McLaren apologize for Webber’s start gremlins, problem caused by new ECU
By Berthold Bouman
McLaren have apologized for Mark Webber’s starting problems during the Australian Grand Prix, Webber had already indicated it was a software-related problem, and today McLaren said in a statement that the ECU (Engine Control Unit), produced by McLaren Electronic Systems and supplied to all Formula One teams, caused the problem that cost Webber at least five places during the start of his home Grand Prix.
McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh yesterday said he would look into the matter. “We’ll put our hands up if it’s a fault that’s derived from the hardware or the BIOS,” he said, adding, “You can also inflict ECU problems on yourself by how you set it up, but I will look into it.”
But today McLaren said in a statement, “The electronic units themselves ran without incident in Melbourne, but there was a software-related issue that meant that Mark Webber’s Red Bull Racing car’s garage data system had to be re-started during the formation lap. That disrupted his preparations for the start of the race, for which Mark and the team has our apology. We are working together with them to prevent any recurrence.”
About his unfortunate start Webber later commented, “It wasn’t a good start, and we’ll look into why that happened. But when you find yourself in the middle of the pack and you don’t have KERS [in this case the ECU shut down KERS as well], you’re in a really hard place. You can’t attack and it’s hard to defend through the DRS zones.”
Sixth place for Webber during his home Grand Prix – Photo: Red Bull Racing
“My goal was to finish on the podium, but things went against me from the start: we had no telemetry on the grid, we had no KERS for the opening 20 laps and the car fell off the jacks at the first pit stop, costing me time.”
A new revised standard ECU was introduced this season and during pre-season testing there were already a few software problems which meant several teams were not able to properly record the stream of car and engine data the ECU produces.
According to McLaren, “An ECU comprises several thousand parts, tens of thousands of solder connections and hundreds of thousands of lines of software. It is a very complex piece of equipment that controls the powertrain and DRS, and acts as a car’s primary data system.”
The standard ECU was introduced by the FIA in 2008, and the old version ran four years without problems. The new version will also power the 2014 V6 turbo-charged hybrid engines, the new control units are not only used in Formula One, but also in the NASCAR and IndyCar series.