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Monaco GP: Whitmarsh – McLaren not in a position to fight for victories

By Berthold Bouman

Monaco GP: Whitmarsh - McLaren not in a position to fight for victoriesIt has been a very difficult start of the season for McLaren, the MP4-28 is simply not fast enough, but the Woking-based team is still working flat-out to improve their performance. Although McLaren took 15 wins on the Monte Carlo circuit, all they can do this year is to gather data from the car, which will hopefully help the engineers to sort out the problems.

Martin Whitmarsh: We’re not yet in a position to challenge for victories

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh warned ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix his team is not in a position to fight for a win, “McLaren has a fabulous record in Monte Carlo. We’ve taken 15 wins — more than any other constructor — through the streets of the Principality and while we’re not yet in a position to challenge for victories this year, we’ll relish the challenge provided by this race and we hope to challenge for more points with both cars.”

Asked about this weekend’s prospects he said, “Our aim is to continue improving the performance of the MP4-28 in Monaco. The tight and twisty nature of the circuit makes its requirements fairly exceptional, but every kilometer that we complete with the car provides us with useful data because we have a very busy development programme. Overtaking opportunities are limited at Monaco, even with the DRS, so qualifying is going to be very important on Saturday afternoon.”

Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez makes a pit stop – Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez: You have to build up your speed during practice

Sergio Perez agrees Monaco is a great challenge and he commented,” It’s the only circuit on the calendar where you have to build up your speed during practice, rather than going flat-out on lap one. You push a little bit harder with every lap, getting a bit closer to the barriers each time.”

The Mexican crashed hard in Monaco in 2011, and thus the race in 2012 was his first race in a Formula One car on the Monte Carlo track. “I missed out on a World Championship point by one position and I’m looking to change that this year, said Perez, adding, “The MP4-28 is improving, as we introduce upgrades and understand its performance better. It was more driveable in Spain a couple of weeks ago, particularly on light tanks. That will be vital in Monaco because qualifying is very important.”

Jenson Button - Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button: I’m confident that we can make another small step forward

Jenson Button reckons the Monaco circuit is a unique challenge, and he commented, “Monaco is unlike any other racetrack in Formula One. A qualifying lap around there is an exhilarating experience for a driver: you turn into corners on the limit and you kiss every barrier at the exit. To get pole position, as I did in 2009, is hugely satisfying and you need to be inch-perfect for 78 laps in order to win the race. It’s a great challenge.”

About McLaren’s problems  Button said, “We’re not yet where we want to be in terms of competitiveness, but I’m confident that we can make another small step forward in Monaco. We’ll continue to chip away at the performance of the MP4-28 until it’s capable of challenging at the front; there’s no other agenda for a winning team like McLaren.”

Due to the problems with the car, McLaren is sixth in the Constructors’ Championship with only 29 points, Button is in tenth place in the Drivers’ Championship with 17 points, while Perez is 11th with 12 points.

Also read:

• Red Bull Monaco GP Preview
• Ferrari Monaco GP Preview
McLaren Monaco GP Preview
• Lotus Monaco GP Preview
Mercedes Monaco GP Preview
Sauber Monaco GP Preview
Force India Monaco GP Preview
Williams Monaco GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Monaco GP Preview
Caterham Monaco GP Preview
Marussia Monaco GP Preview

Spanish GP: McLaren to push ahead with development of MP4-28

By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: McLaren to push ahead with development of MP4-28After the first four races of the season, teams are looking forward to race on European soil again, and despite their far under par performance, McLaren are determined to extract the best of their 2013 contender, the MP4-28.

Martin Whitmarsh: The form book is still hard to read

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh admitted his team’s performance is still far under par. “As with last year, form at the start of the season is still somewhat volatile and unpredictable; last year’s Spanish Grand Prix saw an unexpected but worthy winner in Pastor Maldonado, and while it would be difficult to see another left-field runner emerging as a contender for victory, the form book is still hard to read,” said Whitmarsh.

McLaren’s priority is developing the MP4-28, and Whitmarsh said in a team statement, “We are pushing ahead to develop MP4-28, and will be hoping for a productive weekend that will allow us to gather a useful data set for the races ahead.“

Jenson Button - Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button: Europe feels like second home

Driver Jenson Button is pleased the Formula One circus has arrived in Europe again, “The start of the European season in Spain always feels like a fresh start to the year. Suddenly, you’re back in Europe, the motor homes and transporters are all lined up in the paddock, and it feels like a second home for everyone.”

About the problems his team encountered Button said, “It’s been difficult for the team to make consistent progress through the first four races, but I think returning to a circuit where we undertook two of the pre-season tests will give us a useful benchmark of our progress so far.”

McLaren are hopeful new parts will bring some improvements this weekend, “But,” Button said, “as with every upgrade, they’re simply part of the series of continuous improvement that are made across the season. As always, there’ll be elements of it that work, elements that perhaps work in a different way to what we’d anticipated, and elements that don’t work, or perhaps require further work. That’s life in modern Formula One.”

Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez: Barcelona has always been a difficult circuit for overtaking

Mexican Sergio Perez pins his hopes on the two DRS zones that have been allocated by the sport’s governing body the FIA. “I hope that the introduction of two DRS zones at Barcelona will help improve the racing. We saw in both China and Bahrain that Formula One cars can race really closely if they are under the right conditions; Barcelona has always been a difficult circuit for overtaking, so I hope the new regulations will improve matters.”

About the Circuit de Catalunya he said, “It is a place all Grand Prix drivers know well because we do a lot of miles there in the winter. It’ll be a good place to test the car as it’s a very demanding circuit aerodynamically. We have a lot of historic data from our testing there, and we’ll get a good read on our performance when we start testing next Friday.”

McLaren are currently sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, three points behind Force India, and 41 points behind Mercedes. Button is tenth in the Drivers’ Championship with 13 points, while Perez is 11th with ten points.

Also read:

Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
Ferrari Spanish GP Preview
McLaren Spanish GP Preview
Lotus Spanish GP Preview
Mercedes Spanish GP Preview
Sauber Spanish GP Preview
Force India Spanish GP Preview
Williams Spanish GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Spanish GP Preview
Caterham Spanish GP Preview
Marussia Spanish GP Preview

Bahrain GP: McLaren aiming for more points finishes at Sakhir

By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: McLaren aiming for more points finishes at SakhirMcLaren is getting ready for round four of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix. McLaren had a disastrous start of the season, and the Woking-based team only scored 12 points, but there have been some improvements.

Martin Whitmarsh: There’s been a little progress at every race

McLaren team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is aware his team needs to improve to stay in the race for the 2013 crown, and said, “We’ll look to consolidate our achievements in Shanghai with further solid points finishes this weekend. While the first three races haven’t been the easiest for us, there’s been a little progress at every round, and we’ll be looking for another improved showing, as well as the opportunity to increase our understanding of MP4-28, in Bahrain this weekend.”

Back in the UK, McLaren is working hard to improve the pace of the new car, and Whitmarsh said, “The work that goes on at the track is only the tip of the iceberg, though. There’s been an incredible amount of effort expended back at the McLaren Technology Centre [Woking, UK], so as to ensure that the delivery of new parts, and the evaluation of fresh ideas, remain constant.”

