McLaren: Only third-fastest in Valencia

2011 European GP team review

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Ahead of the race McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “In the last three Grands Prix we?ve had the quickest race car, and I?m hopeful that we?ll have the quickest race car here in Valencia, too.”

That turned out not to be the case – Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button could do little more than watch as the Red Bulls and Ferraris pulled away from them.

Lewis HamiltonJenson Button
Qualifying position36
Qualifying time comparison (Q3)1’37.380 (-0.265)1’37.645
Race position46
Pit stops33

McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):

Lewis Hamilton113.819106.85105.662105.655105.532105.311105.225105.161105.235105.8106.464120.789110.31104.401104.114104.337104.363104.349104.248105.183104.783105.22105.524120.69109.85103.144103.119103.077103.801104.665104.59104.689104.592104.356105.248103.835103.86104.025104.141104.235104.283118.296110.337104.067103.643102.987102.947103.305103.515103.527103.861103.656104.023103.926103.11103.157103.467
Jenson Button115.351107.499106.889106.823107.108106.554105.866105.321105.681105.965105.778106.134106.872122.35110.05104.296104.526104.567104.585104.477104.415104.751104.635104.385104.793104.363104.291104.938105.486119.802108.716104.639104.493103.75103.908104.057104.122104.214104.104104.352104.274104.109104.169104.201104.49104.331104.293118.371110.422103.427102.842103.516102.724102.689102.535102.595102.34
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Valencia, 2011
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Valencia, 2011

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton took third on the grid but was passed by both the fast-starting Ferraris at the start.

He was the first of the front-runners to pit, taking new soft tyres on lap 12. Ferrari reacted slowly to the move, bringing Felipe Massa in three laps later, which meant Hamilton gained a position.

He could do little more, though. He was in for more tyres again on lap 24 and this time there was no rush to ‘cover’ his pit stop among the top three as he was already out of the running for the win.

McLaren focused instead on getting him home ahead of Massa, which would have been a much closer call had the Ferrari not lost time in a pit stop.

He managed to extend his third stint to 18 laps but only by backing off considerably. It allowed him to keep fourth place, but he finished 46 seconds adrift of Vettel.

Hamilton said afterwards: “The team asked me to stay out for as long as I could, and I was pushing all the way, but I struggled with oversteer and to be honest didn?t feel totally comfortable with the tyres.”

Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

Jenson Button

Button was only two-hundredths of a second off Hamilton in Q2. But in Q3 the gap increased to three-tenths and the two Ferraris filled the gap, leaving Button a dissatisfied sixth.

Nico Rosberg demoted him to seventh at the start. Button made a couple of attempts to pass in the DRS zone, and eventually made it through at turn two at the beginning of lap six.

Having passed Rosberg he couldn’t close the gap to the leaders. As usual he was able to make his soft tyres last longer, and only needed a nine-lap run on mediums at the end of the race.

But his KERS failed halfway through the race – the first such failure for McLaren during a Grand Prix this year. That cost him around half a second per lap, and ended any chance of taking Massa for fifth.

Jenson Button 2011 form guide

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    Keith Collantine
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    27 comments on “McLaren: Only third-fastest in Valencia”

    1. This is turning out to be the most one-sided, and therefore boring season, since 2003-2004. Vettel is already the drivers’ champion again, RBR is already the manufacturers’ champion again. There is nothing to play for, already. I do suspect that there is something ‘strange’ going on w/ Vettel’s car. Although Webber is nowhere near SV in speed or skill, he is certainly not a full second slower in equal cars. There is an A-spec and a B-spec RBR. Vettel has had the better-spec car. RBR have found some hole in one or more regulations (not just diffuser and off-throttle) and have built SV’s car accordingly. It can’t be that both Ferrari and McLaren are a full second behind ! And all that fuss about McLaren having the faster car in race trim is complete nonsense. Both races SV lost to the McLarens were due to superior McLaren strategy, not race pace. If nobody could beat SV in Valencia, a track were the RBR is supposedly not at its best, and w/ all the regulation changes supposedly detrimental to RBR, then nobody will be able to beat SV in any other track, except for mere luck or an RBR car failure. Yesterday was the first GP in more than 10 years, perhaps longer, that I did not watch until the end. Such was SV’s dominance to everyone else. And I suspect we will this again and again this year.

