McLaren vs Ferrari start video

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In the ongoing discussion over how fast – or not – the McLaren MP4-24 is, this video shot at the Barcelona test session earlier this week has attracted a lot of attention:

It shows Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari doing simulated starts together. Although Raikkonen starts behind the McLaren he is well ahead as the two head out of sight.

This has being seized by some on as conclusive proof that McLaren have massive rear grip problems and are going to be annihilated at Melbourne in two weeks’ time. James Allen describes the Ferrari’s “fantastic grip off the line and it’s the first part of the start which makes the difference.”

But it looks pretty clear to me that the Ferrari begins its start before the McLaren does. At 0’12 on the video Raikkonen is moving but Kovalainen isn’t.

Even if the start was being controlled by the lights on the gantry (it’s not clear if it is or not) that doesn’t necessarily mean Raikkonen didn’t make his getaway first – perhaps to put a bit of psychological pressure on his fellow Finn.

To the list of things we don’t know about this video we can the following: what if Raikkonen’s start was aided by a fully-charged KERS and Kovalainen’s wasn’t?

The debate over McLaren’s form is going to rage on until the season finally gets going. From the testing times and reports it does look as though all is not well with the MP4-24. But I’m not sure this start is quite the damning piece of evidence some think it is.

What do you make of the video?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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55 comments on “McLaren vs Ferrari start video”

  1. If this is a true representation then it is really worrying. Honestly I think they are sandbagging

  2. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear :(

  3. What if the Mclaren lagging behind?It can be added in WHAT IFs?.James allen was present in the circuit at that time.

  4. They sounds amazing on this video.
    And I hope McLaren will be in midfield this season; Lewis needs such experience :P

    1. Paul Sainsbury
      12th March 2009, 10:48

      I think in many ways it would indeed be good to have Lewis in a midfield car, if for no other reason than to finally shut up the ‘Lewis isn’t all that special’ brigade. (Not that I am accusing chaostheory of being one of those).

      Although these people display an almost comical ignorance of the sport, I think it would be a relief for those with a little more knowledge, and indeed, probably Lewis himself, to demonstrate that unique talent in an average car, much like Alonso did towards the end of last year. And we know LH was better than Fernando in equal cars, so it really could be fun to watch……..:)

  5. I really do believe Mc Laren has serious problems with Rear Grip. In testing they have been using their 2008 rear wing spec which produces more downforce than the 2009 rear wing spec. Ron also has said in one article that they still have aero stuff that they did not show yet and that the rear wing spec they have for the 2009 season has pretty much similar aspect as the 2008 rear wing. I mean Come On! It’s weeks only and it’s prolly the last testing they have so you might wanna get a chance to know the performance of your car. It’s not really a tiny winglet that you can put on the race weekend itself? A rear wing is a major part! It’s not an upgrade.

    True that we can’t really tell the real story behind this video about how the start went on. If say Mclaren has a serious problem with Rear Grip, I don’t think it’s that much of a difference on that start. That is too much of a lack of grip if that’s really the case of Mc Laren.

    I think the race will really tell the whole story. I can’t really wait to see the first race. :) I’m quite excited to know alot of teams are getting into the top list. It’s really going to be a great season if we see lots of changes in the podium. I’m a big Ferrari Fan… But I would also like to see Seb Vettel to win more races.

    Australian GP! Here we come!

    1. McLaren are due to test next week in Jerez along with Williams, BrawnGP and Renault…

      If they’re still not setting top times, then I think they definately have problems…

  6. Terry Fabulous
    12th March 2009, 9:32

    I agree with you SamS, It is hard to believe that there is going to be THAT much difference between the two of them off the start.

  7. Vid’s gone :(

    Perhaps Heikki just got a bad start. I don’t see how rear wing or diffuser problems are going to affect the way a car starts.

    1. I agree with you Alastair, the speeds would be too slow for the rear wing or diffuser problems that everyone is speculating about to effect the take off from the line.

      Also, remember if Mclaren are having problems with grip / downforce from the rear end this again does not make sense for a straight line test such as the video above.

      Grip squares with drag (Brundle always used to say this) so if Mclaren have poor grip then it will have low drag – and paradoxically be quick in a straight line.

      Keith’s point is corret, we don’t know if the Ferrari was using Kers, also if they were testing to get off the line, what was stopping Kovi leveling off on the throtle after the launch sequence. Plus and a key point I am not sure that has already been made or not, but Kovi was on the dirty side of the track, and I doubt there would be any rubber on that side and there will be plenty of dust.

  8. That was not a true head to head test of off the line acceleration. When was the last time you saw a Ferrari cream a McLaren like that off the start line? The sound and fury was awesome, but that wasn’t the shape of things to come. Too much going on behind the scenes to draw any real conclusions from. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of only one team this and next week.

