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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

Formula One 2013 – Pay drivers still in the hot seat

By Berthold Bouman

Formula One 2013 - Paying drivers still in the hot seat - Photo: MarussiaPaying for a drive in Formula One, rather than being paid, is as old as the sport itself, even Niki Lauda paid for his first Formula One race in 1972. Being labelled as a pay driver is a stigma, but as a result of the economic recession — which has also hit Formula One hard — the pay driver has made a prominent return to the sport.

German Nico Hulkenberg, now driving for Sauber, was famously ousted by Frank Williams at the end of 2010 to make way for Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, who brought with him the money of  the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA. He was labelled a pay driver, and many said that Maldonado had more money than talent.

But he in fact saved the Williams team, as many sponsors had left the Grove-based outfit at the end of 2010 and Sir Frank really didn’t have any another option. Luckily for Sir Frank and his team, Maldonado proved to be a talented driver, as he not only won the GP2 championship in 2010, but also gave Williams their first victory in eight years when he won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.

After his victory Sir Frank said to the many pay driver sceptics, “He [Maldonado] did a great job, he’s a very happy boy, he deserves to be. He fully deserves to be in the team with or without the dosh. The truth is that if you haven’t got the dosh you can’t go Formula One racing.” And that is of course to what it all boils down to, the dosh.

Heikki Kovalainen - Photo: Caterham F1

Heikki Kovalainen – Photo: Caterham F1

Last year Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen said, “Caterham know that they’ll need to pay to keep me next season. I consider Tony [Fernandes, team owner] a good friend but he’s a businessman and he has to do what’s best for his business and, if that means bringing in a paying driver, then that’s life. But I’d rather be out of Formula One than be paying to drive.”

These proved to be Kovalainen’s famous last words, as Caterham hired two pay drivers for 2013, Frenchman Charles Pic, who has the support of Renault, and Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, who brought wealthy sponsor McGregor with him.

Timo Glock left the Marussia team because they couldn’t afford to pay him, now Max Chilton and Luiz Razia will be racing for Marussia this season, again thanks to the many sponsors they have brought with them. A tricky situation, as both drivers have very little experience in Formula One, and Marussia’s future, in fact, depends on them.

Max Chilton - Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton – Photo: Marussia F1

Chilton acknowledged it will be a difficult season not only for Marussia, but also for him. “It is not ideal and we will sometimes have a hard time. I had been looking forward to being Timo’s team mate, because of his vast experience,” he recently said. About pay drivers he commented, “Unless we were all capable, we would not be in Formula One.”

Mexican Sergio Perez was hired by Sauber because of his sponsorship, he has now moved on to McLaren, and was replaced by his compatriot Esteban Gutierrez, who also has an impressive sponsor portfolio. Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn defended her team’s choice to give the seat to Gutierrez, “Everybody who comes into Formula One is on a high level and if there are only a limited number of seats, then of course every team is looking for the best option. Who wouldn’t?”

Toto Wolff, who is now Mercedes’ Head of Motorsport, agrees with Kaltenborn and Chilton, “The classic pay driver was one who was clearly under performing but had a big budget,” he said. “There are no drivers who are clearly under performing. Most have either won championships before, or races, there is no one who is a waste of time. You simply can’t afford to put a complete loser in the car who is two seconds off the pace because it is going to hit you hard in the long-term.”

But McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, is clearly not a fan of pay drivers. “For me, personally I think it’s sad there are so many pay drivers in Formula One. The numbers have crept up,” said Whitmarsh. “I’m sure it’s good and exciting for those that can afford it, but you would hope in the premier form of motor racing worldwide, you would not have pay drivers.”

Esteban Gutierrez - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

And he added, “That means there are some good young, professional drivers who can’t get in and aren’t getting in.” Some of the pay drivers shouldn’t even be in Formula One said Whitmarsh, “It’s sad to say, but the reason that some of those guys are pay drivers, not all of them, but the reason that some are pay drivers is because they are actually and fundamentally not good enough to be in Formula One.”

