Jenson Button, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015

McLaren ‘won’t be competitive until Europe’

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Jenson Button, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015In the round-up: McLaren racing director Eric Boullier does not expect the team to be in competitive shape until after the opening flyaway races.

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McLaren admit they will be off the pace in F1 until at least May (The Guardian)

"I think it’s going to take a few races but at least by Europe we should be ready to be more competitive."

Button: MP4-30 ‘like a different category’ (F1i)

"This direction is something that will definitely work for this team in the future, but still it’s obviously in very early stages."

Sebastian Vettel Q&A: Ferrari should be a perfect fit (F1)

"One thing is for sure: you definitely want to do well at the first race, but you also want to finish that first race - and in that mould we are working."

Mercedes' pace stuns rivals (Sky)

"They are unbelievably quick. It is all a guessing game and the only thing you can look at are the long runs and the Mercedes is miles in front it seems on the long runs."

I didn't get here by being the 'son of' (ESPN)

"Formula One is a different level. People need to remember this. Even if we are going a bit slower than 10 years ago - if you go slower it doesn't mean the car is not more difficult to drive."

Hulkenberg surprised by new car (Autosport)

"It's a surprise to me and the team - to everybody, and obviously it's what we needed."

Number One? Hamilton prefers to be 44 (Reuters)

"The number one itself, Vettel's had it, (Michael) Schumacher's had it, all the champions have had it. None of them had 44. 44 is mine."

Karun Chandhok - a few tenths (YouTube)

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Comment of the day

Niki Lauda blames the German Grand Prix organisers for the jeopardy this year’s race is in, but not everyone sees it that way:

I don’t quite get how both possible locations’ organisers not being able to afford the German Grand Prix this year, after they already had to share the slot due to the race losing them lots of money, is their fault, rather than an indicator for F1’s price still being over inflated for the current market.

If the loss is costly for Mercedes, why not add sufficient funds?
@Bosyber

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On this day in F1

The South African Grand Prix had a home winner for the only time in its history on this day 35 years ago. Jody Scheckter triumphed for Tyrrell in the 1975 race, making him the third different winner in as many races at the start of the 1975 season.

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  • 48 comments on “McLaren ‘won’t be competitive until Europe’”

    1. How exactly do circuits accrue these astronomical fees/bills to host a race? After the sanctioning fee and the utility bills what else drives the cost of running a race so high?

      1. Check how much it costs your government to build/re-surface a kilometer of road for starters.

      2. They have to maintain the circuits, Ensure all barriers, grandstands etc.. are safe & upto standards & any repair work required is going to cost them.
        Then there’s the spectator & paddock facilities which again have to be maintained & upto standard & again that cost’s money.

        There’s also the fee’s required to host other events, They pay to host F1 races but some other categories also ask for a hosting fee.

        In the case of the Nurburgring you also must consider that the former owners of the circuit basically bankrupt the place by trying to turn it into a shopping center & leisure park. Then the roller coaster they spent a fortune building was only used once & then deemed unsafe & the shopping area they built didn’t actually attract many shops.

      3. I would say that the fee alone is so high that its never likely to be able to cover it by ticket sales alone unless you can have consistent crowds like Silverstone. And even then its not easy and any major work on the track will mean turning a loss or finding someone (Bernie pushes for states to jump in) to pick up the bill.

        As @hohum mentions, it costs about 10 millions EUR per km for a highway, and an F1 track can be even more, as it has tighter limits on having to be even surface.

      4. I would argue that having F1 at a track would be raising the tracks profile so that other events become more profitable. think of it as a loss leader of sorts.

        Doesn’t always work out but there is opportunity.

        1. That’s Bernies salespitch, but people pay to see what they want to see, they don’t pay to be where something they couldn’t afford to see happened.