Jenson Button - Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button: Practice will be more important than ever

Jenson Button thinks the Sakhir circuit is a real challenge for drivers and commented, “The Sakhir circuit requires a good overall car balance. There are some tricky and technical low-speed changes of direction; you need to place the car really precisely at the corner entry in order to maximise traction at the exit. And there are also some high-speed sweeps — Turns 6 and 7, for example — and some fast corners, such as the uphill left-hander at Turn 11. You need a good front-end, but also good traction, to get the best from those corners.”

And the 2009 World Champion added, “It’s a place where the grip levels can be quite hard to anticipate, and where the wind direction can play quite an important part in determining the car’s balance. The wind can affect top speed and cornering performance, so practice will be more important than ever in enabling us to take the best overall package into qualifying and the race.”

Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez: Sakhir a good combination of high and low-speed corners

Sergio Perez also thinks the circuit is a challenge for man and machine. “The Bahrain Grand Prix circuit has plenty of run-off and a good combination of high and low-speed corners. The challenge for the drivers comes from the constantly evolving nature of the corners, and dealing with the sand — which gets blown onto different areas of the track from the surrounding desert,” said the Mexican.

The DRS zones will play an important role this weekend Perez reckons, “With two DRS zones, I think we should see some decent racing: the two best overtaking opportunities are into the Turn 1 and Turn 4 hairpins. They’re both good places to attack — you can force another driver onto the inside line and then attack on the exit, when they’re more vulnerable. The second DRS zone will mainly be used to close the gap down to the car in front, before attacking again along the pits straight.”

McLaren is currently fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, while Button and Perez are eighth and 14th respectively in the Drivers’ Championship.

Also read:

Red Bull Bahrain GP Preview
Ferrari Bahrain GP Preview
McLaren Bahrain GP Preview
Lotus Bahrain GP Preview
Mercedes Bahrain GP Preview
Sauber Bahrain GP Preview
Force India Bahrain GP Preview
Williams Bahrain GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Bahrain GP Preview
Caterham Bahrain GP Preview
Marussia Bahrain GP Preview

Chinese GP: McLaren hoping to make further progress after addressing car issues

By Berthold Bouman

Chinese GP: McLaren hoping to make further progress after addressing car issues - Photo: McLarenIt hasn’t been an easy start for McLaren this season, seventh place in the Constructors’ Championship with just four points scored during the first two races of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship is hardly something to be proud of, but McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is convinced his team will bounce back.

Martin Whitmarsh: Ability to respond has been exemplary

“The three-week break between rounds two and three has been a useful one, said Whitmarsh. “We have been fully engaged in further developing our understanding of the MP4-28 and are confident of being able to implement a number of changes this weekend that will widen its operating window and, potentially, improve its performance.”

He also hailed the team’s efforts to address the problems, “The team’s ability to respond has been exemplary; as I’ve already said, the behaviour of both Jenson and Checo has been superb. The engineers, designers and mechanics, too, have worked tirelessly and painstakingly to unlock the car’s potential, and we feel confident that we are starting to turn the page.”

McLaren has been working on car issues - Photo: McLaren

McLaren has been working on car issues – Photo: McLaren

Asked about his expectations ahead of the race in Shanghai Whitmarsh commented, “Formula One is an unpredictable beast. We’ve enjoyed some very competitive weekends in Shanghai in the past — with some equally unexpected results — and I feel confident and excited that we head to China this week with the hope of making further progress and eating into the advantage currently held by the leading pack.”

Jenson Button: We know where we’re losing performance

Jenson Button also admitted his performance has been far under par, but he’s also adamant McLaren will improve the performance of the MP4-28, “Taking home two points from the first two races obviously wasn’t what we had in mind at the beginning of the year, but I think everybody in the team has picked themselves up and really attacked the task of addressing our car’s issues. We know where we’re losing performance, so I think we’re actually all looking forward to seeing just what we can achieve in Shanghai.”

And the 2009 World Champion added, “The important thing for us as a team is to go into the weekend with clear focus, hone our strengths across the sessions and increase our understanding of the car. I definitely think there’s everything to play for with this championship, and I can’t wait to get back into the cockpit to start the fight again!”

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez: I feel there’s a lot of positivity within the team

Mexican Sergio Perez was also impressed by the way his team addressed the problems, “I think there’s been a little time to breathe after the first two races of the season. That’s been important for us, as we’ve been able to get back to MTC [McLaren Technology Centre] and really throw all our efforts behind the modifications we need to make the car perform more consistently. For me, it’s been incredible to not only see the speed of the team’s reaction, but also the positive way that everyone has pulled together to make those changes. It’s been an incredible team effort.”

And he further commented, “We go into round three, and I feel there’s a lot of positivity within the team. We may not have been as far up the order as we’d have liked, but those points-finishes mean the team has now extended its unbroken scoring run to 60 races — that’s pretty incredible, and a nice record to be able to maintain. Like everyone within the team, I’m really looking forward to China — it’s a great track with a little bit of everything – and I think it’ll be a good test of the car”

As mentioned before, McLaren is currently seventh in the Constructors’ Championship, while Perez and Button, they both scored two points, are 12th and 13th in the Drivers’ Championship.

Also read:

Red Bull Chinese GP Preview
• Ferrari Chinese GP Preview
McLaren Chinese GP Preview
Lotus Chinese GP Preview
Mercedes Chinese GP Preview
Sauber Chinese GP Preview
Force India Chinese GP Preview
Williams Chinese GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Chinese GP Preview
Caterham Chinese GP Preview
Marussia Chinese GP Preview

Malaysian GP: McLaren expects no immediate improvement, Button hoping for rain

By Berthold Bouman

Malaysian GP McLaren expects no immediate improvement, Button hoping for rain - Photo: McLarenAfter a disastrous start of the season in Australia, McLaren are travelling to Malaysia, knowing they have no time to improve the performance of the MP4-28, and the Woking-based team is therefore hoping the unpredictable weather at the Sepang International Circuit may change their fortune.

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh: We have been working tirelessly

“Clearly, our performance in Australia last weekend was not up to our high expectations — and we have been working tirelessly to bring additional performance to MP4-28,” said Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh ahead of round two of the FIA Formula One World Championship.

But he doesn’t expect any major improvements, “The short turnaround between rounds one and two of the championship means that we’ll arrive in Malaysia with less scope to improve our fortunes. This weekend, however, will provide us with additional opportunities to understand our car’s behaviour and to increase our understanding of the package.”

About the circuit Whitmarsh said, “It’s one of the most physically demanding races of the year — for both the drivers and their machinery — and the race will be tough for all competitors. Both Jenson and Checo have gone well at this circuit in the past, and both put in excellent performances throughout the weekend in Australia, so I’m sure they’ll once again be pushing the car to its limit.”

Sergio Perez and Martin Whitmarsh - Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez and Martin Whitmarsh – Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button: There’s a lot of work to be done

Ninth place and only two points in Australia, that was the maximum Jenson Button could extract from the car last weekend in Melbourne. “Despite getting the maximum out of the car, it’s still clearly not where we want to be. There’s a lot of work to be done but we all know that this team won’t stop working until they get it right,” Button said.

