McLaren pursuing two upgrade paths with MP4-28

2013 Chinese Grand Prix

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Jenson Button, McLaren, Sepang, 2013McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale says the team are fighting on two fronts as they work to improve the performance of the MP4-28.

“We managed to improve the car between Australia and Malaysia, we were closer on pace there,” said Neale during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. “Taking the learning from that weekend we’re taking a number of upgrades [to China].”

Neale said some of the upgrades were “routine” while others were specifically in response to the setbacks the team have had with their new car. “I think we’ve got a lot of work to do on Friday as we learn more about the car and learn what if any of the upgrades that we’ve taken, works.”

“So it’ll be a very busy day for Sergio [Perez] and Jenson [Button].”

Neale said McLaren “know where the problems on the car lie” and he believes its ultimate potential can be realised. But he warned it will take more than a single change to unlocks its full capabilities:

“As always with a car there’s no one thing or one magic bullet. There are a number of things that will restore performance to the car and we believe we’ve got, underlying, a very good package. But it’s clearly not the performance we predicted.”

Button ran fifth in Malaysia before an error during his pit stop spoiled his race. Neale was cautious about taking Button’s performance as a sign of where the car is at the moment:

“I certainly think that the Malaysian circuit was more favourable to us,” he said. “We had more severe problems in Australia, we got the car set up better for Malaysia.”

“The whole grid was closer. If you look at the spread in the top five or six cars, the whole grid had bunched up. I think that the next two races we’ll probably see that spread out again.

“But nevertheless Jenson worked really hard to get himself into a good scoring position. But for a mechanical problem with the wheel gun he might have capitalised on that but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.

“We’re not under any illusions about the amount of work he have to do to get the pace back in this car. I don’t think it’s a question of just a small tweak.”

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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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    40 comments on “McLaren pursuing two upgrade paths with MP4-28”

    1. Lets see what they bring to the next race then! How fast do we think they can become regular podium challengers? Barcelona, mid season or earlier/later

      1. Well, for podiums they will have to fight 6 cars really. Bulls, Ferraris and the Lotuses, and I would be amazed if they have clawed back the 1.5 – 2 seconds the were lacking in Oz. Add to that group the 2 Mercs whom nobody is quite sure of what they can do. My guess is Macca will be fighting Merc for the best of the rest throughout the season.

        1. Surely it’s 7 cars – the bulls, ferraris, mercs and kimi (I don’t believe that Lotus have the resources to give Grosjean the tools to be competitive atm).

          I’ve got a feeling that Barcelona will be the turning point:
          a) first european race => usually targeted for the big upgrades regardless, and this underfloor business sounds big
          b) smooth, aero track would fit the suspected strengths of this years McLaren – great peak df, if the tracks predictable. I know they weren’t great in preseason there, but there’s so much historical testing at barcelona they must have some good data of the track

      2. There is a huge task ahead of them but I believe they can manage it before Barcelona. My opinion is that China will show the course of action taken and its effects. If they get to the podium there I won’t be surprised, much ;-) They are very clever bunch of people, not very insightful all the time but they have their moments.
        However, their statements regarding the magnitude of the difficulties encountered are ‘a bit’ ambiguous considering the action taken. First, it was something fundamental. Then, they were back to pace in Malaysia tweeking the diffusor by literaly sawing off some parts from it. It was a very clever solution and obviously a good one. Now, Jonathan is playing down the chance of quick return to winning ways. Sort off…
        I think they are affraid a bit now. They have to reshuffle the car which is basically a very good one. Daunting task indeed. Somebody blew it big time.
        I sincerely wish them all the best.

        1. sorry because of typos, we all make all sort of mistakes ;-)

      3. The Blade Runner (@)
        9th April 2013, 11:48

        Barcelona I hope cos I’ll be there and would love to see a McLaren podium.

        It would be very un-McLaren like to not find performance very quickly. My concern is that if they don’t, JB and Checo will begin to lose patience as they see this season’s hopes evaporate. At the risk of sounding partisan, I think F1 desperately needs McLaren to be in contention. It is gradually becoming the “Red Bull Show” which is more than a little wearing. I don’t object to seeing the RBs do well but I’d rather it happen following some proper scraps and with there being at least one team consistently challenging them. Their consistency, whilst laudable, is making F1 all too predictable

        1. I’m sure they’ll make it. My impression is that when they realised what’s wrong it was a strong blow, cold shower. Call it whatever you like. Now, they know exactly what to do and they know exactly how difficult it is to harmonize these modifications on such short notice.
          I’ll say: somewhere in the team is the luckiest person on Earth. If McLaren was e.g. Royal Navy and this was, let’s say 18th century, we all know where that person would be now…
          To cut the long story, they’ll bounce back they always do :-)

        2. I think Ferrari can match Bulls race pace today and Lotus is not far behind. Plus, that Mercedes has potential, if they keep bringing updates they will be fighting for poles and wins soon.

