserve drivers frantically experimenting with different configurations on the simulator and which? Ride height, aero, suspension settings? What CAN be changed on the car set up-wise that can make a big difference in lieu of new parts being fitted whilst the team are doing the flyaway GPs. Is their wind tunnel correctly calibrated (I'm thinking of Ferrari's woes last year)? Is there a chance the tyres will suddenly "switch on" in higher temperatures? And when drivers talk about the car's ride, do they mean its ride height of its suspension geometry and handling? I have more questions than answers but this is what I love about F1. Its an incredibly intricate and labyrinthine sport, with so much to ponder beneath its glossy veneer.


"Are their reserve drivers frantically experimenting with different configurations on the simulator and..."

Trouble is, as I understand it, the simulator thinks this is a good car.


Question: How can you tell that the picture illustrating the article shows the 2013 Mclaren?

Answer: The blue flags


I just don't think mclaren needed to take that big of a risk this year with the massive rule change coming up. And everyone was saying mclaren is going to be the best this year. And everyone is saying the merc engine will be the best next year. I said to both lets wait and see when they are on track.

The Sixth Driver

Mclaren [mod] make so much noise about them being such high and mighty on technical terms, about them being so much smarter than others and blah blah blah, yet all they have to show for that is 1 championship in the last 13 years.

Something is seriously wrong with their upper management.They have no idea how to retain their big talent i.e. Newey,Raikkonen,Hamilton,Lowe.
Seems all they want is to make sure their employees 'Bleed Mclaren'.

I do not understand their comment about taking more risks beacause they are chasing results.
What else is everyone in the paddock doing?
Does taking risk win the WC?

Mclaren seems to be more interested in finding new excuses to mess up rather than design cars.


Sometimes I sit here and laugh out loud at the way some reduce what is the most technically complex sport there is, into tiny sweeping statements that purport to be solutions. As DC frequently points out, all F1 cars are prototypes. This years Mclaren is at a different point in it's development to every other car in the field and is bound to look slow and unsorted in comparison. By their own admission, Mclaren got no set up work done in winter testing, so it should be no great surprise to anyone that they are some way off the pace. We all know that they will get on top of this car sooner or later, by a process of putting mileage on it and development, and when they do, they may just be the team to beat. For what it's worth, I have a suspicion that they will win in Malaysia this weekend.


For what it’s worth, I have a suspicion that they will win in Malaysia this weekend.

Really ??????


Returning to Australia for the final time it was striking how the established No. 1 driver in the main teams finished ahead of their teammate. Existing partnerships saw Raikkonen, Alonso and Vettel prevail against their teammates while Hamilton and Button, surely holding the No.1 mantles within their teams, also finished ahead of their partners.


I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest that McLaren will win more races than Mercedes this year!

Like last year's Ferrari, I suspect the issue is not that the car is inherently slow, but that it's extremely difficult to get performance out of it. All the technical analysis suggests that the car has great potential and McLaren are mighty at developing cars, so I expect the team to finish the year strongly.


As a long term JB fan I am used to being patient. It looks as though this year will be another exercise keeping calm and carrying on. Like Homer Wells, we shall have to wait and see.


I recall an article by Adam Cooper that had postured (and apparently confirmed) that the blazing times that McLaren set at Jerez testing was due to an accidental incorrectly fit suspension arm that lowered the ride height of the car unrealistically. This resulted in a setup that worked quite well with the Jerez track, but would not be adaptable to many other tracks on the calendar.

On Friday in Australia Jenson Button pinpointed the issue by saying: “We had a set-up we didn’t think we had. It wasn’t one we could work with.”

A little investigation has revealed that it wasn’t simply a question of a miscalculation of settings, but a part being fitted wrongly.

“It was a part fitted incorrectly which caused us to run the car unrealistically low, that happened to play to the strengths of the car,” Whitmarsh confirmed when asked by this blog. “It wouldn’t work on a bumpy circuit like this. That’s why the car at the moment is too peaky in its performance, and that’s something we’ve got to resolve. It was a set-up which on many tracks was not realistic.”

Whitmarsh also noted that McLaren’s extreme problems on Friday in Australia were related to trying to run the in a low configuration once again.


Please stop knee jerking about this situation. James and others who know much more that the vast majority of us have already stated with confidence that (1) The car has a fundamental flaw and is not contributed to the present drivers, and (2) McLaren will find a fix. Try to read what facts are available, read them again, wait for 10 minutes to clear your heads of all the disrespectful remarks and then post....