The 2009 World Champion is actually hoping the Malaysian climate could lend the team a hand, “For this weekend, I don’t think we can expect an improvement in our fortunes, but the thing about Malaysia is that it can be so unpredictable — particularly with the later start time on Sunday afternoon, which tends to see late-afternoon showers fall. We saw that last year, when Fernando [Alonso] won, and we know that the unpredictable weather can make it a lottery for everyone.”

Sergio Perez: We need to close down the gap

Also Sergio Perez admitted McLaren has a lot of work to do. “Last weekend’s race was a difficult one for everybody on the team, but it’s shown us exactly what we need to do to close down the gap to the leaders. This weekend in Malaysia will be about trying to maximise the package we have while knowing that it’s not going to be enough to allow us to fight for overall victory.”

But he does not expect immediate improvements this weekend, “We know what we have to do — and I know that everybody within the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team will be working incredibly hard to bring performance to the car. That may not happen in Malaysia, as it’s so soon after the Australian Grand Prix, but we know it’ll start coming soon.”

Also read:

Red Bull Malaysian GP Preview
Ferrari Malaysian GP Preview
McLaren Malaysian GP Preview
Lotus Malaysian GP Preview
Mercedes Malaysian GP Preview
Sauber Malaysian GP Preview
Force India Malaysian GP Preview
Williams Malaysian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Malaysian GP Preview
Caterham Malaysian GP Preview
Marussia Malaysian GP Preview

Australian GP: Dismal performance hurts McLaren, expects long road to recovery

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP: Dismal performance hurts McLaren, expects long road to recovery - Photo: McLarenWhile Ferrari were celebrating the 30 points they scored in Melbourne during the Australian Grand Prix, and Kimi Raikkonen celebrated his 20th career win, there was really not much for McLaren to write home about.

Ninth and 11th place in FP1, 11th and 13th place in FP2, and 17th and 18th place during the third free practice session at the Albert Park Circuit, a dismal start of the season to say the least. Qualifying didn’t bring much improvement, Jenson Button qualified as tenth, while his Mexican team colleague Sergio Perez didn’t make it in the top ten and started the race from 15th spot on the grid.

It seems McLaren is in the same position, if not worse, as Ferrari was at the start of the 2012 season, and Button even admitted the two points he scored today didn’t ease the pain. It will be a long road to recovery for the McLaren team.

“I scored two World Championship points today,” said the 2009 World Champion, adding, “Which makes 1001 in my career I’m reliably informed, and to be honest I don’t think I could have scored any more than that. But, although that’s a nice stat, it doesn’t ease the pain caused by the knowledge that our car still needs a lot of work done before it’s properly competitive.”

Jenson Button during one of his pit stops - Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button during one of his pit stops – Photo: McLaren

The main problem were the tyres, Button said. “I think we should be happy with how we went about the race. People find it very difficult to overtake me — that’s why I finished where I did — but we thought the super softs were going to last for about two laps so we set them up to last for three laps and as soon as lap four started everyone else’s tyres started getting good but mine were just … I could see the fronts throwing rubber off everywhere!”

Perez was certainly very disappointed with his McLaren debut, 11th place and no points. The McLaren MP4-28 simply doesn’t have the pace, “I got a good start, which is always a bonus, but, after that, even though the team did a great job with the strategy, we just didn’t have enough pace to make significant further progress,” said the 23-year old ‘Checo’ Perez.

He thinks he could have scored points today, but it didn’t happen, “I nearly managed to score a point, but in the end I couldn’t quite get up to 10th place at the end. To finish 11th is never really satisfying, but I think Jenson and I both drove pretty good races today.”

Sergio Perez climbs in his car just before the start of the race - Photo: McLaren

Sergio Perez climbs in his car just before the start of the race – Photo: McLaren

The only thing Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh was happy about today, was the fact his drivers didn’t make any mistakes, which would have worsened the situation for his team. “A ninth-place finish and an 11th-place finish don’t constitute much of a result by our sky-high standards, and ultimately the 2013 Australian Grand Prix weekend must therefore go down as a disappointing one for all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes,” said Whitmarsh.

“Our car simply hasn’t been quick enough here, but undoubtedly our drivers and engineers got the maximum out of it this afternoon and you can’t ask for more than that.”

Despite the kind words of his team boss, Button still expects a tough week, and an ever tougher weekend in Malaysia. “I think we’re going to have a tough week. Malaysia is next weekend and we can’t do too much before then. We’re not suddenly going to be competitive. If we came away from Malaysia with the same number of points, we’d be ecstatic — but that’s not McLaren. We should be further forward,” he said to the BBC this afternoon.

“Hopefully we can understand the car a bit more after the race today and extract a bit more performance. It’s going to be a long night doing the debrief …”

Australian GP: McLaren working on pace of MP4-28, determined to score points

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP: McLaren working on pace of MP4-28, determined to score points - Photo: McLarenMcLaren are determined to score points during the opening round of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship: the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne. As is the case for most teams, the first race of the season will be a tough test, but Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is confident McLaren will score points at the Albert Park circuit.

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh: McLaren in decent shape

Or, as Whitmarsh put it in his own words, “In the days leading up to the Australian Grand Prix, it’s fair to say that every team member of every Formula One team is looking over the precipice, balancing their hopes and fears, their nerves tensed in anticipation for the long slog ahead. It’s a tantalising prospect — and it’s one that keeps everyone who loves our sport coming back for more.”

He admitted testing had been troublesome for the Woking-based team, “We’ve faced a challenging few weeks prepping our new MP4-28 for the 2013 season. It’s important to remember that our MP4-28 is a new and uncompromising design that we intend to develop aggressively throughout the year. Undoubtedly, it has great potential — and we fly to Melbourne determined to show well and to score points that should establish us in good stead for both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ World Championships.”

He is confident the problems will be solved in time, “We’re still working tirelessly to bring more pace to the MP4-28’s performance envelope, and I believe we’ll arrive in Australia in decent shape.”

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button: well-prepared

Jenson Button is also looking forward to the start of the season, and he is well-prepared. “I’ve had a fantastic winter: I’ve never stopped training and working, and I feel incredibly fit and focused ahead of this new season,” the 2009 World Champion said.

Asked about winter testing he commented, “I’ve seen every side of that: you can have a terrible winter of testing, then turn up at the first race and be competitive; equally, you can look impressive in winter testing and be nowhere in Melbourne. If you’re lucky, it all comes together in the tests and you hit the ground running at the first race.”

He has fond memories of Melbourne, and said, “I’ve had some great experiences in Melbourne, having won the race three times, and I love the place. There isn’t a better location in the world to be kicking off what will no doubt be a fiercely competitive World Championship.”

Sergio Perez: an honour to drive for McLaren

Sergio Perez replaces Lewis Hamilton, who will be driving for Mercedes this season, and he spent the winter getting to know his new team. “It’s been an incredibly busy winter. Of course, for me, there has been the additional challenge of getting to know a new car and new engineering systems, and learning the names and roles of the many people I work closely with in the organisation.”

“But it’s never stopped being fun and I can already appreciate how useful that learning will be when I arrive in the pit garage in Melbourne to drive the car in a Grand Prix weekend for the first time.”

And he optimistically added, “For me, arriving in Melbourne as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver will be an incredible honour. I’ve never worked harder over a winter to be ready for the new season, and I’m confident I’ve done everything within my reach to be ready. Now all I’m waiting for is for the red lights to go out next Sunday afternoon!”

