James Key, Toro Rosso, 2018

McLaren expect Key will arrive in time to work on 2019 car

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In the round-up: McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes the team’s incoming technical director James Key will arrive early enough to be able to aid the development of next year’s car.

What they say

McLaren expects Key to arrive from Toro Rosso during the 2019 F1 season:

[Regarding] James Key, we are in active discussions. I would characterise those discussions towards the end of coming to a positive conclusion for all parties.

I anticipate that James will join us in sufficient time next year to help influence the progress of next year’s car and ultimately the development of 2020 so we will share that news as soon as we have news, but anticipate being able to share something early in the new year.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Would points deductions be better than grid penalties for drives who use too many power unit components? @Stefmeister says no:

The problem with points penalties is that it hits some teams far worse than others and the teams it hits the hardest are the one’s that can least afford it.

For instance Red Bull were about 160 points behind Ferrari and nearly 300 ahead of Renault so could have taken a dozen points penalties and not felt it. Meanwhile behind them teams were much closer and for some losing 5-10 points has a big effect as don’t forget where they finish in the constructors standings decides how much prize money they get. Also consider that the smaller teams are buying engines, gearboxes etc… so it’s also seen as unfair on them to take points away for something they are been supplied by a third party failing.

The reason they went with grid drops when the long life components were first introduced in 2004 and why they have stuck with them for so long is because nobody has come up with an alternative that works. You need something that discourages the big teams from throwing new engines etc… in the car every day/weekend but which also doesn’t hurt the smaller teams the rule was brought in to help in the first place.

It’s something that has been looked at dozens of times over the years by the FIA, FOM, Liberty and the teams yet nobody has ever come up with an alternative that works.

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34 comments on “McLaren expect Key will arrive in time to work on 2019 car”

  1. That onboard video with Zanardi is spectacular. My girlfriend drives with hand controls, and I’ve tried on her car (an automatic Peugeot 107) and it’s very very hard! throttle is something you get used to quite quickly but braking is very difficult. I cannot imagine how hard it must be on a racing enviromment, braking so smoothly, while steering and controlling the throttle with the other hand, it’s incredible. And it’s also manual gearbox! Superb idea to have the downshifts in the brake handle like that.

    Interesting to see that he uses both hands to hold on the throttle too, he only lifts his right hand to upshift. I guess that’s to avoid fatigue. Not to compare myself with some legend like Alex Zanardi but it hurts a bit after a long drive using your hands!

    1. Spectacular is right. I have so much respect for Alex Zanardi. He sounds so relaxed too!

  2. Regarding COTD and grid penalties, I still think they should simply allocate the full penalty and move them back the equivalent of that many grid slots.

    Who cares if there are only 20 cars?
    You qualified 14th, after your 10 place penalty, you start in the 24th grid slot.

    Only place that could be an issue would be Monaco. Everywhere else, no problem.

    F3 is set to have a 30 car field, so there will be minimum 30 grid slots set up and useable. So use them!

    It would be quite embarrassing too, which is probably a bigger penalty these days!

    1. If need be, sent someone out there with a bucket of pain and make grid position 78 or so.

    2. Could you carry over the grid penalties? E.g. 10 place penalty drops you from 17th to 20th, you have a 7 place penalty at the next race.

      1. Jack – they did that before and it got silly. Basically made qualifying pointless for successive events, which is very much what they’re trying to avoid.

    3. I personally feel that PU related grid penalties should be completely abolished and replaced with a suitable financial penalty and a WCC points penalty. Having a poor PU is enough of a driver punishment, they shouldn’t have a further penalty, but, the team should to prevent over use of components.

      Grid penalties for driver infringements shouldn’t be announced until after qualification has completed. This will allow the stewards time to assess whether the team has performed to their maximum ability, those that haven’t gain a further penalty.

      1. @maddme, as others have noted, the problem there is that your system does disproportionately penalise smaller teams – in some instances, it might even act as a perverse incentive for the larger teams to deliberately take penalties instead.

        After all, if you are a team like, say, Red Bull, your proposed system is probably actually a major advantage to a major team like them. They’re so far ahead of the pack that taking penalties would not make the slightest bit of difference to their place in the WCC: furthermore, any financial penalty would be pocket change compared to the overall budget of the team.

        Chances are, if you are a team like Red Bull, the financial benefits from winning a race would outweigh any financial penalties that you might impose on them – so, if you were in their position, why wouldn’t you just throw extra engines at the car when there is not much of a disincentive not to do that?

