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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

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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 Preview: Teams aiming for major improvements at Shanghai


By Berthold Bouman

Chinese GP Preview: Teams aiming for major improvements at ShanghaiAfter a three-week break all Formula One teams have arrived at the Shanghai International Circuit for round three of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Chinese Grand Prix. It will be the tenth time the race is held on the 5.451 km long Shanghai circuit, which is similar to the Malaysian Sepang circuit, but the weather conditions are expected to be much cooler this weekend.

Pirelli has nominated the Medium (prime, white marked) and Soft (option, yellow marked) tyres for China: the first time that this combination makes an appearance this year. According to Pirelli, the flexibility of the new 2013 tyres means ‘that several strategies are open to the teams’.

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery explained, “China has often produced some of the best races of the year, where strategy has been at the forefront of the action. With all our compounds having got softer this year the degradation is deliberately more extreme leading to increased performance, but history has shown that it never takes too long for the teams and drivers to get on top of the tyres.”

Webber not happy with Vettel's actions in Malaysia - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Webber not happy with Vettel’s actions in Malaysia – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Unfortunately, the fast degrading tyres are the reason why teams opt to save tyres during qualifying in order to have more fresh sets during the race. Drivers stay in the garage for most of the time, which of course does not contribute to the show on Saturday afternoon. Tyre degradation also played an important role in the hottest story of the season so far.

The team that made the headlines in the past three weeks was of course Red Bull, the rivalry between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel has been re-ignited after Vettel ignored team orders to let Webber win the race at Sepang. Red Bull was afraid both drivers could ruin their tyres and therefore the decision was made to let Webber finish the race ahead of Vettel. Better safe than sorry was the motto.

But according to Red Bull Advisor Helmut Marko, the feud is over. “They don’t have to be completely on the same page but it must be a solid working partnership,” he said. “Sebastian apologised in the press conference and I think that was the first correct step to make. There was a debrief afterwards with the relevant discussions about the race and then there was a handshake between the two drivers. For us now the issue is settled.”

Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the season - Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the season – Photo: Lotus F1

A pleasant surprise at the start of the season, this time Lotus won the 2013 opener at Albert Park in Australia, but the second race in Malaysia was a bit of a let down for the Lotus fans, as Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen finished the race in sixth and seventh place respectively.

Nevertheless, Lotus’ Team Principal Eric Boullier was happy with the result of the Malaysian Grand Prix and said, “I think we can take some positives from Malaysia. We’ve made a step forward with the car in terms of single lap pace, but still the race pace looks strong as well.”

Lotus will have some significant updates ready for China and Boullier said, “For China, Romain will have the upgraded exhaust and bodywork package which Kimi ran in Malaysia, plus there will be a few additional parts arriving so it’s going to be quite interesting.”

According to Lotus’ Technical Director James Allison, the tyres will again be the deciding factor at the Shanghai circuit, “Some of the lower speed corners are also extended in their radius, even with tightening arcs. This provides quite a stern test for the tyres, as you have a significant excess of torque over grip making it very easy to wreck a set of rear tyres rather quickly.”

Fernando Alonso - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso – Photo: Ferrari

Ferrari is currently third in the Constructors’ Championship, in Australia Fernando Alonso was second, but at Sepang he hit the rear of Vettel’s Red Bull and when his damaged front wing got wedged under the car, he crashed and his race was over after just one lap.

Alonso has spent some time in the simulator during the break, but he’s worried about the very fast degrading tyres. “Shanghai is a very nice track with a variety of corner types and fast straights, so you definitely need a car that works well in the fast sections, but you also need it to have plenty of downforce to deal with the tighter turns. We can expect to see quite high tyre degradation, especially on the fronts,” the Spaniard said.

Also Felipe Massa is upbeat ahead of the race on Sunday. “I know we have only done two races, but I have a good feeling so far this season. The work we did with the F138 over the winter has taken us in the right direction and the car has much more potential,” the Brazilian said.

Lewis Hamilton on the podium - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton on the podium – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton moved from McLaren to Mercedes, and already scored his first podium place for the German team in Malaysia. Nico Rosberg scored his maiden win, and so far the only victory for Mercedes, during the Chinese Grand Prix in 2012, but it will be difficult to repeat that according to Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff.

“Like they say, yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games, and that’s definitely true for us. We start again from zero this year and need to work hard to adapt the car to suit the circuit and the tyre compounds we have available, in the conditions that we find on track this weekend. Then we will see where we stand relative to the competition,” the Austrian said.

