2 NOVEMBER 30 2011 motorsport-news.co.uk
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British team promises to ramp up its ByRob Ladbrook McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh has promised that his team will learn from its mistakes this year and come back ready to challenge Formula One dominator Red Bull in 2012. McLaren driver Jenson Button cemented second place in the drivers’ world championship with a third place finish in Brazil last weekend. The team has also wrapped up second place in the constructors’ points.
Button’s podium capped a difficult season for the Woking team, which has lagged behind Red Bull and its figurehead Sebastian Vettel for much of the season following a torrid start to the year. Whitmarsh said second place for the team isn’t enough and promised a bigger push for next year.
“By the standards of McLaren, this has not been a vintage year,” Whitmarsh said. “Clearly, wewant to winmore races than this. Wehad a slow start to the year and it hurt us. Wehave to get out of the blocks quickly and effectively at the start of next year and be in a position to win races straight away. We look forward to turning the tables on Red Bull in 2012.”
McLaren’s problems McLaren’s biggest hurdle this year was overcoming the aerodynamic inefficiencies that hampered its MP4-26 challenger.
The team struggled to match the pace of Red Bull Racing during preseason testing and lacked development time to correct the issues prior to the opening race in Australia back in March. Whitmarsh has laid the majority of the blame on the team’s experimental ‘Octopus’ exhaust system, which it developed in an effort to generate more downforce exploiting the controversial blown diffuser regulations. The failed concept prompted a redesign of the car’s floor and exhaust system. The resulting lack of development helped Vettel cruise to five wins from the opening six grands prix.
“We had a disastrous winter and were seconds off the pace on our first long runs,” Whitmarsh said. “Though we understood that there was a blown-exhaust phenomenon to take advantage of, our concept was too ambiguous and complex to exploit it. It consumed a lot of our development and design effort to rectify.
“Normally you push development work during the winter, but if you use that time to rectify something that waswrong it is difficult to recover. Wehad a shocking time. We were nowhere near competitive and had not done a race distance run before we finished the Australian GP. That is noway to start a season. We have taken some decisions onwhat happened this year and hopefully we have learned from that.”
Button also acknowledges that the
Button finished second in the points - just like McLaren did team’s early season mistakes set them back. He added: “The exhaust system we tried wasmassively different to what everybody else had and perhaps we put too much faith in one component of the car. Wedefinitely won’t have another winter like that, we’ve learned from that mistake. This time wewill be ready for the first race.”
Development fight Focus towards the development of McLaren’s 2012 challenger is already underway. Button and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton are confirmed at the team for 2012, which gives McLaren a solid base onwhich to create a car tailored to both drivers. McLaren’s managing director Jonathan Neale believes that stability is key and the team will be more than capable of fighting Red Bull for the 2012 title. “We’ve shown that we can out-develop and stay close to any team on the grid,” he said. “We have consistently won races and we’re consistently on the podium but we need more titles – that’s a frustration for us.
“We have to have a car the drivers feel comfortable in, that also has bulletproof reliability. Lewis and Jenson are back-to-back world champions and deserve the best.”
The team’s efforts to close the gap to its rivals this year have drawn praise from triple world champion Niki Lauda, who has tipped McLaren as a challenger next year. “After its bad start McLaren was the only team to catch Red Bull,” exMcLaren driver Lauda told German broadcasterRTL. “Next year they
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early season pace to net 2012 title
M c LAREN : THE FIGHTBACK BEGINS HERE
5THINGSTHAT HURT McLAREN’SCHARGE
1: Lack of test mileage McLaren’s charge to recover its F1 crown was hampered from the start when a fundamental flaw emerged with the MP426’s aerodynamics. The team blamed an over-complicated exhaust system for the lack of pace. The system also proved fragile and the team only completed 785 laps (3746 miles) of testing, compared to Red Bull’s 1372 laps (4402 miles).
2:Turkish trauma A pair of conflicting strategies made the Turkish GP one of McLaren’s worst weekends of the year. The team opted to run Button on a three-stop strategy, when many of his rivals used four. The rate of tyre wear was too severe for the call and Button slipped to sixth. Hamilton made an over-exuberant lunge on Mark Webber and damaged his tyres on the opening lap. He finished fourth.
will be the biggest threat to Vettel if they start with a good car. If they start at the same level and it becomes a development struggle, McLaren has the lead, technically.”
Button added: “We’ll come out fighting from the first race. Weneed to start the year stronger. Wewant to make it hard for Red Bull.”
Red Bull switched focus to developing its newRB8machine before the Korean GPback in October. The team also ran a selection of development parts on MarkWebber’s car during practice in Brazil. Webber said: “We also did some reliability work here and there. It was a good day for us. Nobody is rigged up for 2012 just yet so you still need to read a bit into it, but the running was relevant in terms of the information we got.”
Lewis’s fresh start Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox failure while fighting for fourth place in Brazil brought the curtain down on a torrid season for the former world champion. Myriad personal problems and on-track clashes have left him fifth in the points, his lowest ever finish in the standings. Although Hamilton, 26, won three races this year, it also marks the first time he has been out-scored by his teammate. He said: “It’s been a long season and I’m looking forward to some downtime and then just attacking next year.
“I’ve learned a lot this year so I feel positive and in the future I’ll look back and think ‘I needed that’. I’m ready to come back fighting next year. Mypreparation starts here.”
HOW M c LAREN CLOSEDTHE GAP
First ten races Points scored over the season: Last nine races
RED BULL: 355pts
RED BULL: 295pts
3:Team-mates clashing Canada provided one of the flash points of the season. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button collided while fighting in extreme wet conditions. Hamilton attempted to overtake Button on the pit straight but the pair touched as Button moved across to take the racing line. The contact led Hamilton to tag the pit wall and retire from the race. Button recovered to win.
Own go al in Canada
4: Downforce mystery Following strong practice pace at the Korean Grand Prix both McLarens struggle to capitalise on their form and fail to challenge Sebastian Vettel. Both cars suffer a loss of frontal downforce, which is blamed on the front wings picking up debris from the dirty circuit. Hamilton slipped to 12 seconds behind Vettel at the finish.
5: Pit stop palaver A botched pit stop put Jenson Button out of the British GP. Button was released from the pits without a nut on his front-right wheel. The tyre detached and he retired. Hamilton was fourth after being told to slow because the team feared he would run out of fuel.
Button had wh eel nu t w oe in the UK
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