Poor pace spells end of McLaren’s title hopes

McLaren race review

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The McLaren drivers never looked like having the pace to challenge the Red Bulls and Ferraris in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Fourth and fifth for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button meant the team lost their constructors’ championship battle with Red Bull and Hamilton’s hopes of winning the drivers’ title are as good as over.

Jenson ButtonLewis Hamilton
Qualifying position114
Qualifying time comparison (Q2)1’19.288 (+0.367)1’18.921
Race position54
Pit stops22

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Jenson Button

Missed out on Q3 by eight-hundredths of a second, leaving him 11th on the grid:

It’s been a pretty tough weekend – I’ve been struggling to find a balance. The front wheels have been locking quite a lot [under braking], and it’s therefore been quite hard to slow the car down. That’s been my biggest issue, and it was no exception in qualifying.

Having said that, the car was better in qualifying than it had been all through practice beforehand. We’d fitted new Intermediates at the end of Q2, and my first lap was okay but not quite good enough. Then I damaged my tyres a bit too much on my second lap, and I couldn’t get a decent time out of them after that. So I got squeezed out of Q3 at the last second.
Jenson Button

Button gained two places at the start but was passed by Michael Schumacher at the start of lap three.

The team gambled on a very early pit stop – bringing him in on lap 12 – which worked very well. On the medium compound tyres he was able to lap quickly enough to move ahead of several drivers who pitted as well as overtake Vitaly Petrov and Adrian Sutil.

He passed Kamui Kobayashi for fifth place on lap 30, which is where he finished.

The team used the safety car to give him another set of tyres without losing a place. He briefly got on the tail of Hamilton in traffic when his team mate was held up behind Heidfeld but wasn’t able to get close enough to try a pass.

Having fallen 47 points behind Alonso Button’s hopes of retaining his 2009 title are over.

Compare Jenson Button’s form against his team mate in 2010

Lewis Hamilton

Having been slower than the Red Bulls and Ferraris in practice, Hamilton got in between them in qualifying.

He got off the line well and appeared to have a chance to pass Mark Webber on the inside of turn one but Webber braked later and held the position.

Hamilton then ran wide on the second lap which, for the second race in a row, allowed Fernando Alonso past.

Hamilton looked very tentative at the wheel and while Alonso found a way past Hulkenberg, Hamilton remained behind the Williams until Hulkenberg pitted, having made several fruitless attempts to pass.

He was able to lap quicker in clear air but was still between half and a whole second per lap slower than the leaders. He came on the radio several times to complain about his lack of grip.

The team pitted him a second time behind the safety car and, unlike Button, Hamilton took a new set of mediums rather than super-softs. But with several cars to lap after the restart he was unable to use them to attack the leaders.

Nor was his pace significantly better on new tyres anyway – although he set the race’s fastest lap on the 66th tour, one lap later Alonso went just four-thousandths of a second slower despite having much older tyres.

At one point Hamilton even asked the team if his F-duct was working properly:

I pushed as hard as I could on every lap today, but this was a tough race for me. I actually feel quite lucky to have finished where I did.

The car just didn’t feel like it did in practice. I was even struggling to overtake the backmarkers in a straight line – Fernando shot past me at the start, too – and it almost felt like my F-duct wasn’t working perfectly.
Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton retains a tiny mathematical chance of winning the title in Abu Dhabi but realistically his hopes of a title this year are over.

After the race Martin Whitmarsh paid tribute to constructors’ champions Red Bull:

The battle for the constructors’ world championship came to a finish today – and the victors were Red Bull Racing. Although in some ways it goes against the grain for me to say so, because our ethos at McLaren is that winning is all, it’s always refreshing when a new constructor’s name is etched onto that famous trophy.