Also read:

Red Bull Australian GP Preview
Ferrari Australian GP Preview
McLaren Australian GP Preview
Lotus Australian GP Preview
Mercedes Australian GP Preview
Sauber Australian GP Preview
Force India Australian GP Preview
Williams Australian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Australian GP Preview
Caterham Australian GP Preview
Marussia Australian GP Preview

Rosberg sets the pace for Mercedes on final day of pre-season testing

By Berthold Bouman

Rosberg sets the pace for Mercedes on final day of pre-season testing - Photo: Mercedes BenzNico Rosberg set the quickest time for Mercedes on the final day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain today. The German completed 131 laps and recorded a time of 1m20.130s on the soft Pirellis, which is also the fastest time set during testing at the Barcelona circuit.

“We have achieved a lot of mileage and I can feel that the balance of the car is good. I have the general feeling that we are in a better position than in the second half of last year but this is testing not racing, of course,” said the German.

He remained cautious about his chances during the first race of the season at Melbourne, “The conditions in the first race will be completely different to here as it will be much hotter in Melbourne and Sepang so we need to wait and see.”

Spaniard Fernando Alonso set the second fasted time today in the Ferrari F138, he was 0.364s slower than pace-setter Rosberg. He was optimistic about Ferrari’s test results, “I think the team is pleased, because the results we saw today matched our expectations. Some new parts we introduced, on the bodywork for example, are clear to see, others less so, but they are all important and I feel optimistic and confident, because the car responds the way I had expected.”

“I still don’t have a clear idea of the general order of competitiveness,” he added. “For me, this is just testing and you can’t tell how the others are doing.”

Jenson Button - Photo: McLaren F1

Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren F1

Jenson Button was third for McLaren but the 2009 World Champion was 1.314s off the pace in the MP4-28 after completing 122 laps. In a statement McLaren said, “After completing over 5,000 kilometres, through dry and wet conditions, we have collected plenty of data from MP4-28A. We’re all really looking forward to the first race in Melbourne in two weeks — from the lap times we’ve seen the season is going to be incredibly close!”

Fourth fastest was Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber, and he was pleased with the progress Sauber has made, “We did most of the planned programme with a qualifying and a race simulation. The qualifying simulation went quite smoothly, but we have some potential left with the balance of the car and some homework to do before Melbourne. But I think that we found some interesting directions, and overall I’m quite satisfied.”

But all eyes were on Kimi Raikkonen, who called in sick yesterday, but today showed up to complete only 50 laps in the Lotus E21, unfortunately for him, the gearbox caused problems and had to be replaced, which cost a lot of time.

“I was sick yesterday and the car was sick this morning. It’s not what you want, but you go testing to find out if there are any problems with the car. For sure, we haven’t completed all the laps we wanted during pre-season, but that is often the case. We’ve found a few issues and we have solutions for them, which is positive,” the Finn commented.

Not just health problems for Raikkonen today - Photo: Lotus F1

Not just health problems for Raikkonen today – Photo: Lotus F1

He too, is looking forward to the first race of the season, “We ran through a lot of assessments this afternoon and the feeling in the team is that we have a strong basis to start the season; even if we haven’t shown that every day. I’m happy with the car and looking forward to going racing.”

Paul di Resta was back in the Force India again after Sutil had tested the VJM06 yesterday, the Scott was sixth today. Force India did a race simulation today and di Resta said, “The race distance this afternoon was straightforward and there were no red flags while we were running. The weather was much warmer today and that gives us useful tyre information, which we can compare with the data we have from Adrian’s [Sutil] work yesterday in similar conditions.”

Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas again shared testing duties for Williams today, Maldonado was seventh, while Bottas took ninth place. Sebastian Vettel ended the day in a Williams sandwich as he was eighth in the Red Bull RB9.

Asked about the test results the triple World Champion said, “We’re in good enough shape I think. Overall testing has been good for us and we didn’t have too many problems.” But this season will be all about new 2013 Pirelli tyres, the German reckons, “But if you sum up all three tests I think all the teams were linked in to what the tyres could do and at times it was extremely difficult to read the set-up changes and find a direction because the tyres were always pretty challenging!”

Tenth place for Charles Pic today - Photo: Caterham F1

Tenth place for Charles Pic today – Photo: Caterham F1

Charles Pic was tenth for Caterham today, as he left both Marussia drivers and Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso behind him with a lap of 1m23.115s, certainly not a bad result. “We’ve finished everything we planned for this test and completed 116 laps today, including a race simulation and full pit stops so we’ve done everything we can to prepare for the start of the season in a couple of weeks,” said the Frenchman.

Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton also shared testing duties today, Bianchi was 11th, some nine-tenths of a second quicker than Chilton, who finished the day in 13th and last place.

And finally, Ricciardo was 12th for Toro Rosso today, the team also concentrated on the tyres, “We had some shorter runs to do in the morning, during which we tried most of the tyre compounds, while getting through all the items on our job sheet. In the afternoon we managed a few long runs, which was good, as we hadn’t done many at this test, because of the bad weather.”

As mentioned, today was the final day of pre-season testing in Jerez and Barcelona, in total 12 days to prepare for the 19 races of this season. Just like last year, teams and drivers agree on one thing: the new Pirelli tyres will be the star of this season, and understanding them is crucial.

Who has gained the most knowledge about the tyres, will have a better chance of winning the first race of the season: the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne, on March 17. Until then!

Barcelona testing Day 4 – March 3

Pos  Driver             Team         Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes     1m20.130             131
 2.  Fernando Alonso    Ferrari      1m20.494   + 0.364   120
 3.  Jenson Button      McLaren      1m21.444   + 1.314   122
 4.  Nico Hulkenberg    Sauber       1m21.541   + 1.411   118
 5.  Kimi Raikkonen     Lotus        1m21.658   + 1.528    50
 6.  Paul di Resta      Force India  1m21.664   + 1.534   112
 7.  Pastor Maldonado   Williams     1m22.415   + 2.285    42
 8.  Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull     1m22.514   + 2.384   100
 9.  Valtteri Bottas    Williams     1m22.524   + 2.394    31
10.  Charles Pic        Caterham     1m23.115   + 2.985   116
11.  Jules Bianchi      Marussia     1m23.167   + 3.037    62
12.  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso   1m23.628   + 3.498    91
13.  Max Chilton        Marussia     1m24.103   + 3.973    49

Grosjean fastest for Lotus on second day of final Barcelona test

By Berthold Bouman

Grosjean fastest for Lotus on second day of final Barcelona test - Photo: Lotus F1Romain Grosjean was fastest today for Lotus on the second day of the final Barcelona pre-season test days with a time of 1m22.716, in the morning the Frenchman caused a red flag as his Lotus came to an unexpected halt on the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

He was slowest yesterday and said about his last day of testing, “Even though the weather was far from ideal it was a pretty good day for us and it’s certainly a better feeling to end the session with the fastest time on the board rather than the slowest!”

Like yesterday, he remained optimistic ahead of the opening round in Melbourne, “We had strong reliability again today and the E21 feels good in all conditions, which is very promising for the season ahead. Of course, I wish I could have more time in the car before the season starts, but if we’re in the same position on the monitors when we get to Australia I’ll be very happy indeed.”

