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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

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

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.

Formula One 2013 driver line-up almost complete, two vacancies left

By Berthold Bouman

Formula One 2013 driver line-up almost complete, two vacancies leftWith less than four weeks to go before pre-season testing starts at Jerez, Spain, the 2013 driver line-up is almost complete, only Caterham and Force India both have still one vacancy. It is certainly not easy to get into Formula One, but staying there is almost as difficult, as Swiss media reported Sebastien Buemi will again sign as Red Bull’s test and reserve driver after being ousted from Red Bull’s Italian sister team, Toro Rosso, in 2011.

It is highly likely it is all over for the Spanish HRT team, according to veteran driver Pedro de la Rosa, and therefore only 22 drivers will be on the grid when the season kicks off in Melbourne, Australia, on March 17.

Red Bull Racing

After winning his third consecutive title Sebastian Vettel is confirmed for 2013, while Mark Webber will be the number two driver for the Austrian team, as he recently signed a one-year contract. The pair will drive for the successful team for the fifth consecutive year, but team advisor Helmut Marko is not happy with Webber’s last year’s achievements and has threatened to dump him next year.


Of course championship runner-up Fernando Alonso will stay with the Maranello-based team, he has a contract until 2016. Not much to choose, and also not much to lose either is what Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo must have thought when he signed Felipe Massa for another year. Massa had a bad start of the 2012 season, but wrestled his way back into contention during the second half of the season, and helped Ferrari to clinch second place in the Constructors’ Championship.

Fernando Alonso - Photo: Ferrari


After many mechanical failures, bad pit stops and other disappointments, Lewis Hamilton left the team he grew up with and Jenson Button is now the number one driver, at least for this season. Sergio Perez will drive alongside the Briton, but whether the Mexican driver, who started his career at Sauber, is up to the job remains to be seen. Although he can be very fast, he lacks some experience and often makes mistakes that cost him dearly.


Sauber signs Gutierrez as race driver, Frijns test and reserve driver

By Berthold Bouman

Sauber has signed Mexican Esteban Gutierrez as their 2013 race driver, and he will be racing alongside Nico Hulkenberg who will leave the Force India team at the end of the season. The 21-year old Mexican will succeed his compatriot Sergio Perez who will move to McLaren in 2013.

Gutierrez will drive for Sauber in 2013

Gutierrez was already test and reserve driver for the Swiss outfit, and Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn summed up his career, “Esteban has already been part of the team for a long time and we have followed his career very closely. In 2010 we signed him up as an affiliated driver, and in 2011 and 2012 he was our test and reserve driver. We mapped out his path to Formula One step by step. Esteban has great talent and now he’s ready to take the leap.” And she added, “We are in no doubt we have a strong driver pairing in place for the 2013 season with Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.”

Gutierrez thanked Sauber for giving him the opportunity to become a Formula One driver, “After three years working with Sauber I feel very grateful for all the attention I have received from everyone in the team and for all their input, which has allowed me to develop into a Formula One driver in a very progressive way.”

“Now, after experiencing other categories of racing as an introduction to Formula One, this is the start of the real challenge to succeed at the pinnacle of motor sport,” he added. About his team mate Hulkenberg he commented, “It will be a great pleasure to be racing in the same team as an experienced driver like Nico Hulkenberg. He will be a good reference point for me and will push me to adapt quickly to F1 competition so we can develop the car together with the team in the best way.”

Gutierrez last drove the Sauber C31 during the Young Driver Days at Abu Dhabi, and so did Dutchman Robin Frijns, who has now been promoted to test and reserve driver. Frijns is actually just a few days younger than Gutierrez, and also has an impressive race C.V.

“Monitoring Robin’s racing career“, said Frijns’ team boss Kaltenborn, “makes it easy to spot his potential. This was the reason we gave him the chance to drive the Sauber C31-Ferrari at the Young Driver Days in Abu Dhabi. He managed this very well. We will now carefully guide him to Formula One. This is a long way, but Robin has got the skills to do that successfully.”

Frijns, who also tested for Red Bull at Abu Dhabi, said, “I’m very happy the Sauber F1 Team has given me this opportunity. I would like to thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber for their belief and trust in me by signing me to join their team as a test and reserve driver.”

Of course the young Dutchman is already looking forward to the 2013 season, “With this opportunity I will try to help the team as much as possible and get the chance to learn how Formula 1 works in an extremely professional environment. I am already very much looking forward to getting the 2013 season started and working together with the team.”

Unfortunately this announcement also means Kamui Kobayashi will have to find a new race seat for 2013, and Kaltenborn thanked the Japanese driver for his time with the Swiss team, “This has not been an easy decision for us to take, but we have committed ourselves to a new beginning and our time with Kamui will come to an end after the final race of the season. We wish Kamui all the best for the future.”

