Hamilton and Button expect more from McLaren

2011 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button expect to make more progress with the revised McLaren having only run the much-changed car for the first time in Australia.

Hamilton praised the team, calling them a “relentless development machine”. He said: “In a way, I’m never surprised by what the team does, because they always seem able to do impossible things!

“Of course, going into this race we weren’t certain about our performance – we were optimistic, because our simulations were showing a significant improvement, but you never know until you finally get to the track.

“I feel really comfortable with this car – I’d always said the car felt good, we just lacked a bit of downforce and some decent mileage during the winter tests – and I feel like it’s a car that is easy to push to the limit, so I’m very hopeful of what will be coming along to add to its performance down the line.”

He added: “We’ve got two weeks until the next Grand Prix, so we’ll be pushing through some more improvements.

“What I think is just as important, actually, is the fact that we got a lot of data about the car this weekend – and we’ve only just started to exploit this package. What I think will be interesting is how the engineers are able to go back to the factory and understand just what we have and how we can improve it.

Button said the team are in a better position now than they were at the start of 2010: “Clearly, the Red Bulls are quick. Sebastian’s pole lap showed everyone that.

“But, on race pace, it would look as if we?re already a lot closer at this stage of the season than we were last year. I know you can say that Red Bull weren?’t using [the] KERS, which puts a couple of tenths in your pocket, but I don?t think it?s as clear-cut as you might have believed on Saturday evening.

“Then, we?re very definitely in the hunt. I think there’s a massive amount of untapped potential in our car: Sunday was the first time we’?d even completed a race distance with the car, which tells you how much there is to get out of the package.”

Button said the revised car had “over-delivered” on the team’s expectation: “We brought along the new exhausts, obviously, which are a lot simpler than the original exhausts we were trying during testing, and we also had a revised floor and a front wing, which helps balance up all the aero elements across the flow of the whole car.

“So, individually, those elements bring a certain amount of performance, which we reckoned to be worth about one second. But, when you?’re in the car and you?’re able to ‘switch on’ all that performance, it’s suddenly worth a lot more.”

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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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66 comments on “Hamilton and Button expect more from McLaren”

  1. I feel like it’s a car that is easy to push to the limit

    Best bit of news I’ve heard this season for Hamilton/Macca fans. If he can get that 2007/2008 feel going, they have a chance.

  2. I would be happy to see Ferrari and McLaren catch up to Red Bull. I want to see some really close racing at Sepang.

  3. I think the McLaren boys do have a good ground for optimism. The car looks solid and there is certainly more to come.

    Somewhere else I read Button saying the Red Bull KERS was probably bringing them less than most teams as its a bit compromised. And they might struggle to get it working reliably.

    Ferrari will probably look better in a warmer Malaysia (until the monsoons get started?) so its looking pretty good.

    1. I’ve heard from Mr. Ted Kravitz that the KERS overheats and Newey wouldn’t compromise on the packaging at the back of the car. Basically, there is no room to cool KERS down.

      Will be interesting to know what Red Bull do in Sepang and whether Newey will tolerate KERS.

      1. isnt that what the 2nd air-scoop is for on the Mclaren? to cool the KERs. This is probably one of those things learnt in 2009 that they kept to themselves or learnt from.

    2. I just read an article where the median speed for vettel and aonso was the same . while hamilton was the 3rd 3-4 tenths slower than both of them . it seems that the ferrari is as good as the redbull in race trim while mcclren is behind.
      \Also i wonder what would have happened if ferrari and mcclaren would have qualified without the kers just like red bull did and if alonso wouldn’t have to lose spots at the start ,being struck in traffic and would have done just 2 pit stops like h,v, and p did.

      1. Median? that obviously means nothing……
        You take all the times, line them up from fastest to slowest, and pick the one smack bang in the middle……
        So the most mediocre time of the ferrari is the same as the most mediocre time of the redbull…..

        This obviously proves beyond any reasonable doubt that ferrari are as fast as red bull…

        1. or if i read that wrong and you meant speed at the speed trap….. same rules apply.

          anyway, the redbull was one of the slowest last year through the speed traps, but it made it all up (and then some) in the medium to fast speed corners. So top speed doesn’t seem anywhere near as important as downforce.

      2. I was thinking about the exact same thing. I do not know if having the KERS unit onboard would have slowed down or sped up the Red Bull. Lewis thinks that they could go faster with the KERS unit, while Horner didn’t use it because it was not giving them an advantage over a single lap.

        Malaysia should be a track where KERS might have a slighter greater advantage, due to the 2 long straights. Gotta wait and see if Red Bull chose to use it this time around.

      3. Hamilton couldn’t use his KERS in Qualifying as it broke during Q3. He was 8 tenths down on Vettel’s pole time

        I cant wait to see Mclaren at Sepang.

