Webber’s race problems not down to McLaren ECU

2013 Australian Grand Prix

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Mark Webber, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2013Mark Webber’s problems in the Australian Grand Prix were not caused by a problem on his Electronic Control Unit, according to McLaren.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said a problem on the ECU caused Webber to spend most of the first half of the race without KERS. The lack of KERS also contributed to a poor start which saw him fall from second to seventh place.

“Mark made a good recovery after a difficult start and an ECU related KERS issue in the first part of the race,” said Horner. “We managed to reset the system and his recovery was strong from then on.”

The standard ECU supplied by McLaren Electronic Systems has been revised over the winter and caused some problems during testing.

But McLaren Electonics Systems managing director Peter van Manen said the ECU was not the cause of Webber’s problems:

“There was an issue with Mark Webber’s data system in the garage during the formation lap. The ECU on the car was fine.

“We regret any disruption caused to Mark’s preparations for the start of the race and will continue to work with the team to prevent any recurrence.

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Keith Collantine
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59 comments on “Webber’s race problems not down to McLaren ECU”

  1. Marko’s wi-fi connection?

    1. But then McLaren would say that wouldn’t they.

      1. I think they might just give hints instead :-)

  2. whose responsibility is the “data system”? Can anyone explain this?

    1. The data system are the software tools to view analyse the data that the car sends to the pits.
      McLaren also provides these systems, I think they call it ATLAS. I’m not sure however, if all teams use it.

      The way I see it, this is simply a matter of van Manen saying that the part itself was technically fine, but a software glitch caused it to not work properly.

      1. I understand that he also means to say that it while the data problem might have made getting the cluth right harder, it certainly did not cause Webber to have no KERS for 20 laps. A system that would do that would likely be a serious problem for MES with the FIA.

        1. @bascb

          I don’t know enough about those ECUs to make any assumptions on how much of an impact it could have on KERS. I think I remember Horner on german television saying that they had to “reboot” the system until it worked. Maybe you can run the car with the most important feautures (gearbox, throttle, etc), while resetting everything and KERS not being part of what’s necessary to keep the car in the race.

          1. I am pretty sure that Red Bull had to reset their KERS system several times in the past years when it stopped working for either driver during sessions and races, so its hard to say whether that was due to the new ECU this time @dennis.

    2. McLaren Electronics Systems have added more in a press release today:

      There is a new standard ECU (Engine Control Unit) in 2013 that featured on all Formula 1 cars that took part in the recent Australian Grand Prix.

      It will power the 2.4-litre V8 engines this season and the new 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged parallel hybrid engines in 2014 and beyond.

      Supplied by McLaren Electronics Systems, the new ECUs were run for the first time on the track by most teams in winter testing in February, just six weeks before racing began in Melbourne.

      They replace the previous ECUs that have been running very reliably since the standard ECU was introduced by the FIA in 2008.

      An ECU comprises several thousand parts, tens of thousands of solder connections and hundreds of thousands of lines of software. It is a very complex piece of equipment that controls the powertrain and DRS, and acts as a car’s primary data system.

      The electronic units themselves ran without incident in Melbourne, but there was a software-related issue that meant that Mark Webber’s Red Bull Racing car’s garage data system had to be re-started during the formation lap. That disrupted his preparations for the start of the race, for which Mark and the team has our apology. We are working together with them to prevent any recurrence.

      McLaren Electronics Systems supplies standard ECUs to Formula 1, NASCAR and IndyCar.

      1. Does that support that it affected KERS then, or not?

  3. Who are we going to believe Horner or van Manen ?

    1. David not Coulthard (@)
      18th March 2013, 13:41


    2. Remember Red Bull blaming Pirelli for AbuDhabi 2011 – Pirelli later was adamant that it was NOT a tyre issue that caused anything but something the team did, although they did not want to go into detail what exactly it was RBR did.

