Cart before the horse at McLaren?

ExtremeNinja

Karting amateur
Contributor
I have been giving some thought as to why McLaren, with their extremely strong driver pairing, their great resource and technical ability, have always managed to be at the front or thereabouts but struggle to reach the ultimate goal. Of course, we can point to their strategy problems but if we ignore them for a moment where else could we look for issues and is there something perhaps fundamental somewhere in their philosophy?

On thing that gets thrown around and causes a lot of problems is the driver equality issue which we can only speculate on and will always be fruitless. there is somewhere else we can go with this, though, and it is the idea that neither driver is overly important in the design process. That the drivers are a component of the car and not that the car is an instrument to be wielded by the driver. After all, introducing the driver into the design process is to introduce a human factor into the design process and McLaren come across as being quite against that sort of thing.

"We build the car, we do what the computer says, you get in and drive it".

Could this explain why their form changes from circuit to circuit and shifts from driver to driver? Could they achieve better results by focusing more around a driver and what they want from a car than focusing on the car and then what they want from the driver? As reports could be interpreted, Fernando Alonso is quite headstrong in elevating the pilot and standing as an imposed divine purpose for the engineers, at least, in his Ferrari environment. Quite the opposite of the balance that I observe at McLaren.

Just my rambling thoughts.
 

Mephistopheles

Banned
Contributor
One of the reasons Schumacher was able to bring the Ferrari team back to the top of the pile was his attitude towards the Mechanics, he would spend hours talking to them he would stay late into the evening trying to understand exactly what was going on with the car he made sure he got to know the people that were working for the team almost on an intimate level, and in this way he got the best out of the equipment and the people he worked with.

I do not see this at McLaren by either driver they seem to just turn up and drive and if something goes wrong they just go away and wait for it to be fixed rather than try to understand it.

Whether this is the fault of the drivers or the policy of the team I don't know but in my opinion the drivers should get to know all about the car and how it works even if they don't have an input on how it is designed...
 

Kewee

Race Winner
Mephistopheles......I think at present McLaren are in a transitional phase, results may well come next year though I'm sure many will disagree. Button has put a lot of effort into developing his relationship with the team and developing the car. Regarding Ferrari and Schumacher. The factors that led to their dominance was only in part due to Schumacher's work ethic and talent on track during testing, and races. Two major points came into play. The first was an exclusive arrangement with Bridgestone and the second, there was no budget cap or any form of spending restraints in place which led to Ferrari throwing immense amounts of money into their team, far more than any other team they were competing against. There was even suspicion at the time that the Italian Government may have had some financial input. When their were no limits on spending, make no mistake, money won races. One comment regarding tyres, none of the technology in an F1 car is able to perform if the tyres are not doing their job, which is why Ferrari were able to gain an enormous advantage by developing such a close relationship with Bridgestone.
 

Hamberg

FOTA VIP, I've got the avatar to prove it :)
Contributor
The only drivers I believe it's well reported that spend a significant amount of time with the engineers (not saying others don't) is Schumacher and Rosberg (that's working well!).

Williams make their drivers take an engineering test before they offer them a contract also.

I don't disagree with McLaren's approach if that is indeed it, in that the guys at the factory design and buils and the driver drives. These are the experts with significant training, intelligence, education and experience in an area that drivers cannot be expected to understand or have the intellectual capability to do. I would be astonished if the drivers requirements (whether this be verbally expressed or extracted from data) and indeed circuit and tyre characteristics are not strongly incorporated into any design.

I agree using Ferrari/Schumacher as an example is slightly dangerous given the privelages Ferrari enjoyed.

Understanding engineering/aerodynamics is a must have from any driver (including test) as they need to be able to translate back to base what they are experiencing but how much a driver a driver can or should be involved in development I think should be limited to explaining what they'd like and then testing and feeding back.
 

The Pits

Harumph. Again.
Valued Member
I remember in the run up to 2010 there was a lot of noise about this particular subject. The quotes from the press, and from Lewis indicated that he had spent more time than normal with the designers to help with the new car design.

