Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Shanghai International Circuit, 2018

Drag not McLaren’s only problem – Boullier

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

In the round-up: McLaren racing director Eric Boullier admits the team’s car is suffering from too much drag but says it is not the sole reason they are the slowest Renault-powered team.

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What they say

Boullier said McLaren’s performance shortfall is worse in qualifying than the race and isn’t just down to an excess of drag:

This is obviously one of the issues. Our top speed is not the best one because we are bottom in the ranking.

But it’s not the only one, it’s not as simple as this. If it was just a question of drag in the car it would be easy to fix. We have to address fundamentally all the aspects of the car to make sure we know we are where we should be.

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Comment of the day

Just how good is Sergio Perez?

Perez really is a very good driver, and it’s a shame that he has been overlooked by the top teams.

People often call Hulkenberg (my favourite driver) underrated, but he often gets a lot of praise in the paddock… in fact it’s Perez who is truly underrated. I don’t even think his time at McLaren was that bad. He beat Button in qualifying and was better than him in the last five or six races that season. He was clearly improving and put in some very good performances in the second half of the season (his drive in India, for example). He continued to improve greatly when he was in Force India with Hulkenberg, especially in qualifying.

Unfortunately, now he has to cope with Ocon who is seemingly equally good, but with more potential to improve, so his chances of getting another drive at a top team seem sadly distant at the moment. If he wants to make the big boys notice him again he’ll have to wipe the floor with Ocon… and that will be very difficult to achieve.
Aaditya (@Neutronstar)

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  • 55 comments on “Drag not McLaren’s only problem – Boullier”

    1. I agree with the Comment of the day RE Perez.

      A very good driver, very underrated.

      The problem with him is his one year spell at (the first of many truly terrible seasons at) McLaren.

      He did fine. He was improving and honestly didn’t deserve to be dropped. The problems added onto that were (A) who he replaced (Hamilton) and (B) who he was up against (Button). The truth is, he compared relatively well to Button, but in a team who were looking to replace a superstar, to “only” be on the pace of a driver who was well known to be super smooth but lack that last tenth of outright pace just wasn’t quite enough to have people sit up and say “great job”. He was on the pace of a world champion in his one season at a new team alongside one, but because of who it was, he gets no credit for it.

      Now teams will always have a “But” when looking at him. “But he lacks that last tenth”. Ocon has done a similar job in his first year at Force India as Perez did at McLaren, matched the established driver. No established top team will look at him over the guy they feel has more potential or a Verstappen, Ricciardo, Sainz, Gasly etc. He’s now harshly seen as a safe pair of hands at the top of the midfield tree not quite able to make the step up. A shame as interpreted slightly differently rather than compared to Hamilton, he was a proven a match for Button, one of the classiest racers in the past 20 years of F1 and is every bit as capable of running at a top team as, say, Bottas or arguably even Kimi.

      1. Very nice COTD @Neutronstar , and a great follow-up @mrcento

      2. Personally, I am mixed about Perez. His best drives are opportunistic ones rather than really taking more out of the car. That means he has several podiums to his name to Hulk zero.
        But I am not sure he is as consistent (even if that improved) and top teams are not after that opportunistic win but want to challenge for the win on regular basis while the top of the midfield is looking at that opportunistic podium or win and Perez is the perfect candidate for them…

      3. Perez had more WDC points than Bottas did, yet both were from Mercedes’ customer teams. I believed Perez was the one who should have gotten Rosberg’s seat at Mercedes, not Bottas.

        1. This. But both are second tier drivers. Slightly under WDC level.

          It makes no difference. Riciardo would be a fairly decent choice.

      4. Perez is as good as any of the top guys in F1 … but he’s also shown that he gets flustered easily, & it effects his performance.
        It happened at McLaren, & it happened again last year with his Ocon spats.

        Also, remember that he was apparently offered the Renault drive ahead of Hulk, but turned it down to stay at Force India. Seems he has caught Alonso’s wrong choice disease … going to McLaren before he was ready didn’t help him, & now missing the Renault opportunity.

        He might still end up at Renault though, especially if / when Red Bull pull Sainz back into their car.

      5. Umm, if Perez was lacking any tenths, you can easily see compared to Hulk that he got some extra few tenths over time. And Ocon is already matching that. Look at Hulkenberg against Sainz and Verstappen against Sainz, and Verstappen got a few tenths since he left for Red Bull too. He wasn’t matching Ricciardo at qualifying in the beginning, he’s now regularly faster, and he’s always had the race pace anyway. Based on all that, Perez could easily be up there with the best on the grid. Similarly for his last two teammates then as well.