      1. I seem to remember Paul Hembrey coming out and saying that RBR had run the tyres beyond the parameters Pirelli had said were safe. Can’t recall whether that was pressure or camber related? But this blog post that seems related to Spa 2011 might be the same thing?


      2. I remember that.. in the season review Buttons view of Vettels car was shown as they waited on the grid and the Red Bull was using the exhaust to heat the tyre and flames could be seen, so clearly red bull had gone too far that time.

        I doubt they were trying toi push any limits with the software and imo it’s not clear who’s at fault because MES also apologised to red bull. But the ECU, ehich red bull initially blamed is clearly fine

      3. It was a piece of bodywork that hit the tyre and punctured it right before the start, of course Red Bull knew about it from Jenson’s onboard footage but strangely, they never admitted it, suspicious right?

  4. jimscreechy (@)
    18th March 2013, 13:05

    Sounds to me like a Red bull problem, there is no way they would be demure about pointing fingers if the issue lay with the Mclaren ECU. With the problems they had with the Alternator last year, they made no bones about where the issue lay.

    Ultimately they have to make certain the supplied unit works properly.

  5. Red Bull gremlins… it happens so often…

    And it’s double hard… after a bad start it’s harder for them to move up the field.

    Considering the close field and the variety in strategies, they should move to Abu Dhabi-like approach.

    1. Everyone’s now jumping at Red Bull, but the last sentence of van Manen leads me to believe that they also supply the data system “We regret any disruption caused to Mark’s preparation” and he simply wanted to tell everyone that the ECU (the part itself) was fine, but hindered by a software glitch.

      1. @dennis Vettel also had problems. And this sort of failure is very common with Red Bull. KERS suddenly doesn’t work, they lose telemetry…

        1. @fer-no65
          Yes, I know this sounds like normal service by Red Bull, however I think the interview with van Manen isn’t MES throwing the feces back at Red Bull, but a clarification of what went wrong.

          Did Vettel have problems during the race? Or do you mean the problem in practice? Because I haven’t heard about anything else.

          1. I’ve seen reports that both Red Bull’s lost telemetry during the race, though perhaps not at the same times.

          2. @dennis both lost telemetry during the race. I’ve read that both lost it at the start…

  6. One of my brothers friends works at woking and he told me recently they been doing alot of late nights on new ECU’s and at the time it made no sense to me because i still thought they used the old one from 08. But hearing this weekend that they were all running a new one in prep for 2014 changes then it all made sense.

  7. Honestly don’t think that’s the only issue here. Mark had a terrible start and a fair race, but e ECU don’t explain everything here…

  8. Mark’s woes are just black magic, I never understand where Mark himself is at fault, he never seems to get the start right and he never seems to run KERS.

    1. @peartree

      Mark’s woes are just black magic, I never understand where Mark himself is at fault, he never seems to get the start right…

      Any more on this? Mark has had difficulty with his starts ongoing for several seasons now. Someone at his level, with his experience and skills…he shouldn’t be botching starts so frequently, right? So what’s going on??

      1. @joepa It’s hard to understand how can they still have problems with starts, constant problems, Mark Webber never jumps someone at the starts. I have no idea but there are conspiracy’s aplenty.

        1. @peartree

          Mark Webber never jumps someone at the starts.

          It’s very strange, right? Someone else notes that he lost a cumulative 25+ places on starts over one period…wow! Now, I’ve never driven an F1 car, but I study the sport and I’ve watched all the youtube videos dealing w/ the clutch and starts, and I remember Roger Hammond’s inability to get off the line in Alonso’s Renault for Top Gear, so it must be a dark art to some degree – and YET…Webber is notorious for plummeting backwards at the start!

          I honestly would just like to know if he (MW) has a deficiency in his start-skills (and SKY’s Anthony Davies (sp?) seemed to think that Webber just panicked in large part once he got into trouble at the start, making things worse), or if he’s as competent a starter as the rest, and just has repeated bad luck (or bad engineering-advisement).

          Do you know what I am saying?