    1. “When was the last time you saw a Ferrari cream a McLaren like that off the start line?”

      Hungary 2008 :D . . .and not just one McLaren, either ;-)

      But yeah, I’d take this with a pinch of salt. I still maintain McLaren will be up there somewhere come Australia.

  9. I’m not going to make a judgement on this video as Raikonnen clearly made a better start than Heikki.

  10. OK, I’ve seen the vid now. Kimi definitely gets a better start but he does start from quite a few places behind Heikki and seems to build up speed a bit later.

    Perhaps this is the off-year that Mclaren were supposed to have had last year?

  11. I predict McLaren will show up at next week test with a Williams/Toyota-style diffuser. I guess a 2008-spec wing would be more representative of the kind of coupling effect those diffusers might produce

  12. Indeed, “what if” kovalainen simply messed up his start?

    How would their problems with the rear wheel aerodynamics have an influence on the start?

  13. I don’t know if I am looking at it wrong but Kovalainen seems to be on the centre of the track with less rubber laid down and Raikkonen seems to be on the racing line.

    But as others have said there are too many unknowns (fuel load, tyres, KERS etc) to draw any meaningful conclusions from the footage.

  14. Looks like Heiki eases off once the initial start has taken place. Kimi, just keeps his foot down.

    Too many unknowns to draw any conclusion here.

  15. One practice start doesn’t doom McLaren’s 2009 season as there were a huge number of variables in play.

    McLaren does seem to be struggling somewhat but it would be foolish to write them off before the season has even started. If any team has the analytical resources to understand and overcome a problem then it’s the one that lives at the McLaren Technology Centre. This wouldn’t the first time a team has struggled to hook up their new car in testing or even in the early part of the year. This time last year, BMW Sauber were struggling to hook up their 2008 car but made the front row in Melbourne. McLaren were nowhere in the first race of 2005 because of tyre problems in qualifying but were devastatingly quick just a few rounds later.

    The rumours suggest McLaren is struggling to reconcile windtunnel figures with actual performance. If the team has a windtunnel calibration issue then the problem could be very serious indeed. If the issue is less fundamental the team should be able to resolve it relatively quickly.

    We’ll only really know the answer in two weeks – as the old saying goes, when the flag drops…

  16. Even so kimi started a bit earlier the difference in speed was shocking. I think the most likely reason must be the kers or Heikki messing up the start.

    I remember Heidfeld said drivers with kers will have an advantage over non kers drivers during the start. If Kimi was using kers and Heikki wasn’t then I think it was a bit of an understatemant.

    1. If KERS gives that much of an advantage at the start of the race then we could see carnage at several races…

  17. meaningless really, you can draw no conclusions from this without making some very presumptive assumptions. Too many variables, and why would either team want to display a comparable start before the seasons opener!!

  18. A guy in Allen´s blog have a simple explanation:

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

    Sometimes, the easy explanation is the good explanation.”

    — milio —

  19. Wow. The sound in that video did more to get me excited about the coming season than anything else I’ve seen this offseason. Maybe it was because there were only two cars and you could pick out the pitches, but hearing them rev up for the start wand go was great =)

  20. I agree Kimi drops the clutch first, but then holds back a little immediately afterwards, when they pass the camera their speeds look pretty similar to each other, and it then that the Ferrari kicks in.

    1. Could be KERS since that only kicks in at 100km/h

  21. Kimi himself says not to discount Mclaren’s poor form in testing… and he should know plenty about how they test.

    I simply cannot see a team that was so strong last year lose their way over the winter. Unless it really was Alonso’ influence which made them so fast (he would have helped develop the 2008 car, remember).

    I love the sound of F1 engines! That clip made my heart race!!!

    1. We don’t know where Hamilton and Kovalainen are in terms of development driving. They might both be rubbish, which would have an affect on the car. Alonso is supposed to be great, so this could matter for McLaren. A bit.

      Kimi jumped the start. That accounts for the distance gained to begin with, but the Macca still looked bogged down.

  22. One practise start doesn’t make a season.

  23. When you take all the factors into account, dirty side of the track, fuel load, and its not off the lights along with Heikki is not a strong starter, it is interesting but maybe after all thats been said about the issues Mclaren are having we’re looking for problems.

  24. but you can see that hamilton started later than massa so massa got away quicker.
    but i say GO BMW!

  25. actually it wasnt that much later

  26. Maybe raikkonen was practicing his boost button off the line

  27. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the McLaren is not as bad as I think it is. The problem is however that Ron is on the defensive telling everybody not to worry which is unusual in itself and tells you they’re in trouble. I hope Oz proves me wrong…

  28. I am going to disagree with the majority of the posts here. But Mclaren are in trouble NOW.

    If Ron Dennis is coming out in the open saying; everything is OK. then everything is NOT OK. If someone is making green paint on its body; it can’t be to throw the rivals ofcourse. It means genuine trouble.