But he understands why teams need pay drivers, “It’s difficult in Formula One for us to say to some of these teams ‘you can’t have pay drivers’. Sadly, they have become an important constituent of their budget, so I wouldn’t want to condemn them.”

And indeed, these drivers contribute to their team’s budget, and without them they wouldn’t survive. The Spanish HRT racing team ceased to exist as it became increasingly more difficult to find enough money for another season in Formula One. HRT also had in their short existence a long history of pay drivers, but that still wasn’t enough to survive.

Formula One has now become the survival of the financially fittest, and inevitably, if no action is taken, more teams will not survive. Although they deny they have financial problems, Marussia is dancing on the edge of the volcano, if they don’t improve their performance, they will not score any points this season and will not get any money from the sports commercial owners, and Formula One could lose another team next year.

Giedo van der Garde - Photo: Caterham F1

Giedo van der Garde – Photo: Caterham F1

FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t really care, he would be satisfied with only ten teams on the grid, “I’d rather have ten [teams], I never wanted 12. It’s just that ten is easier to handle, for the promoters, for transport. We’d rather have ten … so long as we don’t lose Ferrari.”

It seems former FIA President Max Mosley’s efforts to give other teams a chance in Formula One by restricting the spending of the existing teams, has become a failure. Current FIA President Jean Todt has shelved the RRA (Resource Restriction Agreement), which means the big teams like Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, still spend ten times more than the smaller teams.

Ecclestone already said in 2011 the RRA was doomed from the start, “I think it was probably dead before it started. It is very, very difficult for all these people who are competing with each other to agree [on] anything that’s going to stop their ability to win.”

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

By Berthold Bouman

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

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

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

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

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

378 Sir Jackie Stewart - Photo: Williams F1

Sir Jackie Stewart – Photo: Williams F1

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

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

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

Brazilian GP: Hamilton wants to give McLaren perfect farewell present

By Berthold Bouman

After his amazing win at the Circuit of the Americas, Lewis Hamilton has set his sights on winning his final race for the McLaren team. Hamilton recently signed a three-year deal with Mercedes, but he wants to say goodbye to his team in style, and there’s no better place to do that than at the Brazilian Interlagos circuit.

Hamilton wants to win his last race for McLaren

“As my final race behind the wheel of a McLaren, I vow to the whole team that I’ll give it my all on every single lap. My win in Austin last week was one of the races of my life, and I’d love to take victory in Brazil this weekend to give the team the perfect farewell present,” Hamilton said.

The 2009 World Champion has never won the Brazilian Grand Prix and said, “Brazil has been the scene of some epic races for me during my time at McLaren and, for many reasons, this weekend will be a very big race for me. I nearly won the title here in 2007, clinched it on the final turn in 2008 and drove like crazy to finish on the podium in 2009. But I’ve never won: and that’s what I’ll be aiming to do this time around.”

Jenson Button also has fond memories of the Brazilian track, “I’ve had some great experiences racing in Brazil — I won the World Championship here in 2009, of course, but I can also remember having strong races here, especially in 2006 when I finished on the podium.”

But the Briton is also aiming for a better qualifying result as he qualified in 12th place last weekend due to a throttle problem — but he nevertheless finished the race in fifth place. “I think we showed in Austin that we have an incredibly quick car, particularly in race-trim, and I’d love to have a clean weekend, a trouble-free qualifying and then have a good run at scoring some strong points on Sunday,” said Button.

When asked who is his favourite for this year’s title he said, “I’m not putting my money on anybody, but I hope we have a fantastic contest and may the best man win. Brazil will be the backdrop for the championship showdown — and it’s a great track upon which to end the season on a high.”

Hamilton said about the final showdown between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, “It’s a very finely poised battle, and neither Sebastian nor Fernando can afford to relax for a moment. They are both fantastic drivers, and both have driven superbly all season. Now, we’ll see who takes the final honours — I hope it’s an epic contest!”