Team Principal Ross Brawn is confident ahead of the race, but there is still a lot do, and he commented, “Our season has started well, perhaps better than we expected, however we’re fully aware that there is still a gap to close and that we must keep up the pace of development. A lot of hard work has taken place at our factories over the last two weeks to do just that and I look forward to seeing how that translates to track performance.”

Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil - Photo: Sahara Force India

Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil – Photo: Sahara Force India

Force India is fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, and the return of Adrian Sutil was the best decision they’ve made this season, as he led the Australian Grand Prix for almost 30 laps. But in Malaysia everything went pear-shaped, and both Sutil and Paul di Resta had to retire as there were problems with the wheel nuts.

But team owner Vijay Mallya is adamant the wheel nut issues have been solved, “We’ve had three weeks to understand what went wrong and have worked hard fix the root cause of the problem.” Sutil is confident of a good performance this weekend and the German said, “The layout is not too different to Sepang, so it should suit us again and I hope we can be strong there.”

And he added, “Also, we know there are lots of areas where we can improve because we have learned a lot from the first couple of races. The other teams will not stand still so we need to keep pushing hard and keep up this momentum.”

Sauber had their ups and downs, in Australia Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t start the race due to problems with the fuel system, but he hopes to do better in China. “I have a better feeling now I have driven my first race in the C32, especially because we were able to collect a lot of information. In Malaysia we scored points and that is also my goal for China,” Hulkenberg said.

Sauber will also bring some new parts to China, and they will be tested during the free practice sessions. Tom McCullough, Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering said, “We analysed the data that we collected in Malaysia and found interesting directions for the development of the car, therefore we will bring several test parts to Shanghai. Having secured our first points of the season in Malaysia, we are eager to add to them as soon as possible.”

Jenson Button - Photo: McLaren F1

Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren F1

While Ferrari is now up to pace compared to the start of the 2012 season, it seems that McLaren now is the top team that has fallen behind, as they are only seventh in the Constructors’ Championship with just four points. Both drivers have struggled with the new Pirellis, and Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is certainly not happy with seventh place.

“Clearly, our performance in Australia and Malaysia fell below the high standards we’ve come to expect at McLaren,” said Whitmarsh. McLaren made good use of the break and are aiming to improve their performance this weekend, and Whitmarsh added, “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.”

Scuderia Toro Rosso managed to score one point in two races, courtesy to Jean-Eric Vergne, who finished tenth in Malaysia. Plenty of rivalry at Toro Rosso as well, Daniel Ricciardo promised to ‘trash’ his team colleague this season, but Frenchman Vergne has so far beaten the Australian driver, who is also aiming to replace Mark Webber at sister team Red Bull in 2014.

Two retirements for Maldonado - Photo: Williams F1

Two retirements for Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1

Also a very difficult start of the season for Williams, last year they were very quick and even won the Spanish Grand Prix, this season Pastor Maldonado retired from both races, while Valtteri Bottas finished just outside the top ten.

Like other drivers, Bottas reckons managing the Pirelli tyres will be the key to success, and he remarked, “Getting the tyres to work will be the biggest challenge facing all of the teams, as the temperatures are often low and the smooth track surface is quite different to what we saw in the first two races.”

Surprisingly, Marussia has beaten Caterham during the first two races, and the Anglo-Russian outfit has even managed to produce a few car updates during the break. Team Principal John Booth explained, “The cars were freighted directly to China, so while we would not call the upgrades we have for this race comprehensive, they are still significant. We will be running some new suspension parts that we proved out in testing but delayed until we had some further race distance experience with the MR02. We also have some new front and rear brake ducts.”

Caterham has been struggling due to massive understeer. “On Friday and Saturday morning we’ll also be working on several performance areas that the team has been looking at since Malaysia, particularly around dialling out the understeer issues I had in Australia and Malaysia,” said Charles Pic.

Dutchman Giedo van der Garde is confident his team will solve the problems and said, “We had oversteer issues on entry into the corners in Malaysia and Australia and that definitely hit my race pace, particularly as it was impacting on tyre degradation levels, so we’ve done a bit of work on that with Pirelli in Milan and back at Leafield since Malaysia so we’ll see what we’ve achieved when we get to Shanghai.”

Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix will start at 15:00 hrs local time and the race on Sunday starts at 14:00 hrs local time.