        If you are in the midfield, by contrast, your proposals would have a far greater impact than for a top team. We have seen how even a small difference in points can shift a team a couple of position. A ten point penalty for, say, Red Bull has no effect whatsoever, but a ten point penalty for a team like Force India or Sauber could see them lose at least one position in the WCC, or perhaps even two places in a tight year like 2017 (6th to 8th in the WCC were separated by 10 points that year).

        Equally, a fixed financial penalty will, proportionally, take a larger chunk out of their budget compared to that of a top team – and whilst a larger team could probably afford to throw engines at a car if they think it might get them a win, that sort of behaviour would probably just result in a net loss for a midfield team, making it a losing situation for them on every front.

        1. As I said a suitable financial penalty, that doesn’t necessarily imply a blanket financial penalty. A top team such as RBR may be fined £100,000, whereas a smaller team may only be fined £10,000 for the same level of infringement.

          1. @maddme, what is “a suitable financial penalty”?

            Fining a large team £100,000 would mean nothing to them – to be frank, a team like Red Bull would treat that as a rounding error in their accounts. If you have works backing, as Red Bull now have from Honda, chances are that Honda would probably take the financial hit for producing new engines, and might even pay the fine themselves – the deterrence there is very weak, if not non-existent altogether if their supplier takes the penalty.

            Even for a midfield team, a £10,000 fine is a pretty weak deterrent – a minor transgression in the pit lane can attract a similar fine. No, for a midfield team, the deterrent is more likely to be associated with the costs of additional components instead, which would eat up more of their budget – something which is no problem for a major team, but one that is a much greater hardship for a midfield team.

            The system that you are proposing still comes across as being potentially harsher on the midfield teams and open to being abused by the larger teams.

    4. Why is it not possible to penalise a poorly performing team less than a top team? Motogp got around the problem by allowing teams who had not had 3 podiums in a season, a greater allocation of engines and more testing until the results returned when they immediately lose the concessions. A similar set up where a team that fails to score X points in the last Y races gets a free component change might improve matters.
      Harshly penalising struggling teams is not good for the sport.

      1. @mrfill Even if they were given the option to use a new power unit, gearbox or whatever without penalty the chances are the teams that would benefit from it wouldn’t want to use it for cost.

        Same with testing, Even if the smaller teams were allocated a day of extra testing the chances are they wouldn’t take it due to what it would cost them.

        1. They cannot avoid the cost – most of the penalties are for elements that have broken and have to be replaced. I’m just suggesting that the struggling teams don’t get another beating by losing grid places. With testing, you may be right but it does at least give them the option. At the moment they just get kicked again and again. This, at least, gives them a glimmer of hope…

      2. This MotoGP attitude seems good… but how often do you ever see F1 using ideas from others…?

        1. BlackJackFan, whilst, on the surface, it may look like those manufacturers would have unrestricted testing, in reality their ability to test is indirectly restricted by other factors – for example, those teams that are given those concessions still have to stick within the same allocation of tyres for testing for an entire season.

          It’s worth noting that the system that Dorna has developed isn’t really meant to give the private teams more test time, since most of those private teams wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of the extra tests. It’s really designed to help out manufacturers, not private teams, so it is a system that probably wouldn’t work quite so well in F1.

          1. Hi anon – thanks for the additional info. It’s as well I stated “seems” a good idea… ;-)
            But maybe something of this sort could be adapted – somehow – to fit F1…

            Here’s another idea:
            How about penalising teams by so many tenths-of-seconds added to their Quali times, in proportion to the number of Championship points the team has… although this will still also penalise the drivers…?

    5. My preference would be to remove the grid penalty and simply make the constructor not eligible to claim points for that car for the race. Its rarely a drivers fault for a engine failure so why punish them. Maybe add a race ban for each time a car uses 3 extra power units to stop the silly Honda style antics or throwing fresh engines every race to win a WDC.

  3. So could it not be easier for Zac Brown to just say “we hope to have some news on that early next year”?!

    He doesn’t half waffle on! Belongs in parliament.

    1. Zak does like to tell a story. Whether it’s a story based on fact or just Zack being Zak remains to be seen.

      No doubt Dieter will be asking Franz Tost the same question if he hasn’t already and it will be interesting to hear from that side.