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh agreed with his drivers and commented, “The Formula One World Championship couldn’t ask for a more epic backdrop to the title decider than the sweeps and valleys of Interlagos. There’s little to choose between the performances of Sebastian and Fernando this season, and all I hope for is a fair and true contest on Sunday.”

United States GP: Hamilton wants to be the first GP winner at the Circuit Of The Americas

By Berthold Bouman

Although Lewis Hamilton retired from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix while in the lead for McLaren, the 2008 World Champion has already left all of this behind him and is now looking forward to a new challenge: the United States Grand Prix.

Jenson Button, McLaren

“It’s crazy to think that the last United States Grand Prix was five years ago! It’s a race I still remember like yesterday, though — the nervy anticipation as I drove into the [Indianapolis] Speedway for the very first time, the thousands of supportive fans, and the fantastic car I had beneath me that enable me to take my second Grand Prix victory in the space of a week. For me, those were incredible, thrilling times,” Hamilton commented.

Like all drivers, he only knows the circuit from the simulator, “I think the Circuit Of The Americas looks like it could also be the place that modern Formula One finally calls home. I’ve only driven it on the computer and in the sim, but I think it’s going to be a track that drivers enjoy, which produces some great, close racing, and which fans will quickly love.”

Hamilton really wants to win this race, “This is a new circuit, a new challenge and a new opportunity — I’m definitely looking to be the first Grand Prix winner at the Circuit Of The Americas.”

After his fourth place in Abu Dhabi, Jenson Button is confident the race in the United States will be ‘brilliant’, and he is thrilled with the prospect of visiting the city of Austin as well. “I think we’re in for a fantastic weekend — I really cannot wait to get out to Austin and see the city, the people and the track. I think it’s going to be brilliant,” said Button.

About the circuit he commented, “On paper, the circuit looks to have a little bit of everything — the plan-view certainly looks familiar; you can see elements of the Maggotts/Becketts complex from Silverstone; there’s a reverse of Istanbul Park’s Turn Eight, too; and I can even see a bit of the Hockenheim infield, too. Whether those elements will blend together to make a satisfying whole remains to be seen, but there are a couple of long straights into tight corners, too, which should at least open up the possibility of overtaking.”

Not much luck for Hamilton at Abu Dhabi

And last but not least, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is happy Formula One will return to the United States again, as McLaren is also a sportscar manufacturer. “I’ve always maintained that Formula One’s presence in the United States is crucial, so I’m personally pleased and satisfied that we’re finally returning to America after spending far too long away from its shores,” said the Briton.

He thinks this race is an opportunity for Formula One to re-instate itself in America, “On a wider level, the arrival of a state-of-the-art, purpose-build Grand Prix track is perfect for Formula One, and this is a golden opportunity for the sport to finally put down roots and find a long-term home.”

And he added, “From a business perspective, too, we are in the right place at the right time. This is an invaluable commercial opportunity for the sport, for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and our partners.”

And what about his expectations? “With Lewis, we won the last Grand Prix to be held in the United States back in 2007. After a strong, but ultimately disappointing, performance in Abu Dhabi last week, I know that both Lewis and Jenson head to Austin, determined to pick up the baton and return us to the top step of the podium.

“This should be a great race for Formula One!”

Indian GP: McLaren duo Button and Hamilton hope for better results

By Berthold Bouman

After a disastrous Korean Grand Prix, where Jenson Button had to retire after a first-lap collision with Kamui Kobayashi and Lewis Hamilton only earned one point for his tenth place, the McLaren duo are hoping for a better result this weekend in India.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

“Through no fault of my own, my weekend in Korea was a wasted opportunity — but it’s already far behind me, and I’m really looking forward to these next two back-to-back races,” said Button.

About the circuit the 2009 World Champion said, “It’s a circuit I like: it has a good feel to it, and you can tell it’s quite different from the normal places we visit. I think we can have a good weekend there — I’m already looking forward to it.” Hamilton can’t wait to return to India, “I love India — the people, the colour, the noise, the spectacle, the chaos: it’s an intense and vibrant country, with some of the most enthusiastic and friendliest people we meet all year.”