Robin Frijns, Sauber’s new test and reserve driver

United States GP: Sauber well-prepared, drivers excited to drive on unknown territory

By Berthold Bouman

Sauber is well-prepared for the penultimate round of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship, the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. The Swiss outfit has done a lot of work on the simulator at their base in Hinwil, Switzerland, to prepare for the unknown.

Sergio Perez, Sauber

Head of Track Engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara said ahead of this weekend, “Along with all the other teams we have been supplied with the relevant data about the Circuit of the Americas. We implemented a simulation for the aerodynamic configuration of the car, gear ratios, braking systems and, more generally, for a baseline set up.”

But he thinks the Sauber C31 will suit the new circuit, “The lap begins with an uphill straight leading to corner one and then to a number of high-speed corners. This part, I think, should suit our car best. After a very tight left-hander we will have a long straight followed by a couple of slow speed corners and a multi apex long right-hander before arriving back on the start finish straight.”

For Kamui Kobayashi, the circuit will be a new experience, as he hasn’t even seen it on the simulator. “This is another new Herman Tilke circuit and he always gives us exciting tracks to have nice races. I have not seen the circuit on a simulator and, in fact, have no idea what it is like,” said the Japanese driver.

But that won’t be a problem at all, as he added, “However, it will be okay and a surprise for me. I shall walk the track when I first get there. I don’t know how many laps it will take to learn it, as it very much depends on the track. It can take three, ten or more laps.”

Sergio Perez has other reasons to exited about this race, “I think it is the closest race for eight years for me to my home town of Guadalajara. I expect many Mexican Formula One fans to attend and this, for sure, will give me an extra boost!”

The Mexican driver is aiming for a good result this weekend, “I have no issues about learning new tracks quickly. In my first Formula One season, which was only last year, I had many tracks to learn. I am sure we will have a good crowd there and I definitely want to put in a strong result for both the Sauber F1 Team and myself.”

Sauber is currently sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, but are targeting fifth place as rival Mercedes is only 12 points ahead of them. Perez is tenth, and Kobayashi is 11th in the Drivers’ Championship with 66 and 58 points respectively.

Indian GP: Red Bull dominate second Friday practice session, Perez back in the car

By Berthold Bouman

Sebastian Vettel was again fastest during the second free practice session for the Indian Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit this afternoon, but he was now closely followed by his Australian team mate Mark Webber, who was 0.118 seconds slower than the German 2010 and 2011 World Champion.

Red Bull fastest during FP2

Red Bull showed their supremacy again as third fastest driver Fernando Alonso was almost six-tenths of a second slower, which is bad news for Alonso’s and Ferrari’s title aspirations, as 0.6 seconds is almost an eternity in Formula One, if Red Bull can maintain the same pace the remaining title contenders will have a hard time keeping up with both Red Bull drivers during Sunday’s race.

Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen were fourth and fifth, but the damage was even worse for McLaren, as Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were sixth and seventh, but nine-tenths of a second slower than Vettel.

This time Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest Force India driver, he was eighth, while Paul di Resta was 11th after completing 32 laps. Difficult times for the Force India team, team owner Vijay Mallya was again prominently absent as his Kingfisher airline is in deep financial problems and he perhaps did not want to face his employees who wanted to confront him during his home Grand Prix.

Romain Grosjean was ninth for Lotus, both Lotus drivers significantly improved their pace compared to this morning’s session, Bruno Senna completed the top ten but was one and a half second off the pace. Pastor Maldonado was just like this morning again way off the pace and was 17th in the second Williams.

A big surprise as Sergio Perez jumped into his Sauber again after he had skipped the morning session due to a severe cold, and was the fastest Sauber driver in 12th place. His team mate Kamui Kobayashi was 0.277 seconds slower and the Japanese driver took 16th place.

Two seconds slower than his compatriot Vettel, Michael Schumacher took 13th place in the second Mercedes, the again-to-retire seven-times World Champion was 1.2 seconds slower than Rosberg.

Except the huge advantage Red Bull seems to have at the Indian track, there were no other surprises this afternoon, except perhaps Felipe Massa who was again very disappointing — and after he had spun twice and complained about the balance of his car, landed 15th spot this afternoon.

Daniel Ricciardo was 13th for Toro Rosso and Jean-Eric Vergne was 18th. Again the same names further down the order, Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen was back in the car after Dutchman Giedo van der Garde had borrowed it this morning, and the Finn took 19th spot, ahead of Russian Vitaly Petrov in the other Caterham.

Pedro de la Rosa made progress compared to the first session, he beat his team mate Narain Karthikeyan who took 23rd place, but also beat both Marussia drivers, as Timo Glock was 22nd and Charles Pic, who was 24th and last this afternoon.

Tomorrow morning all drivers have a last chance to find some more speed during the third and final practice session, and prepare themselves for the qualifying session in the afternoon.