        1. Hulkenberg outqualified Perez and finished ahead more often when both cars finished. Perez didn’t have any tenths over him, just didn’t have Hulk’s dreadful luck :)

          1. Exactly, but it seems like everyone don’t know these “little” details. Hulk outqualified perez in every season but he had too many dnf to beat perez in the championship, despite it, perez never had something over hulk except luck

    2. How does a race title sponsorship deal with Singapore Airlines, and Abu Dhabi’s counterpart, Etihad Airways, affect F1’s sponsorship deal with Emirates (which is a main sponsor just like Heineken and Rolex)? Those airlines are major competitors

      1. @strontium You forgot to include that Bahrain has an airline company (Gulf Air) as a race title sponsor as well.

    3. I’m gonna try to be neutral and fair here, but the fact McLaren admits they are realizing the car philosophy lacks basic logic is just weird.
      Either Renault tells you the PU-plan and development and you built according or someone is lying here… or they actually are lacking severely in the software and mappings as the core issue seems to be peak deployment along with top speed…. so the problem here is. Who and why decided this philosophy with the knowledge they had zero input in the Renault package and why isn’t he washing dishes in a London bar for wasting another year for Alonso?

      COTD: People forget that Perez kind of went bonkers in GP2 when he was up and coming. People just don’t remember that because….. that ’10 GP2 season was ridiculous and even better.. because it was won on Maldonado’s death wish-like pace and a string of ludicrous races, particularly that Valencia GP.
      Perez didn’t really kept cool during that season, and I still saw that against a GP3 champion last year. He hasn’t learned much or anything since then. He is still quite fast, but wild with oversteer. I’d rate Ocon higher – a GP3 championship achieved in quite a intense year and jumping from a bad chassis (at which he started the all-time record for most consecutive race finishes from the start of a career) to a very different package and only got beat 13/7 in qualifying against Perez with almost a decade of experience.

      1. but the fact McLaren admits they are realizing the car philosophy lacks basic logic is just weird.

        @xiasitlo – have you seen the documentary about McLaren’s 2017 car? I’m no longer surprised, because the McLaren team of 2017 seemed (at least in my eyes) to operate in its own bubble when putting together the chassis, and allowed Honda to do the same. I’m not sure if McLaren’s approach improved this year, but for sure on the other side, Renault wouldn’t be as flexible as Honda as Renault arguably has two teams with higher precedence (the works team, and RBR being more likely to bring them glory). So probably a step forward with the PU and a half/quarter step back due to being a PU customer.

        1. Phylyp
          It is probably just dawned on them they are not as good as though they were. Last year they had Honda to blame. Not this year. Still, the late change of power unit can’t have been easy and compromises would had to be made. Their fundamental problem though, is simply too much spin. Had they just said we want to be more reliable, and score points in most of the races this year, with the new Renault power unit, I doubt anyone would be pointing fingers about their obvious performance defecit to Renault, never mind Red Bull. But that’s McLaren for you. Still, things are better than what they have had to deal with for the last 3 years with Honda.

          1. Last year their good performance on slow and twisty tracks and poor performance on fast tracks proved beyond doubt that their chassis was very good and the engine was holding them back massively.

          2. I have to agree with @socksolid. Last year, their performance at chassis dependant circuits was far superior to power dependant circuits. The best chassis on the grid was a bold claim, but nonetheless, the chassis was the saving grace for them on 2017.
            This year, it’s hard to take Mclaren seriously with some of their statements. They’ve said on occasion that their chassis co-relates perfectly to the wind tunnel so far, and that they should be improving at a rapid rate with updates because their base is good. Then they’ve made statements saying that they set their performance expectations way lower than they should have, and other teams have improved massively. Now they’re saying that high drag isn’t their only problem and it seems to be a more fundamental problem regarding overall design.
            I honestly think that they haven’t delivered up to expectations this year. In part it might be down to the late switch to Renault or it might be adjustment teething from a works to customer status. Either ways, they have their work cut out for them.
            I do think that they can turn it around though. I mean, if they went from one of the worst cars on the grid to a race winning car in 2009, in just under 10 races, I think they can turn around this situation as well.

          3. Personally from day one I expected Mac to lag behind Renault and RBR for a time, brand new relationship and all. Doesn’t that only make sense? It doesn’t matter what they said of their chassis last year, this is this year and things have changed. They would have made chassis changes if they were still with Honda too. They have said there is a B car coming that should have been out already, so let’s see what comes of that, also with the patience that that too will take time to learn about. Every day is a work in progress. They were never going to be winning the Championships this year, so the season is to see how well they can develop and progress throughout the year, obviously to place as high as they possibly can, but nothing that happens to them this year will prevent them from learning a ton and progressing into next year as well. Honda had them handcuffed. Renault does not. Can’t wait to see what the new car brings, even though they won’t be winning races this season.

      2. why isn’t he washing dishes in a London bar for wasting another year for Alonso?