        Go Hamilton \o/

  4. More tyre wear with warmer tyres? McLaren and Red Bull were pretty even on tyre wear last weekend with only webber slightly worse.

    1. Well, if tyre wear is the deciding factor in Sepang, nobody but Sergio Perez should look forward to that race.

    2. dont agree with them being even, vettel pitted two laps earlier than hamilton doesnt suggest even

      1. Yeah the McLaren looked slightly better on its tyres, but only one race into the season you shouldn’t read too much into things like tyre wear. It can have been the setup that were so focused on being fast that it ate the tyres a little more then they had expected.

        1. let’s not forget that massa and alonso had to defend and pass other cars while hamilton ,vetel and petrov has an uneventful race.so the first three were able to look after the tires.

          1. Yes, but Button was mixing in with the Ferraris for much of the race, including following Massa very closely for several laps, and his tyre wear didn’t seem to be any worse than the Red Bulls or Hamilton.

      2. I appreciate that button has a reputation for being kind to his tyres but I got the impression that Hamilton pitted to avoid losing too much track position rather because he needed to due to wear. Button was able to show that many more laps were possible. I really hope that Malaysia is more marginal for the two stop strategy and we get top teams taking very different approaches.

      3. Lewis might have been out 2 more laps than vettel, but he didn’t do very well with them, now looking back at his sector times before he pitted.

        I reckon he could of got infront of vettel if just pitted a lap afterwards, instead of making him carry on for 2 laps.

        The lap Lewis set after vettel pitted was faster than the last one he set. He closed the gap to about 3 tenths if the pitstops were to be the same, vettel would of been a sitting duck on the straights.

        Vettel in the end just increased the gap by setting a few purples and greens and punished McLarens gamble.

        1. I think it came down to track position. Vettel came out behind Button. The crucial thing was he passed him in short order. I assume Mclaren thought Button would hold him up more. I think your right that had Hamilton pitted just after Vettel he wouldn’t have lost so much time.

        2. By staying out longer Lewis would have been on fresh tyres towards the end of the race. And he would have had a chance to overtake Vettel.

          Notice how Vettel managed to pull a 3+ second gap in the first 5-7 laps and then how Lewis reeled him in toward the end of Vettel’s first stint. The gap come down to around 0.5 seconds.

          Bit of like constantine effect that Berger keeps talking about. Lewis would have been much farther away from Vettel after first pit stop but would have caught up later in the race. This all depends on how durable the Pirelli’s are. If they are very durable this strategy would not work and Lewis will simply have to cover vettel.

          Let us see how Malaysia plays out.

        3. I had the same observation Nico. I heard Lewis state cryptically that there was a strategy flaw in that race and I was sure that that stop was it.
          Button’s tires were gone so he could not do anything with Vettel on new tires. I don’t know why McLaren did not have Lewis to come in on lap 15. They have made a lot strategy errors since they restructured the team last year.

  5. Let’s just hope they progress instead of regress.

    If they made the car better by taking new bits off, will they make it worse by putting other new bits (back) on?

    1. Well McLaren want to get their original exhaust system working so no doubt they will be testing that at Sepang with a revised package.

      1. If they get that working they could be formidable.

      2. I just hope they don’t spend too much time and resources on trying to get it to work and not developing the rest of the car

      3. Or something between the original package and the package they have now..

      4. Maybe it would be better for them to only work on that on one car. So at least that way they have done good setup work on the package that works in case they have to revert.

  6. One thing to point out which I dont think anyone has touched on yet is that the Redbull is an evolution of last years car. The RB7 has proved it is still the one to beat, but you have to ask the question; How far can you develop the evolution before design limits are reached? Redbull could well be near the peak of the designs performance already although KERS will add a dash of pace to the mix how much more can Newey squeeze from that package??

    McLaren on the other hand have an “all new” car which is as we know is largely undeveloped at this stage, and with great fundamentals in the design to which they will build on. Added to that is the extra modelling work they did early on so that their sim software is as accurate as possible in order to extract maximum benefit from the CFD during the season, a slightly different approach which I believe will pay great dividend to them this season.

    I mean Lewis got 2nd in the cars 1st ever 2race distance” and were marginally better in the tyre wear department over RBR so my prediction is watch this space McLaren fans!!!!

    1. It’s an interesting question. I think it all boils down to how far the other teams are behind now. If the gap is quite big, as it was to the Ferraris between 2001 and 2004, the evolutionary design of the red Bulls will be enough to keep them ahead. But you’ve hit upon an important point: the current Ferrari is in only its second year, whereas the McLaren is brand new and already up there. If McLaren have found another, better way to marry aerodynamic efficiency and mechanical grip, we might be seeing an end to the red Bull being the clear class of the field.