          1. @joepa I know what you’re saying. I think Davidson is a tool. McLaren confirmed that Webber’s car lost all telemetry including some of the ECU in car functions such as KERS before the start offsetting their start protocol.
            On the other side Webber has loads of race starts so it’s not a clutch handling issue, in spite of all Hammond’s problems with the clutch engineers say that F1 clutches are pretty easy to handle, the problem is that the amateurs get spooked easily.
            Above all in my opinion Webber’s problems must have been down to electronics. I truly believe that it is the team’s fault, even in this day and age the start procedure is dealt by electronics with the drivers just releasing the clutch at the right moment, that theory is backed by Ferraris usual brilliant starts, some teams get it right some don’t.

          2. cheers for the follow-up, @peartree.

            Above all in my opinion Webber’s problems must have been down to electronics. I truly believe that it is the team’s fault…

            I hope so, b/c I don’t like the thought of MW being condemned as a hapless starter solely b/c of his own foibles.

          3. I’d much prefer that it is a problem with Mark himself because the alternative is that Red Bull have been intentionally sabotaging his starts for a long time.

  9. I remeber hearing on Teds notebook that the new ECU’s need 4 volts instead of the 3 the old unit needed, and that some teams were having issues with getting the right volatge to the units. If the voltage drops the ECU resets.

    1. That’s interesting, maybe that is why it somehow put Webber in trouble with his KERS, which also needs a sufficient current, especially with Red Bull likely having a very on edge KERS system

    2. Thats right in Lipo cell nominal voltage territory, doubt any of them would have an issue getting 4v

  10. I fail to understand how a team which currently participates in a sport can be allowed the right to exclusively supply a vital component like the ECU to all others…its a bit like Rafael Nadal being asked to supply racquets to all players…..

    1. its a bit like Rafael Nadal being asked to supply racquets to all players

      Its more like a company originally set up by Nadal to make him rackets to be sure of their quality then supplying the rest of the ATP players as well. And then starts supplying WTA, the Badminton federation and table tennis as well (with MES now supplying NASCAR and Indycar as well, I would harbour a guess they are market leaders in this field currently)

      MES is a sister company of the race outfit, not a part of it. And I am sure the FIA (and even more so rival teams) would have made sure enough that none of their precious data can get to the McLaren race team.

    2. I think that if there is a chance that Mclaren will have a technical advantage over the other teams from supplying them the ECU none of the teams will accept this especially and if i’m not wrong that Mclaren supply the teams since the pre-2009 era where Ferrari has that influential power over the FIA

      1. As others have said MES is run totally separately from the F1 team & there is no data sharing between the 2.

        The original deal for MES ran from 2008-2010 & there were no problems which is why nobody objected when the deal was extended.
        Going back to 2007 when teams 1st got the 2008 ECU’s there were 5 teams who felt the MES ECU was better than the one they had been using until then (Force India, Honda, Super Aguri, STR & Toyota).

        BMW & Ferrari were heavily against it not so much because they saw a conflict with McLaren but more because BMW were against the ban of driver aids & wanted to keep them & there own ECU & Ferrari didn’t like some of the limitations in data acquisition compared to the Magneti-Marelli system they used before, It also didn’t have some of the diff adjustment settings & engine maps which they had developed on there prior ECU.

        Not 100% certain on this but I think the problems teams had with the new ECU in testing was down to the 2014 software which been for next year had functions in it for stuff that none of the current cars have (8 speed gearboxes & ERS for example).

        1. thanks for the informations

  11. I think Mark should spend his Saturday nights in a Race Weekend sleeping in the Car..

    There is something dodgy going on

    1. He’s been on a run a bad luck stretching back over the last several races of 2012. But over the course of their time together at Red Bull he’s actually had fewer serious technical problems than Vettel. So lets give the conspiracy theories a rest.

      1. @jonsan your keen to put conspiracy theories to bed…red bull fan much? :) fewer? since you’re counting, could you tally the kers failures they have had between them for us?