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


McLaren apologize for Webber’s start gremlins, problem caused by new ECU


By Berthold Bouman

McLaren apologize for Webber’s start gremlins, problem caused by new ECU - Photo: Red Bull RacingMcLaren 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

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.


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


F1 2013 preview — Part 2: McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes, Sauber and Toro Rosso


By Berthold Bouman

F1 2013 preview - Part 2 McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes, Sauber and Toro RossoTeams, drivers and fans are looking forward to the first race of the year: the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne. After 12 days of pre-season testing the status quo of the 11 teams is still somewhat nebulous to say the least, one thing is certain, the Pirelli tyres will be different from last season, and the Italian tyre manufacturer has predicted at least two pit stops per car this season.

In today’s preview: McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus, Sauber and Toro Rosso.

McLaren

5. Jenson Button
6. Sergio Perez

Last year Lewis Hamilton left the British team, and this year Jenson Button will be the number one driver, while Sergio Perez will replace Hamilton. Mixed results for McLaren during testing, but it seems the MP4-28 needs more development before it will be a real title contender.

While it has the right speed, the MP4-28 seems to have serious understeer problems, and to add to McLaren’s problems, the car is very harsh on the tyres, which results in massive tyre degradation. But McLaren is still confident about the 2013 season, as there is plenty of room to develop the car.

Plenty of testing problems for McLaren - Photo: McLaren

Plenty of testing problems for McLaren – Photo: McLaren

Button refused to make any predictions for this season. “This year, I don’t think any team really knows or understands the competitive order, it’s been an extremely hard-to-read winter but that’s part of the game,” he told the BBC. “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.”

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh admitted his team encountered many problems during winter testing, “At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we’ve faced a challenging few weeks prepping our new MP4-28 for the 2013 season.”

“The often cold and sometimes wet conditions we experienced during pre-season testing in Barcelona and Jerez made it difficult to operate the tyres consistently within their optimal performance window. That issue, combined with a handful of typical testing setbacks, gave us a few headaches.”

But he confidently added, “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. the MP4-28 is a new and uncompromising design, and I have great confidence that our design, development and engineering teams will work tirelessly to shave tenths off its lap-times for Melbourne, and for Sao Paulo, and for everywhere in between.”

McLaren’s launch story and photos

Lotus

7. Kimi Raikkonen
8. Romain Grosjean

Lotus also decided not to change their driver line-up, star driver Kimi Raikkonen will stay for another year, and despite his on-track escapades, Romain Grosjean has been given another opportunity to impress his manager and Team Principal Eric Boullier.

During testing Lotus encountered many reliability problems, and both drivers spent a considerable amount of time in the garage. “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,” Raikkonen said after the last test day.

Romain Grosjean gets a second chance in F1 - Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean gets a second chance in F1 – Photo: Lotus F1

Grosjean, who was fastest on his final day of testing, is confident ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, “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!”

Also Boullier admitted Lotus had problems during testing, “Pre-season testing was not perfect for us but we are confident in what we have seen from the E21. We had glitches and we didn’t complete as many laps as we wanted, yet we still completed most of the assessments we required and have a good platform heading to the first race of the season.”

And the Frenchman added, “It’s certain going to be a highly competitive season but I’m confident that we’ll be right in the battle at the front.” And indeed, although Lotus has encountered several technical problems, the times they produced were consistent, and the black and gold Lotus was always in the top five.

Add Raikkonen’s magic, and the Lotus E21 can become a real winner this season, while Grosjean has shown he is certainly fast enough for a podium place, all he now has to do is make sure he gets to the finish line.

Lotus’ launch story and photos

Mercedes

9. Nico Rosberg
10. Lewis Hamilton

Also Mercedes encountered technical issues that kept the car and drivers in the garage during testing, but there is certainly no doubt about the pace of the new car.

Nico Rosberg scored an impressive fastest lap during the last test day at Barcelona, but team mate Hamilton warned there’s still a lot of work to do. “It is important to bring everyone back down to earth and realise we still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Lewis Hamilton joined Mercedes - Photo: Mercedes Benz

Lewis Hamilton joined Mercedes – Photo: Mercedes Benz

“It’s everything to play for still. We won’t know until the first race but don’t be surprised if we get to the first race and were not at the front. We have got through everything and we are not in deep, deep trouble. We’re going in the right direction.”

Rosberg agreed with his team mate and said, “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. 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.”