    2. to be fair, Mcalren looked like they were starting to find pace i n Malaysia – JB was in a very good position before the pitstop mishap. I think that if they’ve got developments coming, they’ll be able to push on sooner rather than later.

      1. But Jenson’s pit mishap is the problem with MacLaren. Even if they get the fastest car, more often than not they manage to commit hari-kari and lose champioships, either in the pits, on the pit-wall with dubious strategy calls, or reliability. That’s the only area they are consistent in, managing to shoot themselves in the foot then we have to listen to the most sheepish looking man in F1 trying to make excuses.They seem to have a love affair with calamity, and that can not all be down to bad luck, but bad management more like!

      2. The Blade Runner (@)
        9th April 2013, 11:54

        I hope you’re right. I’m finding Martin Whitmarsh’s “rabbit in headlights” impression very unnerving these days!

        1. I think the best thing is that they seemed to cotton onto the problems the car was suffering very quickly, so they could start working to correct. I reckon that if Oz and malaysia hadn’t been back to back we’d have seen even more improvements.

          1. The Blade Runner (@)
            9th April 2013, 12:11

            I agree. I’m not normally a fan of the 3 week break but I think in this instance it will have been very useful indeed. If the car is greatly improved this weekend then the worst the team can expect is a massive injection of confidence all-round. Hopefully that can be converted into some decent points from Bahrain onwards and regular podium finishes

    3. why couldnt they do this in preseason testing you have to ask, and to be fair i do agree the above comment. jenson was going along quite nicely before their pit stop mistake. maybe the problem isnt as severe as expected and it could be australia doesnt suit their car because in malaysia mclaren looked better, with jenson button anyway

      1. Chris (@coatesch1974)
        9th April 2013, 12:18

        as i heard it the problems weren’t truly apparent until they got to melbourne and found out a suspension part had been fitted wrongly durign testing which had been making them run at an illegally low ride height and givign them false readings/times

        1. I don’t think it was illegally low (is there even a minimum ride height rule?), but yes they had a suspension component fitted upside down which had them running at a ride height that would have made them bottom out while running race fuel loads.

          1. That was only in Jerez. They had it fitted correctly at both Barcelona tests.

    4. McLaren are mental. Last year before a huge regulation change and not only are they working flat out correcting a broken car which is unlikely to challenge at the front until mid year, but they’re attempting to evaluate *two* different designs, on a single Friday, with a new driver on board, on a car they don’t understand how to set up?


      1. Lunacy.

        Na, its just spicing things up :-)

        I think that they might be throwing everything at the car, knowing that if they don’t get it up to podium challenge/race win speed by Barcelona, they will have to just ditch the year and go fully onto 2014.

      2. @hairs I personally think the final year or two of regs is the perfect time to experiment. You’d like to have a solid understanding of things like front pull-rod suspension, with all other regs staynig fairly consistent. It’s a lot easier this way, instead of say introducing it next season, with a whole raft of technical regulation changes. If they were lost at Australia, imagine if they’d done this next year with new engines, chassis, tyre weightings etc etc.

      3. @hairs Come on. Did you even read the article, or are you just going by the headline? “Two upgrade paths” is not the same as “two different designs”. They just can’t focus on a single area, because there’s more to be fixed.

        1. @maroonjack I certainly did. The fact that they refer to “two paths” rather than just “new parts” indicates that the changes involved are not small, they’re different enough that effectively they are evaluating two different packages. In order to evaluate a single package, a team would normally do back-to-back runs of old vs. new. In this case they’re going to have to run two of those programmes simultaneously in a couple of very time limited practice sessions. Furthermore, because they admit they haven’t understood the existing configuration, and as the simulator/windtunnel data never picked up the original problems, they won’t have a useful baseline to compare the new packages against anyway. All in all, it’s a shambles.

          1. @hairs That’s not what they said. They are talking about routine upgrades (patch #1) and upgrades specifically addressing setbacks of the new car (patch #2).

            There’s no mention of two separate, different designs/packages anywhere in the article. You took the headline and wrote the rest of the story yourself, but the article suggest nothing of that sort.

            You say:

            They admit they haven’t understood the existing configuration.

            They say:

            We know where the problems on the car lie.

            Enough said…

            1. @maroonjack I think you’re obsessing too much about the wording of Keith’s headline in this case. Regardless of how you choose to phrase it, McLaren clearly indicate in their comments that they are bringing one set of upgrades as would be normal, and another set specifically to address the weakness in the car.

              This indicates two things they have to evaluate:

              1) Do the “fix the car” parts work?
              2) Do the “standard upgrade” parts work?

              Those are two different aims. Your latest comment even points that out, then denies it in the next sentence!

              As to this:

              You say:

              They admit they haven’t understood the existing configuration.

              They say:

              We know where the problems on the car lie.

              Enough said…

              McLaren and its drivers have made multiple statements over the first two races that they are struggling to understand how to set the car up, and get it working. Furthermore, their tunnel and cfd tests clearly led them astray pre season. Stating that they know *where* the problems are isn’t the same as *what* they are, or what the solutions are.