Like his colleague, he likes the track as well, “The circuit, too, is something of a revelation. Most modern tracks have a very similar feel; you find that the same driving style and rhythm suits them all. But the Buddh International Circuit is different: it has more in common with a great track like Spa than it does with any number of the more modern places we visit.”

About this weekend’s prospects he said, “I didn’t have a particularly tidy weekend there last year: but I feel I’ve been driving better than ever recently — even if the results haven’t quite shown it — so I’m headed to India determined for another good result. I think we’ll have a car that’s a match for the circuit and I can’t wait to get out there and start practicing on Friday.”

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is aware of the problems McLaren had the past two races, “Our two weekends in Japan and Korea weren’t particularly prosperous. But while fortune certainly didn’t smile on McLaren during those two races, it’s proof if it were needed that no team or driver is immune from tides of good or bad luck.”

But Whitmarsh remained positive ahead of this weekend, “Of course, luck flows both way, and I’m positive that, after two disappointing races, this next double-header will be a more profitable affair for Jenson, Lewis and the whole team.”

McLaren is currently third in the Constructors’ Championship with 284 points,  just six points behind Ferrari in second place; taking first place will be a difficult task, as with four races to go, Red Bull is still in control with 367 points.

In the Drivers’ Championship things don’t look very well either for McLaren, as Hamilton is fourth, 62 points behind leader Vettel, while Button is sixth, 84 points behind the German.

Title fight is over says Hamilton, Button slams Kobayashi

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton thinks his race for the 2012 crown is over after scoring just one point at the Korean Yeongam circuit. “In terms of winning the World Championship, logic suggests that that’s probably it for me,” said a disappointed Hamilton. “We were still in the fight up until now but it’s too far away. We’ll keep fighting in the Constructors’.

Championship hopes are over says Hamilton

“It doesn’t feel great to experience days like these, but every cloud has a silver lining. Put it this way: it’s good to see what’s in your heart when you keep fighting. Days like these show the true spirit within.”

Hamilton’s car had suffered from a rear anti-roll bar failure, the team found that out after his first stint, which explained the unusual tyre-wear, which in its turn compromised the car’s handling and balance. And three laps before the end of the race he picked up a strip of artificial grass which got stuck on his right sidepod. “It stalled the diffuser — so I had no rear downforce at the end, which made it even trickier to hang on to 10th place,” Hamilton explained.

Jenson Button was forced into retirement as Kamui Kobayashi took off his McLaren’s right front wheel, and the 2009 World Champion didn’t even complete a full lap. “It’s pretty poor driving standards considering this is the pinnacle of motorsport,” Button said about Kobayashi. “And it’s such a long race … the race is not two corners long and some people need to know that and whether they will ever learn that we’ll have to wait and see.”

And he too realises his championship aspirations are now pretty much over. “I no longer have a realistic chance to win the World Championship, so I’ll be enjoying myself over the final four races. Scoring points for the team in the Constructors’ World Championship will be the most important priority, so I’ll be focusing on picking up as many as I possibly can,” Button said after the race.

Jenson Button, McLaren

It was a miserable race for McLaren, as they lost their second place in the Constructors’ Championship to Ferrari, but only six points separate the two teams. There are still 100 points on the table, so there is still a lot to fight for, McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh thinks, and he’s determined to do so.

“That’s what McLaren’s incredible team spirit is all about,” he said, adding, “That’s why McLaren has won one in four of all the Grands Prix that have been staged since our team first entered World Championship Grand Prix racing 46 long years ago. And that’s why we’ll be moving heaven and earth to win the four Grands Prix that still remain this year.

“It won’t be easy, but I promise you we’ll all be giving it our very best shot.”