    2. I do have to say I have mixed feelings about both Sainz and Verstappen regarding their ‘son of’ status.

      On one had, I do not think I’ve seen media mention it that much. Of course there have been some voices, particularly of people who were not fans of their fathers, who expressed the idea that they are only there because of their fathers. But let’s be real, Carlos Sainz Sr. is a very accomplished rally driver, which does not mean that much in F1. I don’t exactly see Ari Vatanen’s kids getting F1 seats for free. Jos Verstappen might have been a national favorite, but his career went backwards and, frankly, he never delivered on the promise he had in karting and F3. Jos never had a lot of Dutch sponsors either and relied mostly on personal connections (Benetton putting him at Simtek for 1995, Tom Walkinshaw re-hiring him at Arrows, Paul Stoddart was a big Verstappen fan from their time at Tyrrell). Though I’m sure their fathers had influence on their careers, even for their names and wisdom, I do not regard Carlos Sainz Sr. and Jos Verstappen to be ‘ideal’ fathers if you want to make it in F1. So, I do not really see where the pressure is from.

      On the other hand, with both Max and Carlos mentioning it with some frequency, I wonder if the pressure is somewhat self-imposed. The saying ‘just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you’ could apply to their mindsets, though I’d imagine Toro Rosso (and Red Bull) will take that up with the drivers.

      Another possibility is the no-name journalist. I have to admit I frequent but a small sample of F1 sites, there could very well be a presence in F1 media that does persistently ask them questions about their fathers, just that I’m not aware of. Still, I have the feeling (as in: not based on extensive research) that both Carlos and Max have said more about their fathers’ role in their career than say, Nico Rosberg, Nelson Piquet Jr. or Kevin Magnussen.

      1. Assuming competence, it is always easier to rise in the family business than it is in something totally unconnected.

      2. It all seems a bit dishonest really. Without their father’s successes it is hardly likely they would even have pursued motor-sports. Additionally, being the son-of obviously avoided them from careers where you’d hear, “Hey, Verstappen I said no mayonaisse” or “Hoy Sainz, a non-fat latte!” :-)

        1. Red Bull jr. driver programme is known to be extremely demanding and brutal. They would win very little by favoring Sainz’s and Verstappen’s sons. Especially Verstappen, who was before in the Mercedes driver programme.

          Your post sounds more like an ignorant rant than a smart comment.

          1. Dave mcgrory
            2nd March 2015, 1:35

            I agree red bull do not pick people unless they are very good. Think of ricciardo who seems as one of the very best

          2. Okay Dante. Hoy (which means today in Spanish), we will highlight your own ignorance in not understanding that Red Bull is in the business of selling energy drinks. F1 is a marketing scheme and as hard as their driver program may be a famous name here and there certainly isn’t bad for business. Which I will re-cap, is selling energy drinks. Thank you, also, for highlighting your lacking sense of humour. Hold the wine and cheese next time.

      3. Hans (@hanswesterbeek)
        1st March 2015, 7:49

        LOL @ mayonaise and latte.

        One thing is obvious from the story how Verstappen jr started karting: he was at a karting track and saw other kids racing and he wanted a go too. The obvious thing here is that Max was at a race track. My dad (salesman) never took me to a race track. I got to see Staples instead.

        1. Also further in the story little Max just started nagging a little to his mother and father about getting a kart and giving it a go. His father and mother as ex-races thought “why not” a lot easier that any other would. Actually his father at first told him “not yet”. Meaning little Max would probably have gotten his chance at owning a kart anyway. My father will have just slapped me in the face if i didn’t shut about it and would never even think of giving me a go at karts.

    3. Re COTD, @bosyber is absolutely totally correct, and so obvious is this that I decided to give Nikki the benefit of the doubt by assuming he was referring to F1 Management as the promoter of F1 rather than the respective tracks management, allowing for translational difficulties since Nikki is no dummie. Perhaps the German speaking readers can help here ?

      1. Yes, very good point with the COTD @bosyber.

        As for what Niki says, he clearly states that “its the organisers” at fault @hohum, even sort of giving BE credit for offering lower fees than originally asked of them in the same sentence.

        1. @bascb, I would assume Lauda is referring to the previous management of the Nurburgring, who were were utterly incompetent.