So, on behalf of all at Woking, I’d like to offer congratulations to all at Milton Keynes.
Martin Whitmarsh

Compare Lewis Hamilton’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 Brazilian Grand Prix

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    Image © www.mclaren.com

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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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    59 comments on “Poor pace spells end of McLaren’s title hopes”

    1. If Mclaren fails to give Hamilton a competitive car next season , I think he will leave Mclaren just like his hero Senna did ! To which team ?! My guess is to Ferrari ( with or without Alonso )!!A British tabloid recently quoted Hamilton saying – ” I would have no problems having him [ Alonso ] as a team mate ….. When he comes to Zurich he texts me every now…” !
      As a Mclaren fan I will be disappointed to see Hamilton leave , but I may swallow it if Mclaren fails to give him a winning car. Anyway let see what will happen next sunday , he may end up Champion if he wins and Alonso / Webber have DNF , Vettel finishes 3th or below !

      1. Hamilton and Alonso at Ferrari? I’d bet my house on it not happening but it’d be fun if it did!

        1. I’d bet my house

          You still have one? I thought you lost it betting in the Korean race live blog ;)

          1. Ha! I forgot about that…

        2. you can’t blame them, two world-class team-mates haven’t ever been well in Ferrari. just think about Mansell vs Prost and the tragic end of Villeneuve vs Pironi…

        3. Hamilton and Alonso at Ferrari? Sit me in the alley and call me the garbage can! I can even envision Hamilton ever being a Ferrari driver.

          1. Montezemolo said he would like to have Hamilton as a Ferrari driver, but there is no reason for Ferrari to take him now.

            This is true, just google Montezemolo and Hamilton.

        4. Yes , with Alonso currently in ferrari, the chances of Hamilton joining ferrari are low. However I have the feeling if Mclaren doesn`t deliver a competitive car next year , Hamilton will leave! :( I will be sad as a Mclaren fan , but I think we may witness one of the greatest transfer sagas !

          P.s – I hope your house will still be available ! :)hahaha

          1. Well if not Ferrari the only option better than McLaren is Red Bull other wise he would just be going backwards, maybe he could step in when Schumacher is done if Mercedes step up the pace?

      2. Hamilton’s had a competitive car (or at least he made it competitive) throughout the year, but its just some costly errors/incidents (Monza/Singapore) and mechanical failures (Spain, Hungary) that have cost him.

        1. 0.5s off the pace isnt what I call competitive

        2. I would call it competitive if i can control my car thus without taking risk. Being a fan, I am dissapointed, other cars were developed but mclaren was not.

        3. Lewis’s car has been nowhere near the Red Bulls or even the Ferraris in raw pace. Lewis has only made one significant mistake all year: hitting Massa at monza. Alonso, Vettel, and Mark have made myriad such mistakes. In fact, it’s quite remarkable that Lewis is still in the title hunt (though, barely) come the last race, given how slow his car is.

      3. Lewis has to qualify fourth; stay fourth; and hope, no pray, that the three in front (the Bulls and Alonso) retire. His car won’t allow him to do anything more…

        1. He can pole in Abu dahbi. The car has the characteristics to do it. Remember Canada? Belgium? Monza? Pole is definitely a possibility with those long straights.

    2. Next season is certainly a big test for McLaren. This year they compromised one of their traditional strengths (mechanical grip) in return for improved fast-corner performance that ultimately wasn’t enough to beat Red Bull except for possibly one race. If the MP4-25 is the template for next year’s car, that’s another championship that will go walking. Ferrari were able to adopt the EBD because they had a good basic working model; McLaren’s car was too specialised and the EBD upset its balance.

      Ironically, Hamilton is in a better position than Button was going into the last race. Hamilton needs to win and for his rivals to fail; Button needed that to happen twice. But if there’s any truth to positive energy and all that, I’ll be channelling it all to Webber on Sunday – this one’s over.

    3. It is a shame Lewis was blaming the car as it was entirely his fault Fernando got past… Not his best day today and this is why he is now pretty much out of it. I think Button could have challenged Lewis for position however would not make sense, just for bragging rights.