Although it was drier than yesterday, the weather again affected the test programmes today, most teams wanted to test the so-called Melbourne configuration, the configuration of the car as it will be on the grid for the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, which will take place in two weeks’ time.

Grosjean beat Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-28 by 0.465s, Grosjean set his time on the soft Pirellis, Button on the mediums. McLaren tested a number of different set-up configurations, and in the afternoon evaluated technical upgrades during longer runs.

Pastor Maldonado - Photo: Williams F1

Pastor Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1

Third was Pastor Maldonado in the Williams FW35, he was nine-tenth of a second slower than pace setter Grosjean. “I had a good feeling in the car but we still have things we can improve,” said Maldonado. “This afternoon we were able to complete some aero evaluations, with particular focus on trying some different front wings. We now have enough data to make some decisions on that, so I’m looking forward to getting some dry running in over the weekend.”

Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was fourth for Red Bull after completing 65 laps in the RB9. “I didn’t do that many laps today, but to be honest the weather wasn’t great and it was a pretty rough day in terms of the wind,” said Vettel. “It’s very cold as well. The tyres aren’t really working properly and I think everybody is suffering the same problem, struggling to make the tyres last for more than a lap,” he added.

Nico Hulkenberg was fifth fastest today in the new Sauber, he too experienced problems due to the weather, “It was a difficult day with changing track conditions, and it was very windy as well. This made it very challenging to do precise testing and get perfect results, but I think we made the best out of it and gathered a lot of data which the engineers can now analyse. I’m satisfied with the pace we had in dry conditions, however, we need to do more work on the intermediate tyres.”

Daniel Ricciardo in the garage - Photo: Toro Rosso

Daniel Ricciardo in the garage – Photo: Toro Rosso

Returnee Adrian Sutil felt at home in the Force India VJM06 and took sixth spot after completing 62 laps. “I ran the full wets, the intermediates and it was good to discover the crossover point with the slick tyres,” he said. “I only ran the medium compound dry tyres today, but it was difficult to do too much set-up work because the wind was affecting the aero balance quite a lot. Overall I felt positive today and whenever I went out on track the lap times were competitive.”

Daniel Ricciardo was in the car for Toro Rosso and took seventh place, while Max Chilton was eighth for Marussia. Further down the order was Dutchman Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham, he had technical problems at the end of his stint and caused a red flag after his car stopped on the Spanish circuit.

“We had a technical issue that cut into our run plan so we switched from the full race simulation we were going to run to more set-up work and tyre evaluation. Unfortunately the rain came back again with half an hour to go, which again meant we had to change the plan but the forecast for the last couple of days is better so hopefully we can get back to the original run plan and finish the tests as we’d planned,” reported van der Garde.

Max Chilton on the full wet Pirellis - Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton on the full wet Pirellis – Photo: Marussia F1

Nico Rosberg did a full race simulation in the Mercedes today, and therefore didn’t set a representative time, the German landed tenth place and commented, “It was great to run in the wet today which I have not done so far during our pre-season testing programme. The car felt good in those conditions and it’s important to have had this experience as there is always the chance of rain in Melbourne.”

And he added, “I am happy with my mileage today as every single lap is important for the learning process, and so overall it was a positive day for me here in Montmelo.”

Fernando Alonso also tried a full race simulation, his efforts were also  hampered by the rain in Barcelona, and the Spaniard was 11th and last after completing 102 laps. Ferrari tested a new exhaust configuration, new front wing end plates and a new diffuser.

Barcelona testing Day 2 – March 1

Pos  Driver              Team            Time       Gap        Laps
 1.  Mark Webber         Red Bull        1m22.693               90
 2.  Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes        1m24.348   + 1.655    113
 3.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso      1m25.017   + 2.324     59
 4.  Valtteri Bottas     Williams        1m26.458   + 3.765     85
 5.  Sergio Perez        McLaren         1m26.538   + 3.845    100
 6.  Esteban Gutierrez   Sauber          1m26.574   + 3.881     92
 7.  Paul di Resta       Force India     1m27.107   + 4.414     57
 8.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari         1m27.541   + 4.848    112
 9.  Max Chilton         Marussia        1m28.166   + 5.473     78
10.  Charles Pic         Caterham        1m28.644   + 5.951     83
11.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus           1m34.928   + 12.235    52

Hamilton stays on top for Mercedes after rainy test day at Barcelona

By Berthold Bouman

Hamilton stays on top for Mercedes after rainy test day at Barcelona - Photo: Mercedes-BenzLewis Hamilton topped the time sheets for Mercedes today after a rainy test day at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. Hamilton set his time on the medium Pirellis during a dry spell in the morning, but, due to the rain in the afternoon, others were not able to improve on the pace of the 2008 World Champion.

“We have been working on our consistency over long runs and we managed one run this morning on dry tyres; the car felt okay but the conditions were also very cool, so we cannot draw too many conclusions,” Hamilton said.

But he thinks Mercedes still needs to do some work to improve the car, “Like I said in Jerez, I can feel that we have a good foundation with this car but there is still a lot to learn and we know that the name of the game is to improve our downforce.”

Hamilton fastest today at Barcelona despite the rain - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

 Hamilton fastest today at Barcelona despite the rain – Mercedes-Benz

Closest was Hamilton’s old team mate Jenson Button, who took second place for McLaren, with a time of 1m23.633, also recorded in the morning on the mediums, he was 0.351s slower than Hamilton.

Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso STR8 was third after completing 80 laps, he was followed by Jules Bianchi in the Force India who took over from Adrian Sutil who tested the VJM06 yesterday, both drivers are in a race to conquer a race seat at the Indian team.

The day was also disrupted by many red flags, Hamilton caused one by stopping in Turn 6, and when Bianchi also stopped on track with just 15 minutes to go, it was decided to end the last test day of this week.

Bianchi later commented, “We did most of our dry running this morning and then did our aero work this afternoon when the track was wet. We didn’t manage to do the long runs we planned because it was so wet, but we still managed to look at a lot of things.”

Esteban Gutierrez 5th in the C32 - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez 5th in the C32 – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Fifth fastest today was Esteban Gutierrez in the Sauber, but he was almost three seconds off Hamilton’s pace. “It was a very interesting day for me as  well as for the team, because it was important to get some experience in wet conditions,” said the young Mexican driver.

“For me it was the very first time I had driven a Formula One car in the wet. It was particularly interesting in the morning, when the track was wet to begin with and then started to dry out. I was able to drive with dry tyres in very tricky conditions, which was a situation I could experience in a race.”

Times were almost meaningless with the low temperatures and the rain, but it must have been a good feeling for rookie Giedo van der Garde to finish in sixth place, just 0.134s ahead of Felipe Massa in the Ferrari F138, who was the first to cause a red flag today as he ended up in the gravel trap at Turn 4 after just ten minutes of testing.

Van der Garde said, “The cold weather meant it might not have been much fun for the fans in the stands, but it was useful to get some laps done on the intermediate tyres as it was my first time in a Formula One car in the wet, and to experience the car in the wet/dry conditions we had today. We also tried a couple more ideas to help improve the rear stability but, again, as the tyres weren’t really coming up to temperature we weren’t able to push too hard today.”