Team Principal Ross Brawn was pleased with the progress the team has made, “We have achieved our objectives for the test programme and the mileage that we have been able to complete has been very satisfying.”

With only one week to go Brawn commented, “We now have one final week back at the factory to complete our preparations; both drivers will be at the factory this week and, as always, there is a lot of work to do in a short space of time. We’re realistic about our performance here and our position once we get to Melbourne, and we look forward to the challenge of a new season ahead.”

Mercedes’ launch story and photos

Sauber

11. Nico Hulkenberg
12. Esteban Gutierrez

Two new drivers at Sauber, Nico Hulkenberg left Force India and will be their number one driver, while rookie Esteban Gutierrez will make his Formula One debut for the Swiss team this season. Sauber didn’t produce any spectacular results during testing, and like the other teams, they had their share of technical problems during testing.

Nico Hulkenberg - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Nico Hulkenberg – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Hulkenberg is a very talented driver who has won all the series he has participated in, and there is no reason to doubt the young German’s abilities. After the last test day he commented, “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.”

About the new Pirellis he said, “I’m satisfied with the pace we had in dry conditions, however, we need to do more work on the intermediate tyres, where we have definitely more potential to exploit.” Gutierrez agreed with Hulkenberg’s assessment and added, “It was important for us to work with the intermediate tyres, which seem to be the most difficult ones for us. We had to change quite a lot of things to make them work better.”

Last year Sauber was the surprise of the season, they had a fast car straight out of the box, it will be difficult to repeat that this season, but Hulkenberg is a skilful driver, he confirmed that during the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, perhaps he will be the one to give Sauber their first victory ever.

Sauber’s launch story and photos

Toro Rosso

18. Jean-Eric Vergne
19. Daniel Ricciardo

The last team on the list, Toro Rosso, also continues with the same driver line-up, both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne will represent Red Bull’s Italian sister team in 2013. No spectacular test results, but the STR8 is a stable and reliable car, however, it needs some more development and set-up work to make it a top ten finisher.

Jean-Eric Vergne - Photo: Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne – Photo: Toro Rosso

Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso’s Head of Vehicle Performance said after completing 12 test days, “As the STR8 is fundamentally a new car, with plenty of crucial changes for example on the suspension, on the aero side and in terms of the architecture of the car, we had a very big work load to tackle this month in Spain.”

Also Toro Rosso struggled to understand the Pirellis, “Apart from our car, the other new element was the Pirelli tyres, which have different characteristics to last year’s. Getting a full understanding of how the new rubber works is something that will take longer than we had expected.”

Ricciardo is of course looking forward to his home Grand Prix, “I’m still very happy to be in Formula One, but it’s not enough now. I want to get as much as I can out of it, so the confidence I have now is higher and for those reasons I really believe I can make the results and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that. If I’m just racing but not doing anything spectacular it’s not enough.”

And he added, “If we can consistently finish in the points that would be a good start. In the points you are really racing for something and when you’re racing for 15th and 16th for sure it’s not as fun. When there’s a prize on the line it makes it more exciting!”

Toro Rosso’s launch story and photos

Part 1 of the 2013 preview: Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, Force India, Williams, Caterham and Marussia


Formula One testing – Australian Grand Prix the real test of the season


By Berthold Bouman

Formula One testing - Australian Grand Prix the real test of the season - Photo: InfinitiAfter 12 pre-season testing days at Jerez and Barcelona, the real test for all teams and drivers will be the first race of the season: the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne. Only 11 teams on the start grid this season as the Spanish HRT team ceased to exist due to financial problems.

Is it possible to make a prediction about the Australian Grand Prix? It’s difficult to predict anything in Formula One, but a few things are certain. There have been very few regulation changes, but they nevertheless could make the difference.

The sport’s governing body, the FIA, has banned the use of the active Double DRS system, a clever device that stalls the front wing when DRS is operational, as used by Mercedes last year. The use of the normal DRS system has been restricted for safety reasons, and the drag reducing device can this season only be used during the race, and not during practice or qualifying.

To make the sport even safer, tougher tests for the roll structures and the survival cell have been introduced, in addition, all survival cells will be subjected to static load tests. Flexing bodywork has been an area of concern in the past, again the FIA tests will be more stringent to lessen the possibility of using flexing bodywork to enhance the aerodynamic performance.