      I don’t think he will leave as Mclaren are close to challenging and the way things move so quickly in F1, Ferrari and Red Bull may be the slow teams next year and Mclaren and Mercedes are fighting it out for the Championship.

      1. You have to see the frustration finally coming through. Hamilton is due a bona fide radio outburst, after keeping everything calm-looking since Monza. He has to be pretty annoyed to see the car falling steadily further behind his rivals after he led the tables so long with pure grit.

        The F-Duct was working fine, of course. It’s the lousy traction of the car that allowed Alonso to climb right inside his diffuser coming out of Juncao on lap 1. With the drag of an F1 car no amount of F-Duct will pull away from a car right under your wing on such a long straight.

      2. As long as Newey’s at RBR I think they’ll be up there fighting even if they’re not the outright fastest.

    4. If you are at McLaren or Ferrari you know a championship winning car will come along every couple of years. Question is now with Red Bull having the quickest car for two years (challenging for the championship upto the wire in both years) will they continue to thwart the established teams? Will Mercedes be in the mix next year?

      Hamilton should have won 2007, he won 2008, 2009 was impossible to win and this year without his run of three DNFs he probably should have 20-30 more points than he has. So in his 4 years in F1 he has gone into the last race with a chance of winning the WDC on 3 occasions. No one else has been in the same position. Should he seriously consider changing teams?

      1. Yes. I think so. Nothing about the current McLaren set up (post-Dennis) convinces me they’re as motivated as he is to winning. Hope to be proved wrong next year though.

      2. Nathan Bradley
        9th November 2010, 10:02

        I think it could easily happen. If Webber retires or leaves, LH could easily go to Red Bull. However, I don’t think Dr. Marko will want another strong driver to compete with his prodigy.


      3. Kers is back next year. Red Bull has no Kers experience and they will use Renault kers system next year. I don’t think they will have a car that can take the WDC next year. Also there drives do not have experience with Kers. Only Ferrari and McLaren got experience with Kers raced through the 2009 season. It will not be easy to design a car around the Kers and that is Already a disadvantage for Red Bull.

        1. While KERS will be coming back next year, what’s leaving is more important. Both the Double Deck Diffusers and the F-duct are banned next year. This puts the designers back to where they were at the start of last year and the Red Bull was the only non DDD car capable of challenging the Brawns in the first half of 2009. Advantage Newey.

    5. There’s a typo in the first sentence:

      The McLaren drivers never looked like having the pace to challenge the Red Bulls and Ferraris in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

      Should read:

      The McLaren drivers never looked like having the pace to challenge the Red Bulls and Ferrari in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

      I couldn’t resist! :P

    6. how likely is it that next race ALO, WEB and VET will all suffer engine troubles during the race? with HAM winning the race to take the WDC. not as silly as it sounds actually.

      ALO blew ANOTHER engine (old or not) in brasil FP1
      VET has recently exploded one in Korea
      WEB had an increasily hot engine during the brasil race… who knows maybe a few more laps and it would have blown.

      1. Yes; Ferari and Renault unreliability may still deprive those in their superior machinery of the title. Therefore, Lewis has to stay out of trouble in 4th. All he can there is pray.

        It makes me think a little of Prost’s position in the ’86 title show-down.

      2. “ALO blew ANOTHER engine (old or not) in brasil FP1”

        You mean the Bahrain race engine they used in FP1? Both well used and old in age. Not a good comparison I think.

    7. Vettel will be the RBR golden boy for years to come,
      Alonso the Ferrari golden boy,
      Rosberg will become Mercedes’ golden boy and Hamilton is The Mclaren golden boy.

      When team orders are reallowed these drivers will become the outright number ones, so Hamilton can’t easily move to another top team without having to stamp his authority on a new team, something he is not used to, and that is why he probably won’t move team any time soon. Mclaren will be able to once again deliver the goods.

      Even though it would seem like backstabbing the team for all they have done for him, I really hope Lewis will one day drive for Ferrari.

