Jenson Button, McLaren, Shanghai, 2013

Solving MP4-28 problems key to 2014 – McLaren

2013 Spanish Grand Prix

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Jenson Button, McLaren, Shanghai, 2013McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale says the team need to fully understand where they have gone wrong with this year’s car before switching focus to the new 2014 regulations.

Neale likened the team’s problems with the MP4-28 to the difficulties Ferrari experienced last year getting the data from their windtunnel to correlate with real-world testing.

“I believe that it’s really important that we sort out the issues with the car and correlation,” said Neale during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in, “because all of the time that you have got that lingering doubt – hang on a second, what went wrong where, how do we fix this – you’ve always got the opportunity for it to arrive again.”

“What we thought we were optimising over the winter turned out not to be the case,” he added.

“We’ve also got the impending 2014 car to think about as well with not just the powertrain integration but also the aerodynamic changes we’ve got. So right now the focus is on making sure that we understand and that we’ve got control of the physics of our car so that any premise we’ve laid the 2014 car on is sound.”

He said the team were putting a greater effort into its upgrade package for the Spanish Grand Prix compared to the last two races and would decide on Friday evening which parts would be kept.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do on Fridays,” said Neale. “I don’t see us being able to just run the car without a huge degree of upgrades most Fridays between now and the summer.”

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Keith Collantine
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24 comments on “Solving MP4-28 problems key to 2014 – McLaren”

  1. I don’t understand how they got into that mess. Last year they had very fast car for whole season except one weekend at Silverstone. Their updates during the next weekend at Hockenheim delivered and they could fight for poles and wins for majority of the remaining season.

    So what happened during development of 2013 car? I’ve never heard they got problem with their windtunnel or correlation. Certainly problem isn’t also with Toyota windtunnel in Cologne, as Ferrari developed their 2013 challenger exclusively there and it’s massive improvement over F2012. What failed then? Have they changed from 50% to 60% (or the other way around) model for 2013? Were they caught out by changes between 2012 and 2013 Pirelli tyre models for windtunnel?

    1. they’ve lost speed over what the had last year because the car is not so much an evolution of last years car as they felt that package could only be developed so far so this year decided to go with several large changes to the car such as changing to front pullrod suspensions and this has made the car “difficult to understand” in their words which really just means they aren’t sure how to extract the most out of it.

      1. jimscreechy (@)
        8th May 2013, 14:26

        Exactly. Whitmarsh clearly stated as much at the begining of the season. Additionally I don’t think they have the same amout of development direction with the drivers they have currently. Jeson is quick, but even with last years car which has pretty much been accepted as teh fastest on the grid, he was unble to get the setup right and after a string of unhappy setup configs resorted to using Hamiltons baseline, this doesn’t bode well for feedback on areas where engineers need to focus their attention. Perez is new to the team and I don’t think is yet in the position to provide this info… though this may change.

    2. Traverse (@)
      8th May 2013, 14:23

      I don’t understand how they got into that mess.

      You know the saying ‘If it isn’t broke don’t fix it’, well McLaren employ a similar (and by similar I mean completely inimical) adage. It goes as follows:

      ‘If it isn’t broken and actually works perfectly fine, in fact it was more or less the best car on the grid, you should bin it and start from scratch anyway. Why? Who knows, just do it anyway, go on! What are you waiting for! take a hammer and smash it to pieces!’.

      Whitmarsh genuinely has these exact words tattooed on his washboard abs.

      1. COTD right there! Ha!

      2. I assume some of the changes they made were because they were bringing in elements which will be beneficial to 2014, to avoid being caught out with a car they don’t understand next year. Of course, having a car they don’t understand this year seems to make even less sense based on the pace of the car throughout and up until the end of last year.

    3. Only going off rumours of how McLaren operate here, but I think this is a symptom of having two teams working alternating years. The 2012 car turned out to be very handy indeed towards the end of the season, but because a completely different design team was working on the 2013 car when the 2012 car became the best of the field, the continuity between the two was already lost.

      Having said all that, it seems from Neale’s comments that the 2014 relies heavily on the 2013 one, so perhaps they’ve changed this way of working… probably just at the wrong time!

      As a final comment, I’ve never liked the MTC, because it’s such a stale environment to work in that begins to make ‘worker ants’ complacent. It doesn’t really suit the idea of a creative design office that allows individuals to shine through – I think it’s no coincidence that since they moved there the results have been (in a McLaren relative sense) quite poor.

      1. They moved there in 2003, so every car since 2004 has been designed there. In that time they had a very fast car in 2005, 2007, 2008, the end of 2009, perhaps 3rd fastest car in 2010, second best in 2011, and best last year. McLaren do have a problem with utilising their cars to the best of their potential. I don’t know why that is, but I doubt their facilities are the reason.

        1. Thanks @matt90 for putting me right, I’m actually way off the mark.

          Can’t believe they moved there 10 years ago though. Maybe its because Ron has maintained the building better than most would have! As impressive as it is visually (it’s very shiny and clean), I’ve always wondered whether the staff enjoy the feel of the place or not – I think you would never really get a truthful answer however.