        1. This weekend alone, Webber didn’t have more technical issues than Vettel. Vettel had a car issue in FP3.

        2. No, a reality fan. McLaren issued an apology today to Webber and Red Bull. I doubt if they’d do that if Darko Marko was responsible for sabotaging Webbers start.

          could you tally the kers failures they have had between them for us?

          You didn’t – why should I?

    2. Mark has had start problems for almost as long as I can remember. Wasn’t it in 2011 that he had lost a cumulative 26 places from the start to the end of the first lap over the course of the season? Can it really be due to a technical issue every time?

  12. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910)
    18th March 2013, 15:53

    Thou shall not challenge your german teammate or thou anti-stall shall be activated..

  13. let’s see if FIA takes any action or not ,I’ve seen reports that both Red Bull’s lost telemetry during the race, though perhaps not at the same times.

  14. An interesting article in Autosprint about the RB9, i don’t know if this has a relation with the problems faced by Mark Webber but anyway still interesting
    In Australia there were extreme set ups on the RB9 similar to what we have seen in 2011 on the RB7
    The rear of the car is much higher than the front , this inclination made the diffuser work better but it is not as easy as it looks otherwise the other teams will copy it , the RB7 has used the electronics of the engine and these extreme set ups to create the phenomena of the exhaust blown diffuser,
    In theory it is impossible to create the same effects of the EBD because :
    1)The FIA has restricted the engine mapping
    2)The coanda exhausts are not as effective as the 2011 exhausts

    Maybe the Bull’s and the Renault has found a way to recreate the EBD effect under the current regulations , maybe that’s explain the superiority of Red Bull in the qualifying, even in the race Vettel was 2s quicker in the first lap ,the car didn’t look slow but the problem is that it was hard on the tyres


  15. If Mark didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all. Definitely not his strongest race (or start!) but there always seems to be some sort of problem with his car…

    1. been saying it for years….but surprised that Red Bull are implementing artificial team orders this early in the season…maybe they were too confident of a Vettel win? when the team qualify well up the order (unlike the start of 2012) they normally intervene – webber has a gearbox change if he qualifies above Vettel or they slow start him. red bull do not subscribe to Ferrari’s unequivocal ‘ Vettel is faster than you’ mod us operand i

      1. Indeed, they used artificial team orders when Vettel’s engine shut down in Bahrain 2010 too.

  16. What’s wrong with Webber’s KERS? It never seems to work. is it because he’s taller/heavier than Vettel that they can’t get it to work in Webber’s car?

    1. Funny how only Webber’s car seems to get all the KERs issues while Vettel’s car has none.

      1. @ginola14 Well, its like saying it’s funny that Vettel had mechanical issues on Saturday while Webber had none.

  17. So McLaren have apologised for disrupting Webber’s preparations for the start of the race. I wonder how many journalists and self proclaimed amateur experts will apologise for the derogatory comments about the driver’s poor start. None, I’d guess.
    Talk about bad luck or no luck.
    And I’m sure Webber would swap Vettel’s disruption on Saturday practice for the start of his home race.

    1. @katederby I’d say you had a point if Webber didn’t have a long history of bad starts. I think people can be forgiven for thinking this was probably just another of them. Would you argue that they’ve all been down to technical problems outside of his control?

      1. I think the comments on Webber’s other starts where he’s lost places are often too simplistic, with expressions like “he needs to give it more throttle” showing a lack of comprehension about the complexity of the start procedure. Are all these starts down to technical faults? I’d say a lot have been as KERS failures have been unacceptably high for this particular driver.

  18. I’m just glad there is an explanation for THIS start.
    Im going to speculate but based on MArk’s comments and all ive read, when they do the formation lap the clutch bite point is analyzed by the pit crew amongst other things. The pit crew then relay the settings Mark has to use to maximize a start. So, whilst the ECU in the car was ok the other end of that in the pits was, er stuffed.

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