      1. Vettel is indeed RBR’s golden boy. If RBR had swapped Vettel and Mark’s positions in the Brazilian GP, Mark would now be a single point behind Alonso in a superior car. RBR chose not to do this, giving the most points to Vettel, who’s now 15 points behind Alonso!

        – RBR would rather lose with Vettel than win with Webber –

        I disagree with you a bit on Lewis: Lewis is pretty good at stamping his authority on a team! Take McLaren in 2007: sure, Lewis had been linked with the F1 team for many years; but he had never driven their F1 car until the season started; and he was up against the reigning-double world champion. How could any driver have stamped his authority on a team any more than Lewis did in 2007?

        I can’t see Lewis leaving McLaren anytime soon. RBR favours and revolves around Vettel; Ferrari, Alonso. Lewis should stay where he is, continuing to beat his reigning WDC team-mates, and pray that McLaren give him a competative car (2007, 2nd best; 08, 2nd best; 09, truly hopeless and at the very end 2nd best; 10, 3rd best).

        1. (2007, 2nd best; 08, 2nd best; 09, truly hopeless and at the very end 2nd best; 10, 3rd best)

          2007, best. Not taking anything away from Lewis of course, but it was at least as fast if not faster, and more reliable than that year’s Ferrari.

      2. Keith tweeted that there were rumors in brazil that Webber is leaving RBR at the end of this season?

    8. The fact that Hamilton could not catch Alonso with brand new tires was really pathetic. Getting ahead of Alonso is what Hamilton had to do on Saturday and he did it. But he was not in a position to hold him back.

      The McLaren is way off the pace coming to the finish, and you have to assume that the car is closer to where Button is than Hamilton in race conditions. You have to blame Hamilton for letting Alonso by (again!), but if he was not carrying that car on his back, he would never be in front of Alonso at any point to begin with.

      It was indeed curious how tentative Hamilton was. The way he let Hulkenberg back him off in turn one is in start contrast to the way he dealt with Button at Turkey or Alonso in Canada. He did not try to force the inside with Hulkenberg at all as he did in Japan with Kobayashi.

      Maybe after Newey gets another WCC or two, he will come back to Woking where they will give him a corner office and a couple vintage race cars to smash up per his favorite hobby.

      1. I doubt it after all the wrangling between 2001 and 2007 between Adrian and McLaren over him leaving. That kind of thing tends to leave a very sour taste.

        1. That, and he seems to be very happy at Red Bull.

    9. It’s not over till it’s over. Remember 2007…

      1. Pff. People always talk about Raikkonen’s comeback, but unlike Lewis this year he had a very competitive car.

        1. More significantly, only two cars two beat, and a smaller margin going into the final round than Hamilton has.

    10. If KERS is re-introduced i’m sure mclaren will be up there…+ they have had aloto f $$ to spend…redbull made something like £8,000,000 this year while mclaren have made £70,000,000+ lol.If mclaren fail in 2011 and rebull do well then bye bye webber hello Hamilton to redbull :D

    11. What really bothers me is that McLaren could have stolen a lead on the rest of the field with the EBD. Why? Simple Adrian Newey did start the development process with the abandoned and never raced MP4/18 car. Admittedly that car kept setting fire to itself (reputedly) after about three laps but you’d think they’d have got it to work eventually.

    12. If Lewis had managed to avoid making embarrassing errors in front of Alonso in the last two races, he would still be in the hunt for the title and Webber would still be leading the championship.

      1. Again, I dont think you can blame that entirely on him. The Ferrari appears to have superior grip and traction everywhere….and Alonso is a very good driver.
        I actually think he’d have passed Lewis at one point or another.

        1. Yes. But you think of Alonso famoulsy holding off Schumacher at Imola and Senna holding back Prost at Jerez with dogged, steely drives. You have to be able to bear a terrible siege as well as lay waste to rivals to be a champion. I’m not the first to criticize the man but that opening stint when he let Alonso by and then couldnt get a wheel under Hulkenberg was not his finest 20 minutes.