          I know the Red Bull office has a slide in it. I think I’d rather work there. Unfortunately I have no skills in any F1 discipline and neither company has so far got on the phone to offer me a job so I can find out $:)

          1. If I get my dream job after I graduate, I’ll let you know!

  2. Oh dear. So McLaren have determined that the problem with the car lies in one or more unknown fundamental flaws in McLaren engineering work processes. Dennis must be shaking his head, or his fist.

    The elephant at MTC however is the fact that the car is not the only thing that changed. Perez is a question mark and Button is not a benchmark. Button is a good driver but he is not good because he gets the last tenth or two or three out of the car. McLaren is not only 3 tenths off the pace. But whatever they do for 2014 they need to get a proper hot-shoe in the car, Maybe maybe Webber, possibly Bianchi or Hulkenberg, somebody with first class quicks, so they know what they are working with. Maybe they should even put in a Friday driver to see if Button and Perez have become path-dependent in their set-up thinking, driving style, and engineering advice.

    1. jimscreechy (@)
      8th May 2013, 15:53

      Exactly, but i’m not certain what contracts are in place for 2014 with Button or Perez. Securing Bianchi would be a prudent move in my opinion. He is clearly loaded with talent and ater jumping in the Marussia a breath after driving in the force india set seriouly impressive times in unfamiliar territory. This is a skill truly stunnig quality many teams could do with, particularly Mclaren.

  3. Sherlocks galore in McLaren factory.

  4. Omar R (@omarr-pepper)
    8th May 2013, 20:45

    2012 was so strong for them that I was figuring McL would win Australia, yet they appear with that “Ferrari 2012” clone to spoil it all

  5. If this isn’t going to help them with their 2014 project, McLaren have majorly shot themselves in the foot!

  6. Am I the only person reading this as a tacit admission that McLaren is using the MP4-28 as a test bed for some concepts which will become crucial with the 2014 -> regulations?

    On one hand that would make their decision to radically re-design the car seem a bit more prudent, but on the other hand, not much of what’s visible on the car will apply to 2014… the high-nose airflow concept, the aggressive sidepod contouring, the exhaust configuration itself; these developments are somewhat less relevant to 2014 rules than even their 2012 concepts were. It’s easy to conclude that they’ll be married to pullrod front suspension for the long term, but I wonder if there are some other ‘future-proof’ bits we haven’t been made aware of yet.

  7. there is only 1 way for Mclaren to fix this mess – call in MacGyver

  8. Seems that there are many ways of being slow. 2012 Ferrari was slow, but performed really well. 2013 McLaren is slow, but doesn’t perform either.

  9. I love all the comments about needing to get other drivers in to see what the car is really like cause Button is no benchmark. The reason given is that last year they had the best car and Button had setup issues.

    Right, so in the best car Hamilton was good.

    Please tell me why no one is talking about how good Hamilton was at setup/development the last time McLaren produced a not so good car – the MP4-24 in 2009.

    Remind me again how many races until the mighty Hamilton put it on the podium???

  10. Hamilton’s race results for the first 9 rounds of 2009 before the car was finally sorted;

    Aus -DSQ
    MAL- 7
    CHN – 6
    BHR – 4
    ESP – 9
    MON – 12
    TUR – 13
    GBR – 16
    GER – 18

    I suggest everyone remember this before gobbing off about Button being no good at setup/development and Hamilton being amazing and being able to win in a bad car.

    Win in a bad car? Really? Where did that fairytale come from? The only time he’s EVER driven a bad car the results were pathetic!

    1. You are arguing with yourself. How did the car get good if there was no proper feedback from the driver? From Kovalainen, who was always slower than Hamilton? That 09 car was often cornering on 3 wheels early on because it was such a dog (I suppose it cornered likterally like a dog). You could make the same argument about Alonso in 2009 with a terrible car that came good. It would be equally unnavailing.

      How about Button? Post BAR, that Honda never made it to the front of the grid despite his great abilities and the hot and cold running Yen on hand. He got gifted a rocket ship in 2009 and held on for dear life to take the title. Let’s see what happens this year.

    2. The 09 car was really bad and Hamilton did as good as job with it as any driver could have done. You only need to compare his results with Kovalainen to see that Hamilton did a good job just to get the car to the end of the race, let alone the top 10.

      Key: Hamilton (Kovalainen)

      AUS: DSQ (RET)
      MAL: 7 (RET)
      CHN: 6 (5)
      BHR: 4 (12)
      ESP: 9 (RET)
      MON: 12 (RET)
      TUR: 13 (14)
      GBR: 16 (RET)
      GER: 18 (9)

      Finishes: 8 (4)
      Top 10: 4 (2)
      Points: 10 (5)

      So the arguments that Hamilton can do (relatively) well in a really bad car are still valid. His results were hardly pathetic given the circumstances.

    3. Well said Nick, everyone on Jensons back about this car but as you point out Lewis was crap in a poor car too.Something Hammy fans can’t handle ,they look through rose tinted glasses. You only have to read the 2 replies to your comment.

      1. @sonia54 – It doesn’t have to be Button vs Hamilton you know. I support both and it always astonishes me how certain sectors of both Hamilton’s and Button’s fanbase seem to be out for one another. It’s stupid. As it is I think Button is doing a relatively good job considering the car he’s been provided with is obviously not up to scratch, so its not the case that everyone is ‘on Jensons back’ as you say. Both can do well in bad cars. They’re both good drivers.

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