Giedo van der Garde on a cold Barcelona circuit - Photo: Caterham F1

Giedo van der Garde on a cold Barcelona circuit – Photo: Caterham F1

Mark Webber’s day in the Red Bull RB9 was also hampered by the rain, he was eighth, 4.334s slower than Hamilton. “It was cold out there today, I can’t remember having a full test day this cold,” Webber said. “But actually it was reasonably consistent; the conditions were pretty stable all day, although not very representative of a Grand Prix weekend. So, unusual conditions but I was happy with what we got done today.”

Max Chilton in the Marussia and Romain Grosjean in the Lotus E21 completed the top ten, while Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado again shared testing duties today, Bottas had some pit stop practice in the morning, but both Williams drivers did not officially record a time.

The whole Williams race team was present and Bottas said about his pit stop training, “The key things to work on as a driver are breaking as late as possible for the pit lane speed limit to minimise the time lost, perfecting your positioning in the box and finally pulling away quickly and cleanly.”

And he added, “It’s really interesting as there are a lot of things to think about, but the better I get, the more trust you build with the pit crew which means they are able to react even quicker. We’ll be doing a few more at the next test but then I feel I will be ready for Melbourne when it comes to pit stops.”

Next and final pre-season test will also be held at the Circuit de Catalunya from February 28 to March 3 next week. The first race of the season is the Australian Grand Prix on March 17.

Barcelona testing Day 4 – February 22

 Pos  Driver                Team            Time       Gap       Laps
  1.  Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes        1m23.282              52
  2.  Jenson Button         McLaren         1m23.633   + 0.351    70
  3.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso      1m24.071   + 0.789    80
  4.  Jules Bianchi         Force India     1m25.732   + 2.450    96
  5.  Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber          1m26.239   + 2.957    61
  6.  Giedo van der Garde   Caterham        1m27.429   + 4.147    50
  7.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari         1m27.563   + 4.281    80
  8.  Mark Webber           Red Bull        1m27.616   + 4.334    64
  9.  Max Chilton           Marussia        1m29.902   + 6.620    51
 10.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus           1m34.800   + 11.518   41
 11.  Valtteri Bottas       Williams        --                    23
 12.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams        --                    13

Button tops time sheets for McLaren after first day of testing at Jerez

By Berthold Bouman

Button tops time sheets for McLaren after first day of testing at JerezAlthough plagued by technical problems, McLaren set the pace today at the Circuito de Jerez in Spain during the first day of pre-season testing, as Jenson Button took the fastest time overall with a lap of 1m18.861. Second was Mark Webber in the Red Bull, while Romain Grosjean was third fastest for Lotus.

The new McLaren MP4-28 suffered from a fuel pump failure this morning, limiting the 2009 World Champion’s number of laps, but he nevertheless scored the fastest time of the day during the final minutes of the first day.

Button fastest today for McLaren - Photo: McLaren

Button fastest today for McLaren – Photo: McLaren

Button commented, “To be fair, I was surprised when I saw it on the dash, but it doesn’t mean anything. The important thing is there’s a nice feeling in the car and lap times mean nothing right now. They don’t even mean anything at the last test, it’s when you get to the first race that we’ll have a very different car, as every team will, and that’s when we need to really show how quick we are.”

Australian Webber was the first to drive the Red Bull RB9, he completed 73 laps. He said about the new car, “It was pretty good. As Adrian said at the launch, there haven’t been big changes to the regulations this year and the car is an evolution of the one we finished with last season, so there were no big surprises.”

He also tried the new Pirellis, “We started understanding the tyres and there were a lot of positives. The car feels similar to last year’s, so the main difference is the tyres.” And he added, “With these tyres you’re always on your toes.”

Mark Webber happy with new RB9 - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber happy with new RB9 – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Grosjean tested the Lotus E21, and he was satisfied with his findings, “The feeling is good from the E21; it feels very similar to the E20 from behind the wheel, even if it does look different from the outside. Once again Enstone has produced a car that is quick from the very first lap.”

Also Lotus’ Technical Director James Allison reckoned it had been a good day, “Everything has looked positive so far. The feedback from Romain has been encouraging and on the engineering side there have been no particular dramas of note. Overall it was a promising first day for this car and we hope to continue in this vein for the next days of testing.”

The Force India piloted by Paul di Resta was quick and the Scot took fourth fastest time in the VJM06. He was satisfied with his first day of testing, “A positive first day and we managed to cover lots of laps — so that’s the most important thing. I felt very comfortable all day and we managed to get through the programme as we focussed on collecting aero data and understanding how well the car correlates with our simulation tools at the factory.”

Force India of course also had their first taste of the new Pirellis, and asked how they compared to last year’s compounds he said, “The new compounds are quite different with the new construction and I’ve already felt a difference with the balance of the car in the low and high-speed parts of the lap.”

Felipe Massa on a different planet - Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa: New car is on a different planet – Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa will be doing most of the test work at Jerez this week, and the Brazilian completed the usual installation laps before he started the important job of data acquisition, he completed 64 laps and finished the day in sixth place, some one and a half second off the fastest time set by Button.

Massa commented about the new Ferrari, “If you compare to last year it’s on a completely different planet. Last year I remember we were struggling a lot to drive the car; it was difficult to keep the car on the track. So this year the base on the car is completely different to last year. The car is much more balanced, I felt a good direction at the rear of the car as well in terms of traction.”

Also problems for Nico Rosberg who was eighth fastest today, as his Mercedes ground to a halt due to an electrical problem, there was a small fire and, after a thorough investigation, Mercedes later stated the fire originated from a faulty wiring loom. Rosberg, however, remained optimistic and said, “These hiccups are just part of the game. During the laps I completed this morning, I had a good feeling with the car and it felt solid.”

Nico Rosberg in the new Mercedes FW03 - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Nico Rosberg in the new Mercedes FW03 – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Pastor Maldonado completed 84 laps today at Jerez in the old FW34 car, today Williams basically tested the new systems for the FW35 and also tested the new Pirellis to gather data for the FW35 development program. Technical Director Mike Coughlan commented, “We concentrated on running some new systems in preparation for the FW35, as well as some planned set-up changes. It was also interesting to see the new Pirelli tyres in action and having the FW34 here helped us to really understand how the tyres are working.”

Two rookies made their debut today, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde. Dutchman van der Garde completed 64 laps in the Caterham and took tenth place. “Day one is all about making sure everything in the car works as it’s supposed to and apart from a couple of minor issues with the floor we didn’t really have to make any changes to the car straight out of the box,” van der Garde commented.

About the new car he said, “It’s obviously far too early to make any judgements on the performance levels we can expect from the 2013 package but compared to the car I drove in Brazil it feels like we’ve made some good progress over the winter.”

Chilton caused a red flag after he went off at the end of the back straight and ended up in the gravel. The culprit seemed to be the right rear suspension, apparently it had broken and Marussia is currently investigating the matter.

“I’m sure the team will get on top of the suspension issue very quickly so we can all pick up where we left off and start putting some more miles on what is obviously a very promising package,” Chilton said.

Team Principal John Booth added, “In terms of the specific issue we encountered this afternoon, we will naturally ensure we conduct a thorough inspection of the component in question and see what solution we can bring to recommence our programme.”