          1. I agree. Lewis hasn’t looked very quick in the last two races. Obviously the car has to take some of the blame, but overtaking is hard in F1. He should have been able to hold Alonso up or make him work for the pass.

          2. Senna holding back Prost at Jerez

            That was Senna and Mansell.

    13. McLaren lack of pace had nothing to do with the drivers. For the past two years it’s been about the car. The cars have been difficult to setup, difficult drive in high speed corners and this year a lack of mechanical grip along with poor areo has limited the car to straight line speed.
      Talent can’t overcome a poorly engineered car.

    14. The car is not that bad, Jenson started 11th and managed to end just after Lewis. Actualy he would have overpassed him if HAM would have pit a lap later. And if the Ferrari is so good how is possible that Massa just got in Q3 by chance and had a miserable race??
      Lewis should stop complaining and start racing again!!

      1. you have to calm down and then read your comment over and you’ll realise you are not being honest .

        No matter how good you are of the car is bad , it is bad . How was alonso’s driving in 2009 in the renault ? . In fact , hamilton won the battle with alonso at silverstone ’09 , in that race the renault was still better than the mclaren .

        Hamilton is way past the stage of being easily frightened by a driver . If you want to watch cool and calm under pressure check this video


        here is hamilton in his rookie season defending against a double world champion and pay attention to brundle’s comments .

        The car is so bad that hamilton would be driving out of frustration , from the moment the lights went out on lap 1 alonso was right on hamilton’s gearbox , lewis shuld have been able to pull away but his car lacked aero grip and was dead slow.

        Hamilton reaffirms that this is the best car mclaren has given him , truth us he is holding back and doesn’t want to speak the truth which is the fact that the engineering team lacks depth and innovation .

        Mclaren had the f-duct , yep it was a great innovation , but redbull makes mclaren’s effort worth about as much as gas money . EBD , flexing front -wings , both aimed at maximum downforce , not to mention the fact that at some points this season redbull has been forced to modify parts of their car to please scrutineers.

        Mclaren needs to overhaul that design team , does any one remember when ferrari , while they were struggling , said to their staff that whoever is not willing to put in 100% is free to go .

    15. McLaren need to have good look at themselves as they’ve been caught napping since the season started. Delivering a car which needed a rock hard suspension set-up to make the aero work. Being caught blindsided by the EBD and so slow to implement it despite prior experience with the concept. Resting on their f-duct laurels until the end of the season (why didn’t they bring optimized f-duct to Monza like Ferrari did?). Letting Red Bull and Ferrari give the stewards the runaround with the flexi-wing tests. Whitmarsh also needs a kick up the pants for agreeing to the voluntary ban on KERS the season. Why give up something on which they had a advantage over their rivals?

      1. As it turns out from my own research, McLaren were not only one of the first to try and exploit EBD in the MP4/17 but were actively dissuaded from fully exploiting it by Mercedes! (They were pretty much responsible for the periscope exhausts along with Ferrari for technical reasons).

        See http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/ for some of the more in-depth technical info on F1 cars i’ve found online.

    16. As it turns out from my own research, McLaren were not only one of the first to try and exploit EBD in their 2003 car but were actively dissuaded from fully exploiting it by Mercedes! (They were pretty much responsible for the periscope exhausts along with Ferrari for technical reasons).

      See http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/ for some of the more in-depth technical info on F1 cars i’ve found online.

      (Keith: your submit comment button claimed this was a duplicate post!)

      1. Hrm, it DID double post. Feel free to delete this. (I only clicked once)

      2. In a sense, the RB6 is the evolution of that car and accrues the benefits of the experimentation done at McLaren, not just in the EBD or in its good traits, such as its radically slim rear packaging. You can trace the DNA: The MP4-18 failed impact tests—too fragile. Insufficient cooling in favor of aero cooked the motor. Wierd suspension and bodywork failures. All of this is too familiar to RBR, especially when you look at the two predecessors of the RB6, which were very fragile. With the RB6, at long last Newey found the right side of the knife-edge for reliability.