        I think you misspelled McLaren @xiasitlo, Alonso is secondary here. Sometimes doesn’t look like, even internally, but he is, or at least he should be

        1. @johnmilk

          Agree, but…
          If it wasn’t for Alonso, who even with my small McLaren fuming, deserves respect, even after that hit piece of a documentary, I’d honestly think McLaren would only be having around 10/15 points at this point, instead of 28 as Vandoorne isn’t just a poor GP2 champion.

    4. Brabham BT62. Aston Martin Superleggera. McLaren now on course for releasing 15 new cars by 2022. I think it’s about time for Williams (or Stroll) should consider building their own supercar. F1 influence should be enough for Williams to have a supercar business too.

      1. Williams have a huge technology based business, focused on renewables & ev automotive.

      2. @ruliemaulana I’ve been following the news on Brabham automotive, there was some hope that they would also apply for a spot on the grid. Maybe even buy-out a team, Force India being a good candidate.

        Relative to your comment, Williams does not have a supercar, but they do help other brands to engineer theirs. A couple of examples would be Jaguar and the performance division of Nissan, Nismo. If I recall correctly, they also have some other partnerships, but I don’t remember exactly with who

        1. @johnmilk Thanks. Nice info.
          Brabham buying-out Force India it will be a good news!

    5. I agree with the COTD.

    6. How much of a factor do the gear ratios play in the performance? I ask because teams have now had to freeze the 8 gear ratios for a few years now, haven’t they (not sure if the final drive ratio is also frozen)? So would that contribute to track-to-track variances between teams as much as aero/PU? For instance, Toro Rosso having a great Bahrain, but looking like a typical Honda team in China.

      1. I don’t think the final drive ratio is frozen, it would be really weird to have the same ratio for Monza and Monaco.

        1. it is frozen. the way these power units work is completely different to the old normally aspirated engines. so at monaco they probably don’t even make it to 8th gear, but at the same time there is so much torque they can use the same lower gears at spa, monza, baku etc.

    7. Such meerkat
      20th April 2018, 6:40

      Open letter to Eric Boullier, McLaren has easily made the best chassis in F1, the problem is that was in 1988.

      This years car is rubbish, why don’t you and Claire Williams go and cry into a martini while she’s still got the sponsorship

      1. That was brutal

      2. That is quite harsh. With an engine change, McLaren have improved reliability, and are nicely into the midfield. True, they’re not the #1 Renault-powered team, but hopefully the car will come together shortly (I think an update package is due in the early European races).

        Of course, their position is also flattered by Mercedes’ customers (FI and Williams) both having obligingly taken a relative step backward.

        1. I think an update package is due in the early European races

          @phylyp from what I heard, and I believe it was on Autosport’s social media, they are actually planning to introduce a B spec car by barcelona. I will try to find that source.

          In a way it kind of proves the first comment right, if they feel the need to introduce a new package

          1. found it

            I’m actually surprised this didn’t make the round-up now that I think of it

          2. @johnmilk – Thank you, for the confirmation and the article.

            I would give McLaren a bit of room until Spain, and then let’s see how their performance is. The good news is Alonso seems calmer about the situation, so that holds some promise.

            Unless of course Renault have added a gag clause around PU criticisms to the contract similar to what has reportedly been done for RBR.

            1. @phylyp you’re welcome

              I would give McLaren a bit of room until Spain

              Well, but where is the fun in that?! ;)

      3. @Such meerkat

        i don´t think that´s fair to claire williams. williams didn´t argue winning championships “soon” for the last 3 years and didn´t put blame on others as a natural reflex, like mclaren did an does… “That stupid 2€ bolt” comes to my mind as one of the most absurd ones…


        good link. i like these quotes:
        “The car we have now, is as per plan, it’s not that we missed the targets with it.”
        “But we missed the schedule targets with it, which means the car we’ll have in Barcelona should have been in Australia”

        it´s like we built the fastest car of 2015, but just finished it for 2019…

        1. @Zad2 From your comment it seems you think I’ve ascertained that Williams make the same sort of excuses McLaren, this is not the case.

          I was referring to the fact that both McLaren and Williams are not in good health from a car standpoint

          I was also making reference to Eric Boullier last year and year before that saying they had the best chassis but were being held back by Honda. I was saying yes mate you did have a good chassis, just not right now

          I was also referring to the fact that Williams will lose their title sponsor, which is martini, it’s not like I can make a joke about crying into your Vodafone handset or Santander bank statements, but crying into a martini to me sounds apt

          I hope that clears up my initial comment, sorry for the confusion.