              Teams always talk up their prospects in these releases. They’re not going to say “we’re floundering and clueless” or “we don’t have enough money to pay staff this month” or “we can’t build the parts we’ve designed”, no matter how true it might be. So I take the admission of two sets of parts as significant, and the confident “we know what we’re doing” with a pinch of salt.

            2. @hairs

              So I take the admission of two sets of parts as significant.

              Except they didn’t admit anything like that. That’s kind of the point. They say they have many upgrades, roughly along the two lines, but they are not “sets”, “packages”, or “different designs”.

              I think you’re obsessing too much about the wording of Keith’s headline in this case.

              I think it’s quite the opposite. I think you are reading way to much from it, while looking at the quotes reveals that it’s nothing dramatic. They clarify their goals, they seem to have an understanding of the flaws in their car, as well as its potential, and they have a busy development plan going. Whoop-dee-doo.

              Teams always talk up their prospects in these releases.

              Sure they do, except you said:

              They admit they haven’t understood the existing configuration.

              Again: they didn’t admit anything like that.

            3. @maroonjack
              Look up their comments before, during, and after the past two events. They made very unambiguous statements that they had difficulty understanding how to set up the car, how to get performance out of it, how the car’s performance was so far off their estimates. Since the last event they haven’t done any track testing which is important because until they got to the track they thought they were in good form, so their artificial testing isn’t useful to them, as was the car for Ferrari last year.

              Therefore, as of the most recent time they were on track, they said they didn’t fully understand the car, couldn’t get it working, and attributed its improved performance largely to the very smooth track surface.

              That all supports my point. Your point, that they do in fact understand the old spec performance, is based on one line in a pre race fluff piece of the sort where teams never admit meaningful weakness. I’m not saying the line in question is false, but I believe it is a carefully constructed positive spin that stops short of a direct fabrication.

    5. I cant help but feel that they will struggle in 2014. Most other teams have evolved their 2012 cars and i bet a significant portion of their budget will go towards the 2014 car. Most teams will want to do a Brawn in 2014.

      But McLaren felt that they would have reached a development peak in 2013 if they evolved last years car, and decided to start from scratch. They might end up having the fastest car by the end of this year (best case scenario), but what about next year? if they are pursuing two upgrade paths then the question is if they have enough capacity to focus on next year as well…

    6. We’re not under any illusions about the amount of work he have to do to get the pace back in this car

      I see, the Martin Whitmarsh influence is beginning rub off here….
      Say all the right things but continue to mess up….

    7. But for a mechanical problem with the wheel gun he might have capitalised on that but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.”

      Are you serious? Yes, it might be a mechanical problem but what really cost was the operational error as the lolipop was lifted too early

      1. The lollipop responds to the traffic light system. I assume they’re referring to a mechanical problem which resulted in the traffic light system not picking up a problem when it should have.

    8. I think JB running 5th was flattering McLaren more than them having improved the pace of the car. Undoubtedly It was relatively more competitive than in Australia however that was more due to the whole field closing up than any marked improvement in pace. Baring in mind Alonso’s DNF, Massa and the two Lotuses should have finished ahead of JB on pace, and probably at least one of the retired ForceIndia’s then a truer reflection of Button’s finishing position was a likely 9th or 10th. about where they were in Oz.

    9. I’m quite skeptical of this so called McLaren resurgence. It would take a couple of good results before I actually believe it. Don’t get me wrong if any team on the grid can turn a season around it is McLaren. They have 4 points out of 2 races versus 66 points for red bull, it is still early days I know but they really need to get kick off the season.

      1. Damn typos *they really need to kick off the season*

    10. I cannot help but think that Mclaren are missing a driver like Hamilton right now. He just wants a fast car, and he’s versatile enough to adjust his driving to maximise performance. Jenson on the other hand seems thoroughly confused when the car isn’t perfect, and it looks like his confusion in car development is forcing Mclaren to try two different approaches

      1. Yep and Perez is still *work in progress* so he’s not going to Pave the way either.

    11. I can see mclaren saying at the end of (a disastrous) season: ‘with hindsight, we should have just stuck to one development path. But it is easy to make mistakes and we’ll move on from it.’

    12. The Blade Runner (@)
      10th April 2013, 9:06

      I have seen the suggestion on a couple of other sites that Ron Dennis was in favour of bringing back the MP4-27 but Whitmarsh took the decision to persist with the new car. If that’s true then his future must surely now hinge around getting the MP4-28 competitive and doing so very, very quickly

      1. @thebladerunner According to who?

        1. The Blade Runner (@)
          10th April 2013, 14:57

          Mark Hughes on the Sky F1 site states: “According to paddock gossip, the option of bringing the MP4-27 out of retirement was supported by Ron Dennis but ruled out by Whitmarsh.”

          I have seen it on another thread but can’t recall where.

          In typical journalistic style there is no quoted source but it’s an interesting point.

          1. Interesting, thanks for that!

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