Jerez testing times – Day 1 – February 5

Pos  Driver                Team          Time                Laps
 1.  Jenson Button         McLaren       1m18.861             37
 2.  Mark Webber           Red Bull      1m19.709   + 0.848   73
 3.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus         1m19.796   + 0.935   54
 4.  Paul di Resta         Force India   1m20.343   + 1.482   89
 5.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso    1m20.401   + 1.540   70
 6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari       1m20.536   + 1.675   64
 7.  Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber        1m20.699   + 1.838   79
 8.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes      1m20.846   + 1.985   11
 9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams      1m20.864   + 2.003   84
10.  Giedo van der Garde   Caterham      1m21.915   + 3.054   64
11.  Max Chilton           Marussia      1m24.176   + 5.315   29

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez talk about the 2013 season and new McLaren MP4-28

By Berthold Bouman

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez talk about the 2013 season and new McLaren MP4-28 - pHOTO: McLarenJenson Button: “This year’s car is the best we’ve ever made.”

After McLaren unveiled the new 2013 contender, the McLaren MP4-28, it’s time to see what drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez think about the 2013 season and the new car.

For Button, it will be his fourth season with McLaren and he now understands the ins and outs of the McLaren team. The biggest change for the 2009 World Champion is his new team mate, Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez.

“It’s always interesting and inspiring to begin working with a new face, and it already feels like a very positive working relationship,” Button said about the Mexican driver. “I know from personal experience that it can feel initially daunting when you walk into the McLaren Technology Centre for the very first time, but I also remember how quickly I was made to feel at home and how welcoming I found the whole McLaren family. I’m sure Checo already feels very much at ease here.”

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez - Photo: McLaren

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez – Photo: McLaren

Button admitted McLaren were strong last season, but not strong enough to race for the ultimate goal, the 2012 crown, won by Sebastian Vettel. But this season it will be different, the Briton said.

“I’ve seen just how closely everybody has been working together on this car, and I think we’ve got the basis for a very strong season,” he said, adding, “We’ll be working extremely hard during the pre-season to ensure we go to the first race with bullet-proof reliability. Operationally, too, I think we’ve learned and developed from last year, and that will help us run a much smoother and stronger campaign.”

Although he hasn’t driven the MP4-28, has absolutely no doubts about the performance of the new car, “This year’s car is the best we’ve ever made — I know the engineers have left absolutely no stone unturned in wringing every ounce of performance from every available area. I cannot wait to get behind the wheel and attempt to carry forward the incredible legacy that lives beneath the skin of every single man and woman who works at McLaren.”

Sergio Perez: “I am fully aware of the steep slope ahead of me.”

Perez is not a rookie anymore after a two-year stint with the Swiss Sauber team, but driving for McLaren is quite something else he reckons. “For me, this is a great day. In fact, every day this year has been great: I’ve been working hard with my new team to get everything ready for the start of the 2013 season — and it’s been an incredible journey to get to know this incredible organisation.”

He still has a lot to learn he admitted, “Of course, I am fully aware of the steep slope ahead of me: it has already been an intense couple of weeks, getting to grips with a new team, meeting my engineers and mechanics, learning new ways of working and, of course, learning all about a brand new car — something I’ll need to do with just six days of on-track testing. It’s a big challenge!”

But he also said he will need some time to adapt to his new team and car, “Although I’ve been racing in Formula One for the past two seasons, every racing car is different and it always takes a little time to adjust. Firstly, I’ll need to understand the different characteristics of the car; secondly, I’ll learn how to best work with my engineers to make the car suit my personal driving style. It’s going to be an interesting and exciting journey.”

Pre-season testing will start on February 5 at the circuit of Jerez in Spain.

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez during the launch of the McLaren MP4-28

McLaren unveils MP4-28, the sum of 50 years experience, expertise and passion

By Berthold Bouman

McLaren unveils MP4-28, the sum of 50 years experience, expertise and passion - Photo: McLarenMcLaren is the second team to reveal their new car for the 2013 season: the MP4-28. The unveiling ceremony took place at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking today under the watchful eyes of drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, and Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh.

After a parade of historic McLaren race cars, it was time to show off the 2013 contender. When the covers came off, the big question was of course: does it have a stepped nose? No, like last year, the new car has the same very smooth high nose, as it is a sophisticated evolution of last year’s car.

McLaren unveils MP4-28 the sum of 50 years experience, expertise and passion

The McLaren MP4-28 at the McLaren Technology Centre

Jenson Button said about the MP4-28, “It might look similar to some of you, but under the skin, this is so, so different.” Certainly different is that the McLaren now has a pull-rod front suspension, just like the 2012 Ferrari.

In a statement McLaren commented on the new car, “The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 is the logical culmination of everything we’ve ever done: it’s the sum of 50 years’ experience, expertise and passion.”

“The MP4-28 isn’t merely a refinement of last year’s seven-race-winning car, it’s a deep and sweeping re-design of an already successful chassis in several key areas — most notably around the nose and front suspension, the sidepod profiles and the rear bodywork.”

More reports to follow …

More about the 2013 car launches here

Jenson Button and Sergio Perez unveil the McLaren MP4-28 – Photos: McLaren

Jackie Stewart: Jenson Button should be McLaren’s number one driver

By Berthold Bouman

Jackie Stewart: Jenson Button should be McLaren’s number one driverAfter Lewis Hamilton decided to move to Mercedes and was replaced by Mexican Sergio Perez, there have been speculations about who should play the leading role at McLaren in 2013. Sir Jackie Stewart said in an interview with Press Association that he believes 2009 World Champion Jenson Button would be the perfect candidate for that role.

McLaren have stated both drivers will get equal treatment as Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh last week said, “They will definitely have equal treatment; that’s how we operate. I think that dynamic, that competition within the team is good and we’re here to win world championships so both drivers want to be part of that.”

Stewart, however, said, “It’s not a question of equal footing this year. You’ve someone in Jenson who knows the engineers, telemetry people, knows the business, and who has been there, seen it and done it.”

The triple World Champion is adamant Button is able to win the title again, “So I think he can do it again with the right equipment, and there cannot be a better supplier of that equipment than McLaren.”

About McLaren he said, “They are about as good as they come. They’ve got the facilities, so many assets, so yes, he can do it if the car is good enough and he is psyched up enough. He no longer has to keep up with Lewis and that’s a mental thing, so he has to see himself as the number one driver, and that McLaren are depending on him.”

378 Sir Jackie Stewart - Photo: Williams F1

Sir Jackie Stewart – Photo: Williams F1

But Stewart also hinted Button should now score more wins, and he thinks consistency is the key to be the number one driver, “When he wins races they are beautifully controlled races, you just know he is not going to fly off the race track or make huge errors of judgement. He is very solid. Whether he has what it takes to be a serial winner, the jury is still out because he hasn’t done that yet.”

Indeed, it will be interesting to see whether Button will be faster than Perez to begin with, and whether he can use his vast experience to take on a leading role in the McLaren team. Of course not just Perez will be a formidable opponent for the Briton, but also triple World Champion Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel will give him plenty of opposition, as well as Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who was second in last year’s championship.

Testing for the 2013 season will start on February 5, at the Jerez circuit in Spain. McLaren will launch its 2013 contender on January 31, but still have to announce where the unveiling will take place.