      4. Maybe you were snoozing for 30 years or drinking too many Martinis before you turned keyboard warrior.

        1. What are you talking about?

          I’m 36, so I was drinking martinis at 6 was I? I don’t even like martini

          Read my second comment, it elaborates on my brutal and harsh commentary, before you go and call me a keyboard warrior

          And yes I know it’s harsh, I’m allowed to be harsh providing I’m not rude and ignorant

    8. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      20th April 2018, 7:30

      Good CoTD and this is exactly why the Ocon Perez relationship has been so fractious I believe. Perez believes (probably rightly so) that he’s bigger than Force India and top dog there and is fighting for a bigger drive but then has serious competition from his young teammate.

    9. Now McLaren is the slowest Renault team, last year they were slowest Honda team, 2014 they were slowest Mercedes team..

      At all points drag slows you down. Having less is better. And I am not convinced they gain a lot of downforce from the extra drag.

      And they have least amount of excuses avaliable since 2013.

      1. @jureo I think Prodromou is yet to demonstrate he can design a fast car.

        1. except when he was head of aero at Red Bull 2009-13

          1. guess who was there with him

          2. He also had 200 Red Bull engineers working with him.

            Team is more than one lead man.

        2. @spoutnik
          Hiring the good guy in the wrong position is a textbook error. McLaren is a very different reality than RBR in terms of facilities,resources,budget… Prodromo is an excellent aerodynamic engineer, he used to be working very closely with Adrian Newey (right next to his office) and Rob Marshall. Adrian used to integrate/validate the ideas coming up from the different departments into the car’s design and that is his main strength. People thinks that he is the sole inventor of all the RBR innovations but he is not (that’s another story).

          As for Prodromo, McLaren should have figured out if he is suited or not to the CTO role. I’m not saying that he isn’t qualified or he is responsible for Mclaren failure. I’m just discussing the idea that his potential failure is the management responsibility because being an excellent aero guy doesn’t mean that he can technically lead the team to build a race winning car.

          Ferrari have been doing this (hiring the good guy in the wrong position) countless times and the result were just failure after failure. Aldo Costa who is a very good chassis engineer failed badly in the technical director role. Steve Nichols the man behind the MP4/4 (credit to Gordon Murray too) was unrecognizable in Maranello. There is plenty of examples like Pat Fry,Tombazis,James Allison,John Barnard…

          1. @tifoso1989 Indeed, and though I obviously lack the technical knowledge as well as information about McLaren internal structure at some point there are people in charge that need to take responsibility? I’m not saying he is responsible but just that we’re yet to see a fast car design and he’s in charge of the aero.
            Better could be to wait for Spain and the b-spec, along with a better understanding of the Renault PU to judge.

    10. Wow, I so much disagree with the comment of the day. Perez is a terrible driver. He is error prone. He isn’t stable. He can’t handle pressure. He thinks only about himself, not about the team result. He was just lucky to get at least half of his podiums (if not all of them).
      That is why top teams will never consider Perez.

      Being egoist is okay when you are fighting for the championship (and Rosberg proved that even if you help you team get a better result, and, basically, you gift a win to you main rival, you can still win the championship). But when your team can put pressure on Red Bull (2017, all started in Canada), and you don’t allow it, the top teams see that.
      PS: BTW, Sainz is the next Perez, a boring, error-prone, unstable, overrated driver.

      1. @Sviat ”He is error prone.”
        – I disagree with you on this part of your comment. Yes, he used to be that early in his F1-career (essentially both Sauber-seasons as well as the single Mclaren-one), but more or less since he joined his current team, he’s been far less error-prone than he was before. The only times since joining FI when he’s really caused an unnecessary crash/accident were the incidents with Massa, and Ocon in Canada in 2014, and in Belgium last season respectively.

      2. I don’t think he’s terrible by any measure, but he isn’t anything great either. Regarding the comparison to Hulkenberg, I actually thought Hulkenberg was the better driver among the two during their time together. He was just unlucky not to get as many podiums as Perez, and was rated lower because of that.
        It’s not a question of Perez’s skill as such, but more a question regarding his personality and team player status. He seemed like a poor team player during his McLaren days, and had a lot of problems with the team in general. Even while racing Ocon, he seemed selfish and disobedient. I think you have to be in the league of Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel or Verstappen to demand preferential treatment within the team and act like a diva from time to time. Perez just isn’t in that category of driver to be honest.

    11. Agree mostly with the COTD apart from the Ocon issue. I don’t feel he was as good last year as people suggested, and was more the guilty party in the deterioration of the intra-team relationship – didn’t Gasly say a couple of weeks ago that his own relationship with Ocon had gone sour because Esteban can’t accept being beaten? Also he potentially cost Perez a win in Baku. He never looked consistently better or an equal to Perez. This year he’s been outqualified, and although Perez has had unlucky first laps in the last 2 grands prix his race pace has been far better than Ocon’s.

    12. So, the Mercedes is a diva and the McLaren is a drag queen.

      1. Ladies and gentlemen, your comment of the day

      2. @osella-alfaromeo LOL. COTD material there.

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