      1. I dont think we have seen the true Ferrari speed yet. From what Alonso and Massa have said, Australia was out of the ordinary. They seemed to think something was broken, implying that it could be fixed, and all they needed was time to look at the data.

        1. In terms of Ferrari it was setup they couldn’t get right. The car was so twitchy.

        2. agree,just read an article and the mediun for vettel and alonso were the same ,even thoguh alonso had cars in fornt of him the entire race while vettel did not. hamilton was behind webber and 3-4 tenths slower than vettel and alonso. also the ferrari has the 2 fastest laps of the race. once again in a crowded track

          1. That assumes,1. Vettel/Hamilton put in the same effort into their laps as Alonso/Webber. And that’s clearly not the case with Hamilton nursing a broken car half the race distance and Vettel not pushing. 2. That Vwttwl/Hamilton had the same exposure on soft tires (being the faster compound, regardless of car’s capabilities). But of course, Alonso/Webber had 1 more stop (thus fresher rubbers) and more time on softs than Vettel/Hamilton. Those 2 factors are significant confounder that make your inferences highly unlikely. The faster cars finished on the podium:)

  7. I actually think that RBR should be concerned about tyre ware relative to McLaren. RBRs were not carrying the KERS weight and yet they had to pit 2-4 laps earlier!!

    1. The Red Bull may not have been carrying KERS, but it will have been carrying ballast of the same weight instead. There’s a very strict minimum weight for the car at the end of the race.

      1. They will have been carrying the batteries for the system however the harvesting of energy under braking causes extra tyre ware. This harvesting does not happen when the batteries are already full as in the case of the Red Bulls for the entire race.

        1. harvesting of energy under braking causes extra tyre ware

          Are you sure about this? Thats the 1st time I’ve heard this theory. It could be very interesting if you were right, as it would mean that Red Bull are a little harsher on their tyres.

      2. When KERS is active there’s more wear on the rear wheels.

        1. Really? I thought it would be marginal because KERS is only deployed when the car is up to speed and unlikely to break traction. The amount taken out from cornering and acceleration out of corners (when KERS is rarely used, as its mostly for long straights) is, I would think, far more significant.

          1. Sorry didn’t read Pemsell’s comment, which makes pretty good sense.

  8. It really is amazing to think that sunday was the first time they had run a race distance. I expect RBR to get pole for a while but their race pace is no where near as dominant. They really do need to get KERS up and running for Malaysia or they could be back in 5th/6th by turn 1. They’ll just be hoping that this doesn’t increase their already apparently high tyre wear

    1. Well if “pemsell” is correct they will not get extra tyre wear using KERS, in fact probably less as the system will harvesting less as for a period of time the batteries will be full/charged ready for release? If I have understood Pemsell’s comment correctly that is.

      1. If I have understood Pemsell’s comment correctly that is.

        I don’t think you did. RB weren’t having to harvest energy for KERS in Oz but if they use it in Malaysia they will be. Therefore, as it’s the harvesting of energy that creates increased tyre wear, they will have more tyre wear if they use it.

        1. Yep that is my understanding Jake.

          1. Doh, I usually read posts twice to make sure I understand, but was at work at the time so was trying to be quick so as to not get spotted. :) Now I get it, a very good point, KERS could well increase the degradation of the tyres further. Aus is typically less abrasive track surface than most aswell so will be a different story @ Sepang

    2. I dont see why KERS will mean more tire wear. The straights in Malaysia are plenty long that you don’t have to discharge KERS while acceleration is traction-limited. Also, what is the rationale for the system causing wear under braking, provided the software is working properly to maintain the selected brake-bias throughout regeneration? It should not cause oversteer under braking by itself. The COG height difference with batteries on board versus ballast should not amount to much.

      The bigger issue is that apparently their system does not turn over enough energy. They are only gaining a couple tenths through KERS, according to some driver and teams’ comments, rather than a full .5-1 second. This may mean their system is not efficient. More likely, as Newey does not do “inefficient”, their system is smaller in scale to achieve packaging gains.

      Another issue to watch is Webber. If he does not get to terms with the car, Vettel will have no buffer between him and a swarm of KERS powered silver and red cars in crucial pit overlap-scenarios. If he didn’t get by Button so crisply in Melbourne on the overlap, he would have had a hell of a time getting by Hamilton, floor damage or no.

      1. its the braking into the corners that creates the tyre wear, not a loss of traction when its used.

        1. and it’s because of the funny break balance required for the charging…that is my understanding, although i’m not the most technical

      2. KERS recharging results in higher tyre wear because of how the harvesting takes place. Again, I’m sure an engineer will correct my noobish understanding of this, but the explanation from Brundle during commentary this past weekend make it sound like they essentially use the driveshaft to break the rear, using the forces at work during this breaking (and/or the resultant heat??) to recharge the batteries. Some googling suggests that the generator is actually connected straight to the crankshaft instead, but I guess that would have the same results.

