Posts Tagged ‘mclaren’

A new start in Barcelona

May 5th, 2009 No comments

Rubens Barrichello, Bahrain, 2009Jenson Button and Brawn GP have dominated the start of the 2009 Formula One season, winning three out of the four races so far.  If you listen to Renault’s Flavio Briatore that is almost entirely down to a ‘unique’ interpretation of the rules but since the FIA declared double-decker diffusers legal all the ‘non-diffuser’ teams have been working hard to redesign the back of their cars.

After the flyaway races in the East, the Spanish Grand Prix marks the start of the European tour and most teams will be bringing significant car updates to the Circuit de Catalunya this weekend.  These updates, and the fact that the drivers and teams know the track backwards from winter testing, should make for a close race on Sunday.

One of only three teams to use KERS this season, BMW have abandoned the device for Spain in favour of a comprehensive aerodynamic update.  Team boss Mario Theissen said:

We will not be equipping either cars with KERS in Barcelona.  It was a case of lining up with either a comprehensive aerodynamic update or KERS.  The tuning time on Friday would be too short.

I’m not sure why they can’t run KERS with the new aero update but BMW will be hoping it brings an improvement to their apalling start to the season.

Now that in-season testing is banned, the teams face a new problem when developing their cars this year.  Previously, teams could run many miles testing new aero packages before racing them.  This year it won’t be until they take to the track in Friday practice that they will know if any new parts are successful. Toro Rosso’s chief engineer, Laurent Mekies:

Obviously we don’t have testing now so we have to understand how the upgrade suits the direction we have taken so far.  Does it push in the same direction or does it ask us to reconsider some of the choices we have made already?

McLaren already made significant improvement in Bahrain with Lewis Hamilton wringing the most out of the MP4-24 to finish fourth and so will not be bringing anything special to Spain.  The Barcelona track is unlikely to suit the McLaren but Hamilton remains hopeful of another strong finish:

We won’t have the bigger upgrades of some of the other teams as we already introduced several new parts during the opening flyaways, so it will be interesting to see where we sit in the order. Nevertheless, the engineers are optimistic that our new diffuser and front wing will once again help us to make progress towards the front of the grid.

Currently fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, McLaren will be hoping for a stronger performance at Barcelona than they displayed there in winter testing.

Image: Brawn GP

Categories: Cars Tags: , , , ,

McLaren given suspended sentence

April 29th, 2009 No comments

Lewis Hamilton, Australia, 2009The World Motor Sport Council has handed down a suspended sentence on McLaren in a meeting held in Paris on Wednesday.

The team were charged with bringing the sport into disrepute by not being truthful with the stewards in Australia and Malaysia, telling them that Lewis Hamilton had not been instructed to slow down to let Jarno Trulli pass him in the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix.  In the days that followed, McLaren sacked sporting director Dave Ryan, Lewis gave a full public apology and Ron Dennis stepped back completely from all operations of the F1 team, although he denied his move was linked to the affair.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh attended Wednesday’s hearing alone and admitted the team’s guilt in all charges.  Here is the statement issued by the WMSC:

At an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council held in Paris on 29 April 2009, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes admitted five charges of breaching article 151c of the International Sporting Code relating to events at the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix.

The following decision was taken:

“Having regard to the open and honest way in which McLaren Team Principal, Mr Martin Whitmarsh, addressed the WMSC and the change in culture which he made clear has taken place in his organisation, the WMSC decided to suspend the application of the penalty it deems appropriate.

“That penalty is a suspension of the team from three races of the FIA Formula One World Championship. This will only be applied if further facts emerge regarding the case or if, in the next 12 months, there is a further breach by the team of article 151c of the International Sporting Code.”

The full reasons for this decision will be issued shortly.

The penalty is similar to that handed down to Jenson Button’s BAR-Honda team in 2005 after they raced with an underweight car in the San Marino Grand Prix.  In that case, although the team was not proved to have definitely committed fraud, BAR was given a two race ban and a suspended sixth-month expulsion.  The FIA had originally wanted to throw them out of the Championship for the rest of the season.