      1. Although Webber is nowhere near SV in speed or skill, he is certainly not a full second slower in equal cars.

        He was less than two-tenths of a second slower than Vettel in qualifying.

        1. RBR have found some hole in one or more regulations (not just diffuser and off-throttle) and have built SV’s car accordingly

          That’s just really funny!

          Why not have both cars built the same way? Oh wait…they have!

          1. And the whole idea of F1 is to build the fastest ‘race’ car, which McLaren claim they have.

          2. It makes sense to have two powerful cars rather than one: both can fight for victory. Maybe they will let Sebastian try the updates first or give him the updates if there’s only one copy of them, but every team would like to have two strong cars rather than one. And this season Red Bull are doing exactly that.

          3. They haven’t it was stated last year by the team themselves that Marks car was different then Sebs.

      2. F1Fan, your comments summed thus: “They’re winning, so clearly they’re cheating.”

      3. The difference really might be as simple as Vettel being a tad lighter on the tyres than Webber, who likes to have a bit more abrubt steering imputs.
        If you watch Alonso, he has started to drive more smooth now compared to earlier years, possibly to get better performance from the tyres.

        This is like 2004, in that sense, that there is no one strong candidate to battle Vettel for the Championship. But I am perfectly sure, RBR would love Webber to have better results and come in second more often.

      4. It always, always amazes me how fickle people are with this sport.

        It’s like people are under the impression that F1 is solely out to entertain them.

        I can’t do anything to change the outcome of the championship but i’m sure as hell going to enjoy it. I like basking in one guys dominance as much as I did the 5-tie chase for the championship we had last year.

        Sport is competition. Competition is fierce.

        1. F1 is solely out to entertain them

          isn’t that what bernie keeps telling us when he refers to ‘the show’?

          1. He does. But he’s a business man first and circus ring leader second.

      5. Just enjoy the race for second!

    2. I just watched the midfield that was just fun

    3. Younger Hamii
      27th June 2011, 16:41

      Lewis after Friday Practice :McLaren have more up their Sleeves and McLaren are in the Fight for Pole

      Me:Yes this is gonna be like Monaco,cant wait

      Qualifying:Red Bull 1-2 by a clear 4 Tenths from the closest non-Red Bull Driver(Lewis)

      Whitmarsh:McLaren have the Race Pace to Challenge Red Bull

      During Race:McLaren get off to a Poor Start and Ferraris pip them,Lacking DOWNFORCE and having higher Tyre Degradation

      Lewis & Jenson during and after the race:Struggling and Demanding Upgrades for Silverstone

      McLaren are just too Inconsistent with their Talk,ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS nowadays in F1

      1. What you describe is not inconsistent talk, it’s very consistent, but their talk was keeping it optimistic, and thereby became a consistently bad match to reality at least for this weekend.

        Maybe less optimism would be good to manage expectations, that’s true.

    4. I agree. Since the 2009 comeback, Mclaren seems to have develped the habit of vaguely bloating their credentials and capabilities.They were outdeveloped by Ferrari last year and this year seems to be heading via same route. They had done so well after the testing disasters. What happened to the developments after Spain?
      And on top of that they have an inconsistent driver in Lewis competing against the superb Vettel. Hamilton due to his own mistakes have lost atleast 30-35 points and another 15-20 points due to the tean. If he had been the highest scoring Mclaren in each race as Seb has been for Rbr,he would’ve been so much closer to Seb. DISSSAPOINTING

      1. Jeffrey Powell
        27th June 2011, 20:43

        I think you will see the type of performance from Lewis you would prefer now. He should now drive sensibly for whatever is left of the calender,rest halts for tyre changes might extend to short chats with other team bosses, maybe he could have a well known language course in Italian set into the cars computer system , Jenson being even slower could adopt the style of his chosen hobby and swim the second stint followed by a sprint on his bike.If you knew anything about racing you would substitute frustrated for ‘inconsistent’!