Buttons assertion that he needs rain to help his chances means he's well and truly out of luck now since F1 seems to have decided that it can't run in the wet any more. Is it only me who's noticed that any time rain falls they halt a race or cancel a session? I used to see an Indy or Nascar race stopped because of rain and think 'hah that wouldn't happen in F1' but sadly it's now the same.

Minor tangential rant there!


hey guys just wondering,should we take Mclaren explanation for their 1st day test speed at face value....how can you mount a wrong piece on one of these cars...these are precision machine with each piece custom made,you cant just mistakenly fit the right for the left so too speak.

Mclaren are fierce and notorious with their Pr nchine and propaganda,they are keenly aware that Button who seems to be Martins pet project is vunerable on setup issues ,like we saw last yr...Lewis was taking pole and wining races while Button couldnt get out of Q2.so this might be a bit of smoke and mirrors,,,,,,and why did they leak that info..and the timming was in time to distract and soften their struggles


I have no doubt Mclaren will sort their car but am trying to understand why they took such a radical route. I think by the time they sort the car its all going to be a little to late and another missed opportunity. They are clearly going to have to invest a huge amount of time and effort to put it right and this will no doubt be to the detriment of next years car. For a team with so much history and heritage the route they have taken this season is puzzling.


McLaren need to stop having alternate design teams for each year. They often have a lack of consistency at the start of a year like this.


this issue goes to show designing fast f1 cars still has elements of a 'black art.'

for example both mac and ferrari use the toyota wind tunnel. ferrari claims it is getting good correlation between the tunnel and the track,

but mac isn't. go figure.

mclaren is said to have the most advanced simulator but is trailing teams with an inferior


there have been 2 significant changes this year.

1. pedro de la rosa is no longer test driver.

2. the tyres are very different this year. the sidewall and shoulder look much different this year.


Ha Ha..what this shows me is that all the comments by teams and pundits about all the cars in pre season is completely and utterly rubbish. Just words for the sake of words. media generating media. Self perpetuation and nonsense.

Sorry..but it is.


McLaren have a people problem - the car problem is just a side effect...

Until heads roll at McLaren, they will only be applying band aid solutions and providing verbal misdirections...


Who should they get rid of and with whom would you replace them?

McLaren isn't some sort of Premiership football club, where the manager is sacked for a couple of poor results. Stability and continuity are the key. Most drivers will not take a win in their entire F1 career - last season McLaren 'only' won 7 races and somehow this is perceived as a shocking underperformance.

Calm heads everyone, please 🙂


+1. There simply isn't a huge number of top people with F1 expertise to tap, and many of them have worked or are working at McLaren already.


At the same time of its life, is this car worse than the 2012 Ferrari?


No excuses anymore fed up of hearing them


They took some risk to develop the new car, even to learn something for use it with next year car. . . . I think that is wrong moment to try.

Next year, with new design or something such as front suspension, even you learn and know the new sus very well, that not guarantee them to be the front runner car for next year.

Change car design when the rule is stable and the last car is already fast, they should try some new idea when the rule is changing, or when their car is not fast enough.

Ferrari design the new car for 2012 because 2011 car is not fast, if the car is fast they can continue using it for this year as we seen. They have 2 year to try new idea.

for McLaren, they got very fast car but make new one for use it for 1 year, . . . quite strange. if Mc use last year car as a base to develop, they should got the car that if not fastest, but should be at least among front runner.

This year, if Mc use last year car, they have very big chance to fight for World Champion, . . . Next Year, no one know, but this year they throw away their chance.

The worst is that they got the problem with their car, and they let Paddy Lowe do the gardening, . . sick without the doctor to get them the medicine. If Lowe is there, he might solve the problem.


Something definitely wrong with Mclarens tech team over the years or maybe even their structure. Its not a problem that has cropped up only in 2013. Theres a marked inconsistency in the way their cars turn out to be and I have never seen anyone being held responsible and shown the door even once. I dont know whether its Whitmarsh or Neale or Lowe or whoever. But someone has to be held responsible for this fiasco. For a team like theirs with a huge number of resources this is absolutely ridiculous. Since 1998 they have won just one constructors and two drivers championships. I think McLaren spend too much time speaking about themselves and what they stand for and their heritage and stuff like that. Unfortunately for them they have very little to show for all the talk that they do. I guess its time that they realise that.


I don't think maclaren has done to bad the problem is everytime Jenson was going to get good points or win the the pit crew would mess up with a wheel or something how many times was jenson and lewis in points or winning and something went wrong what happens to the mechanics or pit crew if they mess up ?

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