          After all, the previous owners managed to plunge the circuit into debts approach €500 million (or circa $560 million) through the construction of the now infamous ring park, which was based on projected visitor numbers that were totally removed from reality (claiming that 2 million people a year would use the Nurburgring, rather than the 370,000 people who did actually use it). Bernie’s fees might be high, but it was trying to service that debt that bankrupted the Nurburgring, not FOM.

          As for the current management, well, the ownership seems to have changed hands recently with a Russian billionaire reportedly buying a controlling stake in the company that had previously bought the ring, which had also run into financial difficulties due to the debts that it took on to purchase the circuit in the first place.
          However, it’s not clear how he actually plans to foot the costs of running the facility either, so at the moment the future of that circuit is still decidedly opaque.

    4. Sem (@05abrahamsemere)
      1st March 2015, 0:40

      I thought Hamilton was an arrogant, boastful show-off? Clearly, he does not need to have his ego stroked by needing to have the number one – he prefers his number 44 back from his karting days. I actually think that’s quite refreshing, but watch people criticise him for it :)

      1. @05abrahamsemere Or watch people praise him based on some extremely amateur attempt at psychological and personality analysis. It works both ways.

    5. Bernie makes a profit running F1, what ever you say about him as a fan you can’t criticise his business skills in turning cars going round in circles into money in his own pocket.

      He lays out the deals for circuits round the world that they pay him a fee to have a race. If a circuit owner takes him up on that and can’t make it make financial sense, that’s their failing.

      Remember I’m talking as a purely business exercise. As a fan the idea of these circuits in Europe, the heart and home of motorsport disappearing because the way the sport is run means it’s no longer a profitable venture is horrifying.

      It will harm F1 in the long term because it will cause viewership to dwindle but Bernie isn’t going to be on this Earth for the long term, he’s extracting what he can while he can. Those involved still letting him steer the ship while he already has his lifevest inflated are the real fools.

      1. yes, you can critisize BE for his business skills, and very easily @philipgb.

        He runs a short term strategy of squeezing as much as he can out of F1 while he is there. But having
        1. expensive races in faraway places with little interest in racing,
        2. putting it behind a pay wall on TV will hurt getting new people interested (its not like football that everyone can play in their yard with friends and then gets hooked for more),
        3. not investing in the breeding ground of new drivers (instead treating them like another money maker with GP2/3) and
        4. doing no promotion at all, not even in places where the sport is new and unknown/unloved
        oh, and lets not forget 5. stringently making sure that no one gets into contact with F1 online if he can help it by having all footage and imagery taken down if possible to further hamper the sports insiders communicate with fans and potential fans
        And its topped off with 6. Talking the sport down more often than not, being the first to tell us we have “lousy engines”, “no sound”, “uninspiring drivers/champions” and “no great racing”

        In all of that i haven’t yet even mentioned the shady image he has given F1 by preferrably dealing with strongman autocrats with questionable reputations for cronyism and allowing freedom for their people which is clearly a bother for more and more companies who face public pressure (and sometimes legal systems forcing that behavior on them) to seem to not corrupt and not supporting such behaviour.

        All in all, if he was running my company, and I had an interest in keeping it a good business in a further 5-10 years, I would immediately fire him and change the strategy completely.

        Yes, he has given the sport a huge boost starting a couple of decades ago. But he should have admitted handing over the reigns some 5 years ago and finding something else to get his kicks (I am convinced that is the real reason why he doesn’t stop, a lack of ideas what to do after that)

        1. @bascb

          Again, the long term health of the sport is of no concern to the man. He’s not long for this Earth, it’s not a family business he’ll leave to his children.

          He’s squeezing every last penny while he can.

          Races in countries no one is interested in at the expense of the classics will kill the sport, but it’s making him more money in fees now.

          Pay TV will stop new people coming to the sport and eventually cut off it’s supply of fans. But it makes more money right here right now.

          Not investing in the breeding ground will mean no future talent pool, but that’s an investment that won’t pay dividends right away, so a waste of money for some one with short term goals.

          Again as a fan of the sport these aren’t for it’s good. But for Bernies pocket they are the best decisions so you can’t criticise him from a personal business plan standpoint. He’s milking it for every last penny while he can while also putting it in such a state does anyone really want to oust him and be left fixing the mess?