In giving a similar sentence to McLaren the FIA have shown a remarkable (and uncharacteristic) consistency in their decisions.  Now McLaren and the sport as a whole can move on with what has so far been an exciting start to the season.

It was Whitmarsh’s 51st birthday today.  I suppose this result was the best present he could hope for from the FIA.

Image: McLaren

Categories: News Tags: , ,

So much for improved stewarding

April 10th, 2009 No comments

Sir Jackie StewartAt the end of last year the FIA published a number of changes to the Formula One stewarding process to try to improve the consistency and openness of the stewards’ decisions.  I think you would have to admit that despite these changes they haven’t really made much progress.

In 2008 Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his win in the Belgian Grand Prix after the stewards decided he had gained an advantage by cutting the chicane when passing Kimi Raikkonen.  At the time, Niki Lauda called it “the worst judgment in the history of Formula One”and Sir Jackie Stewart was (as usual) outspoken in his criticism of the FIA.

The stewards made a mistake in Spa and so had to invent a new rule saying a driver must wait until the second corner before repassing after giving a position back.

Now, in the very first race of the 2009 season, we have the results of a race being changed after it has finished.  Twice.  Again, because of a failure of the stewards.  Ironically, it probably only happened because  McLaren were paranoid about receiving a penalty.  If you look at what actually happened on track, the drivers didn’t do anything wrong.  Hamilton passed Trulli perfectly legally and when Hamilton was ordered to let Trulli past there was nothing the Toyota driver could have done differently.

Sir Jackie Stewart has again spoken out against the unprofessional stewarding that has led to the sacking of one McLaren employee and as yet unknown further sanctions against the team when McLaren appear before the World Motor Sport Council later this month.  The triple World Champion said the whole thing could have been avoided if race control had been better organised and responded to McLaren’s requests for clarification at the time:

It seems strange that only one person has the authority to deal with these inquiries which could be result-changing in a multi-million pound sport.  As it is, we now have a potentially serious state of affairs for McLaren.

Sir Jackie’s right.  What Hamilton and Ryan did after the race was wrong but it could all have been avoided with better stewarding.

Categories: Opinion Tags: ,

Ferrari fastest in Malaysia practice, Hamilton sorry for ‘huge mistake’

April 3rd, 2009 No comments

Lewis Hamilton apologises at a press conference in MalaysiaThe big news of the day is the fallout from the McLaren-Trulli affair in Australia.

On Friday morning, McLaren sporting director Davey Ryan was sent home by team boss Martin Whitmarsh for his role in misleading the stewards at the Australian Grand Prix last weekend.  Ryan has been with McLaren since the seventies but it looks like his exit from the team will be permanent.

Ryan is taking the fall because for some reason as he and Hamilton walked to the stewards office after the race Ryan told Hamilton to withhold the fact that the team had told Lewis to let Jarno Trulli through in the final safety car session of the race.  Lewis was clearly uncomfortable with doing this but wanted to follow the senior team member’s instructions and went along with it.

Later on Friday a clearly emotional Hamilton apologised in front of the world’s media, saying:

As soon as I got out of the car I did the TV interviews at the back of the garage and straight away I gave a good account of what happened during the race.

Straight after that we were requested by the stewards, and whilst waiting for the stewards I was instructed – and misled – by my team manager to withhold information, and that’s what I did.

I sincerely apologise to the stewards for wasting their time and for making them look silly.

I’m very, very sorry for the situation – for my team, for Dave, who’s been a good member of the team for many years and whilst I don’t think it was his intention…he’s a good guy.

When I went into the meeting I had no intention of… I just wanted to tell the story, say what happened.

I was misled and that’s the way it went.

Some might say that Davey is a scapegoat and Hamilton has got away lightly.  But I do believe that Lewis was just trying to go along with what his team wanted out of a sense of loyalty.  In the days that followed Lewis obviously regretted what he’d done and I think the following statement goes some way to explaining how it happened:

As a human being and as a man it’s right for me to stand in front of you and put my hands up. I want to say sorry to all my fans. I am not a liar or a dishonest person; I am a team player.   If the team ask me to do something, I generally do it – but I felt awkward and uncomfortable. This is not an easy thing to do, to step back and realise I was in the wrong – but I was in the wrong. I was misled. I don’t know what else is going to happen in the future.