      Last time James Key was mentioned, Toro Rosso were pretty adamant that he was going nowhere any time soon.

      I’d assume that at best he won’t be starting at Mclaren until we’ll after the start of the season, so his influence on the 2019 car is likely to be very limited. Getting to grips with what they have and influencing the 2020 car will be a fairly challenging exercise for him too, so I really don’t expect much until the 2021 car providing Liberty and the FIA actually get some regulations for 2021 sorted out soon.

      1. Brown has admitted McLaren is copying Red Bull/Newey’s design from last year so having Key’s input may not be as critical at this time.
        However, I find it hard to believe Key isn’t having some input even though he may not be permitted in the Woking design center.
        Issuing a gardening leave penalty is one thing – enforcing it is another.

  4. “Drivers rely on opening up the rear wing and pass someone like you do on the highway. There’s no battle.”
    – Again, not the case most of the time.

    The COTD is spot on! I thoroughly agree with it.

    1. @jerejj, it is clear that Jacques is not interested in making the most accurate statements, but making the sort of statement that will generate the most headlines and publicity for him – he’s become little more than a walking clickbait generator now.

      1. I don’t see what is clickbait about what JV has said here, and unquestionably drs has to go and should never have been introduced to begin with, as the majority believe. This is hardly some heavy hitting interview of the sort that would create headlines and publicity, but for some people if JV says what most think, it’s to be disregarded like he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Name one drs pass that is memorable and discussed even seconds after it has happened, let alone years after.

        1. @robbie Ricciardo’s pass on Bottas into Monza T1 in 2016, for example, in fact, there have been a lot of (too many to list them all) passes that were completed only in the braking zone and or at the following corner (after the DRS had already been de-activated) even if DRS was used before that.

    2. He’s not wrong. Most of the times it’s their only option, and when it doesn’t, they prefer to overtake with DRS because it’s just so effective

      1. @fer-no65 Except that most of the time it doesn’t really make a difference in aiding overtaking these days, there have been numerous cases where a driver got stuck behind another and wasn’t able to pass even with DRS activated despite having the chance to use it for many laps in a row.

        1. @jerejj But drs aided the trailing driver with an unfair advantage in momentum even if the pass didn’t occur literally when his wing was open. The presence of drs had also already affected the race when you combine all the catching up and the passing that occurred between all drivers because of drs. And saying that it doesn’t always work is not a reason to like it or keep it, and just shows how bad the dirty air effect is, and how that can be changed so that a bandage gadget like drs is not even needed.

  5. Mclaren is the only team capable of hiring someone and not knowing exactly when they’ll join the organisation.

    1. That’s probably because they first need to organize the organization.

      1. I think it’s more to do with not knowing the exact contract details with the employee’s current employer.

  6. So James Key is supposed to come riding into Woking, on a white (or orange) steed and fix everything.?
    If he wasn’t there by September, he likely wouldn’t have a great deal of influence on the 2019 car.
    From a personnel management and motivational perspective, try telling your senior design staff that the “new boy” is going to fix all their issues and correct their mistakes. Oh, but he won’t be here for a while ….. just keep doing what you’re doing.
    No disrespect to James K., but this is not how you build, motivate and reward a winning team.

    1. @rekibsn But they’re not a winning team and the whole team knows exactly how bad they are, so it should only be motivational for the existing staff to see changes, hopefully positive, occurring. Surely they know they need help. And who has said Key is supposed to come in and fix everything? You have, but they have said he will join in time to have ‘some’ influence, and then to assist in their progress on an ongoing basis, as all team members are always trying to do on their teams. As if Brown has promised his team Key will come in and fix everything. As if he would put that kind of pressure on Key.

  7. Here’s another idea, for over-use of engines:
    Deduct points from the team (not the driver), in proportion to the number of points they have – e.g. deduct 20% of existing team points for each PU change – less for smaller individual items.
    If the teams’ cars are already at the back of the grid and/or have too few points to make any difference, let it be…
    In 2018, for example, this might have put Williams in 9th place… More prize-money for them, and let Honda make up TR’s loss… ;-)

  8. Sauber’s good performace collapsed when the lost Key, and Toro Rosso’s jumped forward. So I think we are going to see a whole new McLaren in 2020. Not this year – it’s too late to influence the car significantly; I don’t care what Zak Brown says. But next year their car’s are already going to be looking a damn sight better. Lando and Carlos are only going to have to go through one year of great pain, me thinks!

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