        The entire MP4-18 debacle really set McLaren back until 2007. They had to do 3 cars in 2002-2003 as a result of Newey’s brilliant car crashiing or catching fire at all times. After 2 more rancorous years, in which McLaren and Mercdes are at odds over the engine failures, he’s off. Handing off to Coughlan, who was brought in to hold Newey’s pencils, to try to get back on the right path. It takes until 2007 to get a decent car. But, as soon as a new team is organized to do a good 2007-2008 car, disaster strikes and Coughlan is gone. They brought it on themselves, but does Coughlan take the Ferrari dossier if Newey is still there? I say no. Does Newey take it if he is there? Of course not. (I’m sure reading another team’s technical papers for him is like one of us reading a children’s book anyway.)

        It’s arguable whether the dossier made much performance difference, but it caused McLaren more grief than $100M and a lost WCC: Spygate put the technical team in disarray, again, and faced with new rules in 2009, McLaren are thus lost and roll out a dog of a car; right at the back of the pack. It ultimately forces out Dennis himself some would say. In 2010 they are just regaining their feet again, but now they are dealing with a Newey who was given good time to create the monster he was hired to do at Mclaren.

        They got good riddance of Newey, but they are still paying the price in their own affairs as well as by getting beat by him in competition.

        1. Trying to understand your comment here. Saying Coughlan “was brought in to hold Newey’s pencils”, which may have been true initially, is harsh considering he designed their best car in years the MP4/22. As for the Ferrari dossier I feel that any curious tech head would take a peek if naive of the implications, especially if it was freely chucked on to your lap by a Ferrari employee. Coughlan wouldn’t have sent his missus to the local copy shop if he was part of some grand F1 conspiracy (same as Ferrari wouldn’t hire a McLaren stalwart like Pat Fry if they’d felt really aggrieved). Also Ron Dennis had left the race team before they rolled the 09 car out and no one could force him out because he owns McLaren. It seems to me that McLaren has lots of egineering talent – as they’ve taken the loss of Coughlan and Fry in their stride – but that they need an engineering guru with that spark of genius to push them in the right way.

          1. Not saying Coughlan was a hack, but he was brought in to implement Newey’s work. Yes, he did the MP4-22, the best car in years. Specifically, since before the 18. Which is exactly my point:

            Newey’s radical work in 02-03 set them back for a long time. Think of what it must have taken to do a car, scrap it, do an evolution of the previous one that won’t break down so you can start the season, and then do a new car for the next season in time properly to develop it. How long does it take you to get back to being fully on the basis of your rivals?

            I don’t think they took the loss of Coughlan in their stride, if you look at the 09 disaster. The 08 car was just an evolution of 07, so that masked the issue. When they had to go with a clean sheet in 09 they were lost. To me Spygate is an upshot of the way they were set out to sea post-Newey. I just don’t see the great designers like Newey, Barnard, Postlewaithe, Southgate, Murray taking up another team’s entire dossier, locking their office door and filling it with Post-It flags for a trip to the simulator.

            1. If, as you say, Newey’s radical work set them back then I can’t see that it’s a lost that he’s not there to waste resources on ideas that don’t work out (though it’s an obvious lost that he’s not there designing a RB6 for them). Apart Hakkinen’s title winning cars Mclaren’s current performance is on par or better – certainly regarding reliability – than that produced during the most of Newey’s tenure. Most teams would not be able survive departure of a chief designer of a title challenger and to still produce race winning cars despite that speaks volumes for McLaren’s engineering depth. I think you make too much of the Spygate incident as I don’t see how it shows anything symptomatic at McLaren.

    17. If Alonso, Vettel and Webber retire and Hamilton wins, Hamilton will be 2xWDC! Hope not :)

    18. What a shame for Jenson, and indeed for the championship. Could have had 5 in contention going into Abu Dhabi. :(

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