I still think it could have all been avoided if race control could have provided guidance to the drivers and teams at the time.  Neither Lewis nor Trulli did anything wrong on the track and if the race organisers had sorted out the proper race order at the time instead of handing Trulli a ridiculous 25 second penalty none of this would have had to happen.

But with all the controversy we shouldn’t forget there is still a race on Sunday and in Friday practice the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheet despite Kimi suffering a problem with KERS and a fire in the cockpit.

Red Bull and Williams looked quite strong again but it seems Brawn GP won’t necessarily have it all their own way on Sunday.  Rubens Barrichello will take a five place grid penalty for changing a gearbox.

Other teams like Toyota and BWM concentrated on setup rather than lap times so they may do better in qualifying than their Friday times would suggest.

Here are the times from the first two practice sessions:

First Practice

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:36.260
2 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:36.305
3 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:36.430
4 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:36.487
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.561
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:36.646
7 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.699
8 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:36.703
9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:36.747
10 Timo Glock Toyota 1:36.980
11 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:36.982
12 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:37.025
13 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:37.039
14 Nelson Piquet Jr Renault 1:37.199
15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:37.241
16 Fernando Alonso Renault 1:37.395
17 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:37.634
18 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:37.640
19 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.022
20 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.483

Second Practice

Pos Driver Team Time
1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:35.707
2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:35.832
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:35.954
4 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:36.015
5 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:36.703
6 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:36.161
7 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:36.254
8 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:36.290
9 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.397
10 Nelson Piquet Jr Renault 1:36.401
11 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.515
12 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:36.516
13 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.628
14 Timo Glock Toyota 1:36.639
15 Fernando Alonson Renault 1:36.640
16 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:36.875
17 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:37.267
18 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:37.278
19 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 1:37.432
20 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:37.930

Hamilton loses Oz points, Trulli gets his podium back!

April 2nd, 2009 No comments

Trulli leads Hamilton, Australia, 2009The Formula One circus continued today with the FIA stripping Lewis Hamilton of all the points he earned in Australia because he “acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the Stewards.”  Toyota’s Jarno Trulli has had his third place finish reinstated.

Confusion has surrounded the result of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton passed Jarno Trull under the safety car after Trulli ran off the track.  Trulli later passed Hamilton to reclaim third place but was later penalised 25 seconds for passing under the safety car and so dropped to 12th place.

The stewards original ruling suggested that while Hamilton’s pass was legal, Trulli’s was not but the Toyota driver has always claimed that Lewis Hamilton slowed to let him retake third position.  Toyota had planned to appeal the decision but later decided the appeal was unlikely to succeed.

A recording of the Toyota radio communications shows how confusing the situation was for trulli:

The statement from the stewards reads:

The Stewards having considered the new elements presented to them from the 2009 Australian Formula One Grand Prix, consider that driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the Stewards at the hearing on Sunday 29th March 2009, a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code. Under Article 158 of the International Sporting Code the driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes are excluded from the race classification for the 2009 Australian Grand Prix and the classification is amended accordingly.

This is a bad start to the season and is only going to encourage the conspiracy theorists who think the FIA have it in for McLaren. Thank god Ferrari aren’t involved.

As I said before, what we need to see now are the “new elements presented” to the stewards. It has been nearly a week and we haven’t seen a post-race report from the stewards explaining their decisions. We have seen video of Hamilton passing Trulli and now we have Toyota’s radio transmissions but what we still haven’t seen is Trulli’s pass of Hamilton and, perhaps most importantly, McLaren’s radio transmissions.

I really hope we get to see all the evidence the stewards had when making their decisions. What is needed is openness and clarity regarding the rules and the stewards interpretation. Is it any wonder that McLaren were worried about Hamilton’s pass on Trulli after being so harshly dealt with at Spa last year?