          If I were in line for taking over, I’d let him do as much damage as he can. That way you avoid criticism when you take over because people will cut you slack to rebuild. Look at Ferrari last year, worse season in god knows how long. This year can only be better which is why it was the best time to clean house because the new bosses will be able to say ‘look see we’re making progress’

          Same with the overall running of the sport, best to let things get as bad as absolutely possible before you take over because if you take over, and things carry on getting worse then you won’t last long, you want things to hit rock bottom so you’re praised when things improve during your stint.

          1. Good to see you actually agree with me then @philipgb, yes, BE is squeezing out what he can while he is there. And he himself probably doesn’t even know how to stop doing so.

          2. One wonders why a man with more than enough is squeezing f1 dry if he is not long for this world. He cant take his riches out of this world. For this reason i kinda agree that he doesn’t know how to stop bascb

            1. That’s not how billionaires think. There is no enough for them.
              And though he can’t take them with him he has his legacy and descendants to leave it for.

            2. mog, it is because he is being employed by CVC to squeeze as much revenue out of the sport in order to bail them out for the rather expensive mistakes that they have made in the Australian media market.

    6. His guitar is making as much noise as those e-formula cars, so I guess it kinda matches the theme…

      1. GB (@bgp001ruled)
        1st March 2015, 7:57

        you cant called that music. there is no melody, no chords, no hooks, nothing. the guy made good music in the 80s. but this… what a cheap, nonsense, horrible gimmick!
        i believe electric engines are the future and that the future of F1 will be electric someday (if BE doesnt kill it first), but this FE is really as good as this “song” to me, so the two fit perfectly…

    7. Well, hopefully, this is as bad as things will get for Alonso at Mclaren. A non running car a testing, crash, in hospital, missing the last test, not sure about making it to Melbourne, car breaking down between Melbourne and Barcelona…Things cant get any worse now…can it?

      1. I can think of 100 million things that can still go wrong.

      2. @jaymenon10

        There’s only thing that can make it even worse – If the car is just plain and simple slow

        1. Vettel drives the red tractor to a WDC :) first year there

    8. To top all of Mclaren’s woes, they know that they could be in a situation where they do not have a lot of tokens to develop their engine during the season as well. The FIA could have made a simole solution for Mclaren by telling them that they are allotted x number of tokens, instead they decided to make it another tactical game where Mclaren could get screwed over. (Which I’m pretty sure will happen)

      I predict that this season will be Mclaren’s worst since they entered the sport

      1. Exactly!
        When they mean ‘competitive’, they mean competing reliably enough against Torro Rosso, FI, Sauber & Lotus, and NOT RB, Williams, Ferrari & Merc [They’re in different league]. I guess McLaren’s campaign will be no different from 2013 & 2014.

        1. I think it will be completely different @functor. I think the car will be reasonably, or even surprisingly fast, but it will be hard to be consistent (for lack of having ironed out setup ideas) and finish the races with everything working.

          Last years they weren’t bad with reliability but just far too slow at most tracks to really do something. This year they might bring some excitement from running high up but it will be a huge question mark whether they can stay there till the end. Quite a difference, although the end result (finishing about 5th in the teams ranking and having just a few podiums) could well be very much the same.

          1. I dont know why people think the car will be fast. Just because they went with a size zero approach, doesn’t mean that it’s going to pay off. Just ask the Williams team about the neatly packed 2013 car.

            My prediction is an average paced car , maybe the 3rd or 4th fastest on the grid, with really poor reliability.

          2. @bascb

            I think the car will be reasonably, or even surprisingly fast

            What exactly makes you think that?

    9. Ok , I’m confused
      Honda had quite a large chunk of time to build and test / dyno an engine ,

      I’m guessing they couldn’t fit it to a car and drive it round a track due to regs ,

      So is it installation problems ? Or engine itself ?
      Are they having ” oh crap – didn’t think of that ” moments ?

      Or is it all ok because it’s just teething and these machines are so complex but hamstrung by lack of track testing available ?