Hamilton suddenly interested in McLaren technical details

By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton, who will leave his current team and will drive for Mercedes next season, has shown a sudden interest in the details of his McLaren MP4-27, that is the claim of the UK Independent newspaper. According to the newspaper Hamilton has shown a renewed interest in the technical aspects of his McLaren, especially the exhaust system and the telemetry seem to be his favourites.

Martin Whitmarsh and Lewis Hamilton

During the Friday FIA press conference at Suzuka, Hamilton tried to dodge questions about his move to Mercedes, and when again quizzed about his new employer he said, “I’m not really here to talk about that this weekend. I’m here to talk about trying to win this World Championship still.”

Sergio Perez wasn’t interested in talking about his new employer either, and said he was also concentrating on the six final races of the season. But when Hamilton was asked about Perez taking over his car next year, he couldn’t help himself saying, “Trust me, it will be a good car next year as well, I know.” And then he turned to Perez and jokingly said, “I know exactly what’s going on next year with your car!”

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh tried to play down the risk Hamilton could take McLaren’s secrets to Mercedes, “I think Lewis has been part of the team for a long time, I think he knows the people and what we’re trying to do, but I don’t think there’s any great secrets in that, so I don’t think it’s a concern.”

And he added, “I think if I was pursuing intellectual property from other teams, I’d probably go for engineers not drivers.” And Whitmarsh further commented, “But I think, again, Lewis is respectful of the team and what it’s doing, and I think he knows we’re going to do everything we can in the remaining six races to try and win, and try and win some championships. The best way to do that is to work together, be open and carry on as you ordinarily would.”

Most driver contracts have a clause that says drivers are not allowed to pass technical information when they leave their team to join another team, but Hamilton is of course at liberty to tell Mercedes what he has learned and has been taught at McLaren, and what he can still remember about his car.

But that is all theoretically of course, and meanwhile McLaren will certainly not give him more inside information about the 2013 McLaren, as he will not drive it in 2013. And last but not least, neither Hamilton, nor his boss-to-be, Ross Brawn, are fools; Hamilton will certainly not show up at the Mercedes headquarters in Brackley with a briefcase under his arm containing all McLaren’s ‘secrets’.

And that is why Hamilton said, “We’ve got six races ahead in a great team that I’ve had a great, an incredible journey with, and I’m working on trying to finish that on a high.”

FIA moves to stop new flexing front wing saga

By Berthold Bouman

The FIA has revised the regulations concerning the flexibility of aerodynamic parts, as McLaren allegedly used a new front wing design that enabled the front wing to flex backwards. The German Auto, Motor und Sport magazine reported Ferrari had complained about the McLaren wing and had asked FIA officials to act, as the Maranello-based team thought the wing was illegal.

McLaren front wing at Singapore GP

The new trick this time is that the wing can move as the pillars that support it, can rotate or ‘twist’ in such a way that under high speed the wing moves backwards a bit, there is less drag and thus the trick results in a higher top-speed on the straights. Also the airflow under the car is improved, which has an effect on the way the air passes through the rear diffuser, which gives more traction.

Red Bull was the first team to recognise the potential of the new idea, and introduced a new longer nose during the Singapore Grand Prix that could even rotate further than the one used by McLaren.

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh this week said the new flexing wing saga was just ‘business as usual’, “From time to time questions and disputes arise between teams, who feel that other teams are too flexible or whatever. I don’t envisage any particular problems for McLaren in that regard, and consequently I don’t think that it is anything that will harm us.”

Red Bull design wizard Adrian Newey, however, thinks the tightness of the regulations are the real culprit. “I think it is a shame that they are so tight in a way, there’s no doubt that it stifles some of the creativity. But that’s the world we live in,” he said. The competition is also tight Newey said, “The grid is so tight if you can find two tenths of a second in the final qualifying session, that can move you quite a few grid positions.”

According to Autosport, the FIA has now revised the way the flexibility is tested, the new test should now expose any twisting of the pillars as well. It is also understood all teams passed the new test at Suzuka today, but teams were warned in advance so they might have changed their front wings to pass the test.