        The results being excess wheel movement, presumably because it’s much less controlled than the driver’s feet. And excess movement in relation to the rest of the car is presumably where the tyre wear comes in, because that in essence is wheel spin.

        There seems to be a real lack of detail online on how the regenerative aspect of KERS actually works and a lot of linking to some global marketing fluff about using brake energy. Which means I can’t back up my claims at all, or increase my knowledge on the matter. Bah :p

        1. Hm, I knew the BBC had done a feature on KERS in 2009.

          It’s here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8019577.stm

          At 3:25 the relevant bit comes up.

  9. As all knows mclaren is still a young car compared to RB and ferarri, and both drivers just need to unlock the potatial and exploit the package, plus that octpus exhaust mclaren will be untacheble

  10. I gotta say this: The white diffuser looked awesome in Australia. Unfortunately it was made of titanium and will be replaced by carbon fibre soon.

    1. Maybe not, I think they will use Pyrosic as a heat protector on the carbon fibre.

  11. As i have already said on other posts, the McLaren holds the most potential.It is by far the most under developed car on the grid. Red Bull racing still have to intergrate KERS into their car which was causing them enough issues not to run it, which worried them enough in turn to keep it a big secret. Although with Ferraris suprising early problems it may be that we will see a two team battle for the early part of the season.

  12. McLaren will definitely be a car to be reckoned with this year. It was very impressive (and a little bit lucky) that their revised car was great out of the box, as the other should have been.

    At tracks with longer straights, McLaren will have more of an advantage over Red Bull (not necessarily completely faster) due to their great KERS system. I just hope that they update their DRS, because I think teams like Mercedes have a more effective system.

  13. Lets hope its not a case of one step forward and 2 steps backward for McLaren as its usually the case.
    They have a nasty habit of being too clever for themselves by half. In 2009, the car seesawed in performance between GP’s until they worked out what works best. It seems the procedure at McLaren is – bolt it on, and lets see how it goes; if it does not work, we’ll change it at the next GP.
    Ditto the EBD in 2010. They had the 2nd fastest car on the grid until they started fiddling with EBD, which messed up the balance of the car no end. Result – half of the season floundering and wondering how to fix it. The issue was never satisfactorily resolved in 2010.
    Same thing begining this year in testing – went up the wrong route with exhaust design – cos’ they were being to clever. Now they have reverted to the original simpler design.
    My advice to Macca – just build on the basic car. Dont try to add any fancy bits or exhaust solutions. The basic is good enough to build on. There is no more innovation neede to unlock its full potential. Just more data in wind tunnel and race conditions.

    1. I wonder if Ron has considered a thorough review of his engineering and design groups. Because the problems have consistently been a results of over engineering or, engineers who don’t know what they are doing. I don’t know which, but I do agree with KB that this has turned into a pattern that needs to be changed or sorted out.

      1. They may have gone off path at times, but these are the best engineers in the world, they certainly know what they’re doing.

  14. Surely a car that’s easy to push to the limit is sort of…nowhere near the limit?

    The rate of development between testing (Barcelona) and Melbourne was always going to be huge and it will be relatively less going forward. By their own admission they made a mess of testing so obviously they had the most to gain from Melbourne. Clearly they had a contingency plan in place…but they might not have that safety net moving forward.

    1. Err thats not the way it works. A fast car is one in which the driver has the confidence to push it to the limit and so thus drive faster and be able to do that lap after lap after lap.

      If the car is unstable a twitchy the driver will not have full confidence and so thus will driver slower as they are wasting time just keeping control.

      So when you see someone like Hamilton drifting and sliding the car at will he has confidence in the car and thus able to drive it faster.

      1. But drifting and sliding the car does not improve lap times so if that’s pushing it to the limit then you’re hitting the wrong ‘limit’.

        1. A car that looks after its tyres does not slide and nor should it be made to slide. Down force keeps the car from sliding. The more of it you have without compromising lap time, the faster the car will go. Aero is King.

          For that reason alone I suspect that the one stopping Sauber, for example, is much faster than it has shown up to present. The Ferrari’s, on the other hand, were driven to their limits (or at least one of them was).

          1. Didn’t one of the Sauber’s set the fastest speed during practise at Melbourne?

  15. Seems like both knew that the new car will be good but both were surprise to see that it had so much speed stored in it.

  16. Im certain they will be tempted to put the U-exhaust, octopus, whatever you call it back on the car and force it to work. That’s what I’m afraid of.

    1. Give them time to refine it and they may well do so. But other teams may be wise of that now…

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