    10. Did you guys watch the Bob Fernley (from Force India) interview yesterday?
      (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SErWmuoTY4)

      Just for one second, it became difficult to continue disliking FI for their hypocrisy and for ruining the sport. When regulations change for safety reasons, and somebody runs an old spec car, and something happens, those who gave their approval will have some responsibility. So it is a somewhat valid abjection.

      But then I remembered they themselves ran the old spec car for 2/3 of 2015 testing!!! What a bunch of nonsense spewing hypocrites! Now I hate them even more.

      And on a different note, notice the dislike towards Crofty in the comments (again), I can only agree. I hate him as is, but why he has to waste Ted’s Notbook air time?

      And since it was the off season, I sort of had lost appreciation for my hatred of him, I had forgotten the full extent of how terrible he was. But then the Monaco GP replay came on. He kept yelling at Vettel’s, moves calling him Ricardo. On screen graphics come on, nope, still calling him Ricardo. And he never corrects his mistake. What a buffoon.

      Like someone else said: Every fool can ask twitter questions on tv, he is useless.

      Legard has nothing on this guy.

      1. @mateuss

        But then I remembered they themselves ran the old spec car for 2/3 of 2015 testing!!!

        Using a car in testing and using one for racing are two entirely different things. The conditions are vastly different, so are the speeds they drive. Even the amount of time driven is completely different. Hell, even the amount of cars at the track at a given time is drastically different (maximum 10 cars, generally 3 to 4).

        Races are a completely different beast, and therefore so are the security concerns. I’s really not that difficult to understand.

        1. Look at the mileage, they drive all day, sometimes cover up to 3 race distances a day.

          A typical back marker team will cover less than or about the same as a race distance in P1/2/3 and Q1. So in 8 days of testing they might have covered more than half a seasons worth of mileage. Sure, some days were shorter due to reliability, but so it is the case for in season mileage.

          The speed argument is total nonsense. For one, in winter cars often run with more fuel and ballast, hence carrying more energy. Then they will also be using faster tires, not available in the Grand Prix weekend. But whatever, a couple % reduction in speed makes no difference to safety, people crash behind the safety car going twice as slow. And sometimes, you will see them setting lap times in testing, that will not be replicated come the race, so this is utter nonsense.

          And yes, the number of cars on track might be an argument, but remember we are talking about the sole existing back-marker. It’s not as if they would have been racing in the mid-pack, they would have been quietly going around on their own at the back this year, and that is not a controversial prediction.

          So no, I’am not at all buying your argument. Might it be a little different? Sure, in some race weekends, the traffic might be a bit more hectic,but totally different? Absolutely no! Fact is, Force India spent days pounding round the track alongside other cars with their old-unsafe-spec car, while claiming that, as we can now see, that doing so is not okay, and preventing others from doing it where they had the to do so power.

          1. @mateuss It’s irrelevant if you “buy the argument” or not. Practice and race are two entirely different things, that’s a fact whether you acknowledge it or not. You said it yourself, they race the amount of millage comparable to half a season, but how many crashes between cars did we see? Only one, between Wolff and Nasr. So the crash/millage ratio is drastically lower. That says it all.

      2. You can hate on force india all you want, but reasoning doesn’t make sense, testing is different from racing.

    11. Yeah Fernando it all makes sense. Lend me your crystal ball.

    12. Right now i see the following order of drivers:

      1) Mercedes
      2) Williams
      3) Redbull/Ferrari
      4) Force India
      5) Toro Rosso
      6) Sauber/Renault
      7) McLaren

      so if i have to make the predictions for Australia

      1) Hamilton
      2) Rosberg
      3) Bottas
      4) Ricciardo
      5) Vettel
      6) Raikkonen
      7) Massa
      8) Kvyat
      9) Hulkenberg
      10) Verstappen

      1. I think RAI will be ahead of VET in Melbourne))

    13. But its curious in betting, Bottas is very down on the list, and he can have very seious options of getting a podium and who knows if he will fight for second position, or even with lot of luck for the win (if merc breaks).

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