    I would not read much into the start – video of the 2 cars. Starts are pretty random.

    But of course; there is one pretty long test for mclaren next week. And knowing Mclaren; they will find some speed there.

    But as of 12th March 2008; THEY ARE SLOW.

  29. So is it pretty much a given that cars running KERS will always use it off the line to gain the best possible advantage on the first lap?
    Surely it’s unlikely they would wait to use it elsewehere on the first lap unless there is another long straight, which most circuits don’t have…

  30. There’s waaaaay too many variables here to read anything into this. McLaren look like they might be behind the Bahrain bunch (Ferrari, Toyota and BMW Sauber) from general testing performances but I can’t honestly imagine that the difference in performance is as big as it looks in this video.

    A slightly off-form McLaren this season could be very interesting. It could certainly do more for Lewis’ development than an easy run to championship number two.

  31. Yup, nothing can be said from this perspective with 0 details.

    More start practices, including the one above, put your speakers at 10:

  32. After the final day of testing and the last we see the f1 2009 cars drive until albert park. I can officially say Mclaren and Hamilton are screwed. Even though all of the proof that we have seen over the last few weeks can be questioned (Video above, Hamilton + Kovy rubbish testing times, etc) i would bet alot of money that Hamilton does not win the Championship this year. Unless Mclaren change bits of the car of corse, shame really the Mclaren is one of the best looking cars this coming year.
    BMW and Kubica will dominate :)

  33. Its Hammer Time
    12th March 2009, 21:29

    Keith, i am worried! What do you think? Are Mclaren sandbagging or are they in the shit? I want to believe they are going to fly out of the block sin Oz but i can’t help feeling if there is any truth to the rumours they should not be taking such a risk

  34. It’s clear that Kimi starts a little bit earlier… just check closely a few times ;)

  35. yes like i said but not by much

  36. What if kimi didnt use kers but kovy did? ahhh

  37. If you look at Brawn GP or Force India – they all have the same engines and these 2 know that there will be less grip on the ’09 rear wing. There’s thin line between speed & grip and to look at it, McLaren concentrated more on the first one. Take note on how Hamilton uses its tires from the last 2 seasons – they worn out easily. Putting more grip will wear his tires in no time. I guess the way the MP4-24 was designed is around Lewis agressive driving-style. I think this season will be a strategy on how to manage tires, KERS & front-wing. Wow, that’s multi-tasking!

  38. it would have been great if everyone practice-started at the same time!

  39. Well it’s a practice start. Apparently the Mclaren driver didn’t see the need to keep accelerating after he had got off the grid and since this was at a test session, they probably even had their rear wings set up in different drag configurations.

  40. Well it was no surprise because at last it is Ferrari.
    Ferrari are the strongest tam this season.

  41. I think people are reading too much into Ron Dennis’s reported comments.

    What happens in all sports and other high profile walks of life is a person will be asked a question and the answer is often taken out of context or it appears the person just decided to make this statement without any prompting. Like last year when the media tried to hype up any anti Hamilton comments Alonso made. A lot of reports seemed to make out Alonso had just being going round making statements about Hamilton all the time, whereas it was because journalists kept asking him questions about Hamilton all the time.

    While Dennis has stepped back from his involvement with the F1 team he is still the big boss at the McLaren Group and will be attending most of the Grand Prixs during the season so he will still be asked about the team’s performance.

    What he has said is exactly what I would expect him to say regardless of the car’s testing times or what the team really believe the car’s true pace to be. He is not going to come out and say the car is a dog especially a few weeks before the start of the season even if he knows it to be true.

  42. It seems McLaren have improved their times rather systematically all week. The difference from the first day to the last day was of about 2 seconds. So maybe if they are tackling their issues very well they will be able to improve good enough.
    I also think they have succeeded in building the things so that they are having the same rear downforce as in 2008 (even better maybe, as the times made with the 2008 rear wing were worse than with the final 2009 wing). The problem is they will still have to improve further as it looks to me they have set a too low target (as opposed to the other teams which have improved more).

  43. so this article on guardian says tat mclaren themselves admitted tat their car is actually not performing as they expected and not sandbagging.. hmm… here’s the original article

  44. McLaren’s pace maybe off, even Norbert Haug said that, but over-all it’s still too early to tell and remember this season was made for overtaking. Mclaren’s aero might still be off but their KERS is rumored to be one of the best and their drivers are one of the best over-takers in the business, albeit being one of the most dangerous too… :) Race is different from test. That’s why its called a Test session. But I think BrawnGP will smoke ’em :)

  45. We will see guys!

  46. Ron Dennis forgot to allocate any money this year for espionage as he did not know who will be leading the timesheets.

    Martin will allocate funds for the dossier after the first 3 races, as he identifies the team.

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