Melbourne the first real test of the season - Photo: Caterham F1

Melbourne the first real test of the season – Photo: Caterham F1

Almost all teams are still developing the Coanda-style exhaust outlets, exploiting the Coanda effect, the phenomenon that air ‘sticks’ to nearby surfaces, to the fullest. Williams came up with an idea that looked promising, they divided the exhaust outlet with a piece of carbon fibre in two apertures, which is prohibited.

Williams Technical Director Mike Coughlan made a tiny slot in the carbon piece, which according to him made it legal, but after a meeting with FIA’s Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting it was removed again. It is expected more teams will try such designs and other tricks to guide the air around and under the car, as it can deliver more downforce, and downforce is, even after more than 60 years, still the holy grail of Formula One.

The FIA has also extended the personnel curfews, the period team members are not allowed to be present in the paddock. The curfew on Thursdays has been extended from six to eight hours, while the number of occasions teams are allowed to break the curfew has been reduced from four to two.

The minimum weight of car and driver has been increased from 640 kg to 642 kg, to compensate for the increase in weight of the Pirelli tyres. Pirelli has announced they are aiming for more tyre degradation and therefore more pit stops. In general, the rubber compounds will be softer compared to last year, the structure of the tyres will be more flexible, and the tyre ‘shoulders’ have been reinforced. All this will result in more thermal degradation, which is good for the show.

Fernando Alonso testing the F138 - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso testing the F138 – Photo: Ferrari

Pirelli is now aiming for two to three stops per driver per race, which would make races even more attractive, they also promised to be more aggressive with the tyre allocations towards the end of the season. Also new is that the sidewall of the hardest tyre will be orange marked, instead of silver, which will make it easier for the fans to spot the difference with the medium compound, white marked tyres. For the Australian Grand Prix, Pirelli has allocated the super soft and medium compounds.

During the last four test days in Barcelona, teams have been testing parts for Melbourne, but when one takes a closer look at the lap times, it is impossible to tell who will be the fastest this season. Red Bull Racing, despite their average test results, is still the favourite for this year’s title. Mark Webber has recorded the fastest time only once during a total of 12 days, but Red Bull is renowned for hiding their true pace during testing.

Neither Webber, nor triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel have given any clues or hints about the true speed of the RB9, but the Austrian team occasionally issued statements in which they mentioned ‘Red Bull is not the only fast team in 2013’. Mr. Red Bull, Helmut Marko, the stubborn advisor of the team, has also been very quiet during the first two months of this year, normally he’s the first to make some controversial comments about  Red Bull’s opponents, when he’s silent, that is considered to be suspicious.

Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Ferrari were determined not to make the same mistake as last year, when they had to play catch-up for most of the season, and it seems they’ve succeeded. The F138 is fast straight out of the box, and both drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were quick during testing. If they keep developing the F138, Ferrari will be a fierce contender for the 2013 crown.

McLaren lost their star driver to Mercedes, but the Woking-based team has contracted new race talent Sergio Perez, who was a bit disappointing during testing. Button will be the number one driver, but whether he has the same ‘drive’ as Hamilton remains to be seen, as the 2009 World Champion has a more conservative approach.

For Mercedes 2013 will bring the decision whether the team will stay in Formula One, as more and more Mercedes-Benz CEO’s refuse to back the very expensive Formula One adventure. New managers like Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda should help the Silver Arrows team to find their way to success, which could be profitable as well.

On Saturday and Sunday Grand Prix Journal will discuss all eleven teams more elaborate in the big 2013 preview, and from Monday on we’ll bring you the usual team previews.


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

Perez on top for McLaren after second day of testing at Barcelona


By Berthold Bouman

Perez on top for McLaren after second day of testing at Barcelona - Photo: McLarenSergio Perez set the fastest time for McLaren today at the circuit de Catalunya in Spain during the second day of testing at the Barcelona circuit. The Mexican recorded a time of 1m21.848 today, eight-tenths faster than the quickest time yesterday recorded by Nico Rosberg.

Second, but not without problems as he caused a red flag today, was Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull RB9, he was 0.349s slower than Perez. “We had some issues with reliability today and we couldn’t do as many laps as we wanted, but I think it’s better that this kind of thing happens today rather than in Australia,” the triple World Champion said.

Technical problems for Vettel today - Photo: Infinity

Technical problems for Vettel and Red Bull today – Photo: Infinity

He didn’t reveal much about the problems he encountered, “It was nothing disastrous, just small things that hampered us today. We stopped the car once as we saw a small loss of pressure. The second stop towards the end of the day caused a red flag and it simply took too much time to turn everything around, so we couldn’t get out again.”