Brazilian GP: Button wins chaotic race, Vettel triple World Champion

By Berthold Bouman

Jenson Button, McLaren - Photo: McLarenDuring a chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Jenson Button won the race for McLaren, and Sebastian Vettel won the 2012 World Championship by finishing fifth and became the youngest triple-champion ever in Formula One. His rival Fernando Alonso finished on the podium in second place, but it wasn’t enough to grab the title.

Race winner Button said, “I want to congratulate the whole team. This is the perfect way to end the season. We have had ups and downs and to end on a high bodes well for 2013.”

Rain was expected, and there was a light drizzle just before the race started, but nothing to worry about and all drivers started on the slicks. The first corner at Interlagos is always tricky, but this time all cars came through unscathed. But at the end of the long straight, it all went wrong for Vettel. He was hit by Bruno Senna, who really didn’t do anything wrong, the German spun and was 24th and last — while Hamilton and Button were leading the race.

Alonso made good use of the opportunity and took third place with a little help of Felipe Massa. But the track became wetter, and this time it was Alonso who made a mistake and he missed the first corner, he ran wide and fell back to fourth place, just behind a flying Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India.

Alonso then also had a charging Mark Webber in his rear view mirrors, but on the seventh lap Webber was forced into a spin by Kamui Kobayashi, at the same time Romain Grosjean crashed out of the race after he had lost control of his Lotus in the difficult wet conditions. Meanwhile, at the front Hamilton and Button were dicing for first place, a battle at the time won by Hamilton.

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel

But while the rain came down harder, Vettel did the impossible, and was already back in sixth place after nine laps. Webber was the first to pit, and he left the pit lane on the intermediates, the rest of the field soon followed and also left the pit lane on intermediates, Vettel rejoined in 18th place, Alonso in 12th.

Button, now in the lead as he hadn’t pitted like the others, reported the rain had stopped, and he stayed out on the slicks, Hulkenberg did the same. Webber wisely decided to let his team mate Vettel pass him instead of fighting him, and got a big thank you from his team for doing so. Vettel carved his way through the field again, and by lap 16 he was fifth again.

At the front Hulkenberg was now dicing with Button for the lead, both were still on the slicks. Not much later Hulkenberg wrestled his way past Button, and the talented German was leading the race. Hamilton was the first to pit for a second time as the intermediates soon were completely worn out on the now dry circuit. He left on the hard tyres, Alonso also pitted, but he went out on the medium tyres.

Also Vettel and Webber had to pit to change to the slicks again, Vettel rejoined the race right behind his rival Alonso. But because there was a lot of debris on the track, left by Senna, Perez, Maldonado and Grosjean, the safety car came out as Rosberg had run over some carbon fibre parts and had damaged his rear tyre — the German had to limp back to the pits for a new set of tyres.

The Safety Car intervention was not ideal for leaders Hulkenberg and Button, who lost their 45-second lead they had built up by not pitting for rain tyres. When the Safety Car disappeared into the pit lane again, Hulkenberg was able to keep his leading position, but Vettel was napping and Kobayashi took his fifth place. Webber ran wide at the first turn, and fell back to 14th place, at the same time Hamilton got past Button and took second place.

But Vettel still had problems, Massa was able to overtake him and the German was then seventh, Alonso was fourth. Still treacherous on-track conditions and after 40 laps most drivers were still slipping and sliding around the Interlagos circuit. Vettel was still trying to get past Kobayashi, but his tyres were going off very fast and he could barely keep his car on track. At the front, Hamilton got closer and closer to Hulkenberg, the latter made a small mistake, spun and Hamilton was leading the Brazilian Grand Prix again.

With 20 laps to go Vettel was called in for a tyre change, and rejoined the race in tenth place on the medium slick tyres. But the game changed again, Hulkenberg decided to overtake Hamilton, the German was a bit too eager, missed his braking point, hit Hamilton and the Briton was out of the race with a broken front suspension.

Race winner Jenson Button

Race winner Jenson Button

An interesting development, as Alonso was now third, Red Bull saw the danger and called Vettel in again, this time he left the pits on the intermediates, but his pit stop was a disaster as his mechanics were not prepared for the unscheduled stop and he lost a lot of time and places as well. Alonso, meanwhile, also had problems and to be on the safe side he also pitted for the intermediates, he rejoined in fourth place, while Vettel was eighth, still right on course to take the 2012 title.

But the situation changed again, Hulkenberg was given a drive-through penalty, which meant Alonso was third again, and Vettel was seventh, again just enough to win the title. But Massa was ahead of Alonso, and he could, of course, just move over to let his team mate pass. And indeed, whether it was Massa who was slowing down, or Alonso who was going faster, with nine laps to go Alonso passed the Brazilian and was second.

But also Vettel got some help, Schumacher moved to the side and Vettel was sixth. But it wasn’t over yet, Paul di Resta spun his Force India at the last corner ahead of the start-finish straight, hit the barriers hard and the Safety Car came out again, as di Resta had left a trail of debris on the track.

The Safety Car effectively ended the race for the 2012 Drivers’ Championship, as there were only two laps remaining, and overtaking was not allowed when the Safety Car went into the pits again. Thus Button cruised to the finish line and won the race, Alonso was second, a very brave Massa was third, but Vettel took his third successive World Championship’s title.

Vettel was elated after the race and said, “It is difficult to imagine what goes through my head now even for myself. I am full of adrenaline and if you poke me now I wouldn’t feel it. It was an incredible race.” About his crash with Senna he said, “When you get turned around for no reason and it becomes like heading the wrong way down the M25 — it is not the most comfortable feeling.”

And he added, “I was lucky no one hit me but the car was damaged and we lost a lot of speed, especially when it dried up. Fortunately it started to rain again and I felt so much happier.” Asked about the course of the 2012 season he said, “A lot of people tried to play dirty tricks, but we did not get distracted by that and kept going, and all the guys [his rivals] gave a big push right to the end.”

Alonso said after the race, “I’m very proud of the team. We lost the championship before today, not in Brazil, this is a sport after all. When you do something with your heart and do it 100% you have to be proud of yourself and your team and we’ll try again next year.”

Brazilian GP: Race Result
Pos Driver              Team                 Laps  Time        Grid
 1  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes     71    1:45:22.656   2
 2  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari              71    +2.7          7
 3  Felipe Massa        Ferrari              71    +3.6          5
 4  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault     71    +4.9          3
 5  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes 71    +5.7          6
 6  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault     71    +9.4          4
 7  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes             71    +11.9        13
 8  Jean-Eric Vergne    STR-Ferrari          71    +28.6        17
 9  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari       71    +31.2        14
10  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault        70    +1 Lap        8
11  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault     70    +1 Lap       19
12  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth    70    +1 Lap       22
13  Daniel Ricciardo    STR-Ferrari          70    +1 Lap       15
14  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault     70    +1 Lap       20
15  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes             70    +1 Lap        9
16  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth    70    +1 Lap       21
17  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth         69    +2 Laps      24
18  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth         69    +2 Laps      23
19  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes 68    +3 Laps      10
Ret Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes     54    Accident      1
Ret Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault         5    Accident     18
Ret Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1    Spin         16
Ret Bruno Senna         Williams-Renault      0    Accident     11
Ret Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        0    Accident     12