    5. @F1Fan – perhaps the championships are over…but the races are still exciting…

    6. could hamilton have done a two stop and finished on the podium??

      1. No, he was taking too much out his tyres.

        1. His team told him that.

          “You’re lighting up the board with a lovely shade of purple Lewis…but you’re destroying your tyres!”

          Brilliant :D

          1. “I can’t go any slower!” :)

            I like to hear Lewis and Alonso on the radio, the later comes out more interesting with his Spanish accent. Remember Oz GP in 2010 when Alonso’s engineer was insistently telling him tha Lewis was closing in Alonso replied “I don’t want to know!”


    7. Pretty dreadful start from Hamilton and Button’s wasn’t much better either.

      Not got much else to say to be honest!

    8. There seems to be something rather strange about the Mclaren car development strategy. And I would guess that most top drivers would become far more purplexed by it than the current drivers have.
      First, I believe that they need to take a fresh look at the Mercedes engine and where in the rpm curve it is making power. Many people give short thought about the Renault engine but I believe that it generates great torque and power in the practical range. Heidfeld and Petrov are not top drivers but their times show them to be constantly competitive on times in qualiy and in the race. My guess is that loosing Kubica has certainly cost the team a few wins if not several podium spots. The Mercedes engine just does not seem to work as good and the Mercedes team does not appear to use it any better than Mclaren does. They have totally different aero, and race craft, which may account for why Mclaren does a bit better. Not to imply that the engine is lacking, but in car cam observations certainly show both Red Bull and Renault pulling higher revs in the lower gears, a feature that you want for transition corners. Secondly, there is also something about the Mclaren starts. Neither Lewis nor Jenson seem to ever get a jump on the other front runners during the start. In fact, a look back will show that both either loose spots or have to fight vary hard to maintain. Neither really challange, and neither seem anything like the Ferrari’s at challenging for the lead at the start. This has also showed up a few times during safety car re-starts. And lastly, the boys at Mclaren seem to keep overlooking the comments of many technical people that have urged them to take a fresh look at mechanical grip. They are the experts but over several years now they have made their car competitive by bringing “aero bits” to the track. If that was all that it took the Red Bull team would be doing the same. Red Bull seems to have choosen to develop all aspects of the car and make minor adjustments. the Mclaren approach just can’t be the best way to do it and the record proves that. I
      have no vested interest in McLaren, nor any of the other teams. I enjoy the sport from the technical aspect but I doubt that Mclaren has learned much from the past few years, least it continue to struggle while Red Bull dominates. I have a hih regard for all of the drivers but like most would like to see a competitive series.

    9. Yes, they failed. Plus, they should’ve win in Monaco and in Barcelona but FIA gave Vettel a chance by allowing tyre change in Monaco and Barcelona is really hard to overtake specially when the car running in the front out-tractions his follower on the last corner.

      For British GP, they will need magic to get their pace back. But McLaren can change fast, just go back to bad race#1 when they managed a solid second place with Lewis after awful winter tests.

    10. I was fortunate enough to go on McLaren factory tour a while back and one of the interesting facts explained to us was that the development team come up with some kind of update to the car on average once every 20 minutes! We’d been shown around for about an hour at that point and guide told us that there were probably already three improvements to the car in the time we were there.

      I don’t know how this compares to other teams but I’m guessing that as McLaren are one of the more heavily resourced outfits it’s probably safe to assume that’s a fast development rate. We were all wondering how the car could not be the quickest if even 20% of those theoretical improvements worked on the track!

      1. I wouldn’t get too blown away by such statements. Replacing a worn part with a new one, can be called an “improvement” too.

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