Kimi Raikkonen was again at the front with the Lotus E21, yesterday he was second, today he was third, but like Vettel, not without problems. The E21 had a gearbox problem and the team decided to replace it. “Fortunately, once we were able to get a lap in we could see that the car has good pace. We test to find any problems so in that respect we’re doing a good job, but it’s frustrating. It’s no secret that we want to get more laps on the board and that’s the target for the rest of this test and the final sessions next week,” said Raikkonen.

It was Lewis Hamilton’s turn at the wheel of the Mercedes today, and the 2008 World Champion took fourth place with a lap of 1m22.726 after completing 121 laps. A productive day and Hamilton said, “We’re making continual steps forward in terms of our understanding of the set-up and the tyres. The hard compound work in particular was pretty good today, although all of tyres are showing degradation so looking after them isn’t easy.”

Fernando Alonso fifth quickest today - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso fifth quickest today – Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso was still keen to try the Ferrari F138, he scored the fifth fastest time after completing 76 laps. He did experience an exhaust problem, that prevented him from getting through all the day’s planned programme.

Today it was Valtteri Bottas’ turn to test the Williams FW35, he was sixth, 1.713s off the pace set by Perez. “I had a really strong first impression of the FW35 today. Once we completed the aero work this morning I was able to complete my first proper run to feel the FW35 and the improvements we have made,” Bottas said.

He’s confident the FW35 is a strong contender this season, “Straight out of the box I knew we had made a step forward from last year, and I am looking forward to working to develop the car even further. It’s great to know we have a really good base to start from but there are still a number of areas we can improve, so I’m really excited for the season ahead.”

Daniel Ricciardo was in the Toro Rosso for the second day this week, and he claimed seventh place for Red Bull’s Italian sister team.

Paul di Resta was eighth and with 62 laps completed today he said, “We stopped a little bit early today, but we still got plenty of running under our belt and we’re learning more and more about the car as we go along — that’s what winter testing is all about.”

Again, it was all about tyres today and di Resta remarked, “Understanding the tyres is always a priority and we’re getting a feel for the degradation rates, which have been quite high, although we have to remember that the track temperatures here are lower than we can expect at most races. Learning about the tyres and a new car at the same time is never easy, but we’re pretty pleased with how things have gone during the first couple of days.”

Ninth place for Nico Hulkenberg today - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Ninth place for Nico Hulkenberg today – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Sauber also experienced technical issues today, but were able to carry out the major part of their testing schedule. Nico Hulkenberg reported, “We got a lot done, but also had some issues today. I did quite a lot of running, but it was difficult because the tyres degraded quite quickly. In addition, it was not easy for us today to use the full potential of the tyres on a single quick lap.” And he added, “There is definitely room for improvement.”

Max Chilton completed 67 laps today, and was the second driver to cause a red flag, as he stopped his car during the closing stages of the afternoon session.

Charles Pic in the Caterham was 11th and last, but he was happy with the result, “After losing some time on day one it was important to get as many kilometres done as possible and completing 102 laps gives us a lot of data to work through and will help us progress over the next two days of this test, and to prepare for next week.”

And he added, “With every lap I’m getting more comfortable in the car and with the whole team. There are a few areas for us to look at to extract more performance, but this week hasn’t been about times, it’s been focused on working through various setup options and understanding the tyres which are going to be as important this year as they were in 2012.”

Barcelona testing Day 2 – February 20

 Pos  Driver             Team            Time       Gap       Laps
  1.  Sergio Perez       McLaren         1m21.848              97  
  2.  Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull        1m22.197   + 0.349    84  
  3.  Kimi Raikkonen     Lotus           1m22.697   + 0.849    43  
  4.  Lewis Hamilton     Mercedes        1m22.726   + 0.878   121 
  5.  Fernando Alonso    Ferrari         1m23.247   + 1.399    76  
  6.  Valtteri Bottas    Williams        1m23.561   + 1.713    98  
  7.  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso      1m23.718   + 1.870    70  
  8.  Paul di Resta      Force India     1m23.971   + 2.123    62  
  9.  Nico Hulkenberg    Sauber          1m24.205   + 2.357    88  
 10.  Max Chilton        Marussia        1m25.115   + 3.267    67  
 11.  Charles Pic        Caterham        1m26.243   + 4.395   102