My opinion for what its worth, until the car has turned a wheel, the drivers input can be gained from understanding their preferences, this data can be gathered from the 20 races a season, and three test sessions. I would make the assumption that the design team would understand pretty well what each driver is looking for.

What a driver is looking for, I would guess, is more of everything please, with a good range of adjustments to adapt for various circuits and conditions (the mistake Merc made in 2010 was a limitation in adjustment for key areas). The team will know what settings at which tracks each driver preferred, and where they were losing ground to other teams, along with all the wind tunnel, CFD and track comparisons, heck, the one thing the teams are not short of is comparison data.
 

Kewee

Race Winner
He has?

I have said it before but no-one outside the team has any idea at all just how much each team member contributes to car development, in any team.
There have been many compliments passed back and forth between Button and the team during the course of the season including the value of the feedback they get from him to leave little doubt in his contribution.
 

Kewee

Race Winner
Brogan......Further to my last comment Paul, Bob McMurray has had plenty to say regarding Buttons relationship and contribution to the team and it's fair to say anything Bob says is very much from within the team. Even though he's not directly involved with McLaren anymore, he remains very close to the team and has access to information others don't. In saying that interviews with Bob are often with the New Zealand motoring press and may be missed by the British and European press.
 

Kewee

Race Winner
Bob McMurray is very much considered to be a McLaren insider, not just here in NZ, and I'm happy to quote him and trust his opinions as many in the automotive press do globally. If your unfamiliar with Bob McMurray he wrote a very good book called "Behind the Pit Wall", published in the UK in 2010 by Harper Collins. An excellent read by a man who played a major role at McLaren during many of their greatest years. All our opinions are formed by information gathered from various sources, they begin to have value and are worth sharing when they have been formed from information gathered from reliable people. I simply believed this was interesting information to share, from a man who's opinions are still very much valued.
 

Hamberg

FOTA VIP, I've got the avatar to prove it :)
Contributor
Only asking as I put 'Jenson Button Bob McMurray Feedback' and got nothing (apart from the book you mentioned) but then it's published in 2010 so that's not a great source of the Button/McLaren relationship?

Be good if you can find some NZH references. We aren't saying your lying but it's hard to accept it when at the moment you're providing what we can only take as hear'say. You know we like evidence :)
 

Kewee

Race Winner
Hamberg......No you won't have any joy on google regarding this topic. Much of what Bob has had to say has been in TV interviews back here in NZ and a little in some of NZ's motoring mag's. The point I was making is he is a very reliable source and is in a position to talk with senior people within the McLaren camp and does just that. Yes I know you like evidence. :) If we were all required to provide hard evidence to back our postings, this site would empty of contributors overnight. LOL To be honest I'm happy with my comment relating to Button's contribution based solely on the number of times he returns to the factory between GP's to work on progressing the car. We also hear his feedback to his engineer during practice before each GP, most on the site refer to it as complaining. It's worth remembering my original comment was a reaction to someone saying McLarens drivers just turn up to drive and then if something goes wrong they go away and wait for it to be fixed. Maybe you can enlighten me and explain why my comment created so much reaction when this absurd posting suggesting McLaren's drivers just turn up to drive and don't contribute was ignored. :s
 

Hamberg

FOTA VIP, I've got the avatar to prove it :)
Contributor
Like I said, not accusing you of lying Kewee but it's nice to read that stuff ourselves and you're right, it's not publicised in blighty at all I think.

The reaction I believe is because Button is singled out by you/Bob. I may be wrong/bias but I hear from Lewis more than Jenson about spending time in the factory therefore if you gave evidence to show one contributes more than the other it would be good to see. Not personal though :)

As I've mentioned I've only heard of two drivers that do this and they currently both drive for the everso successful Mercedes!
 

Kewee

Race Winner
Hamberg,,,, None of my postings have compared which driver, Hamilton or Button, contribute most, my original posting was a simple reaction to a ridiculous claim that neither contribute or show interest in car development and helping to solve McLarens problems. As I said, I'm surprised people on this site ignored such a silly posting and chose instead to extract one small point from my posting, a posting that covered a far greater topic relating to a much broader issue. For what it's worth I always enjoy reading opinions based on information I may not have access to, it's then up to me to decide whether the source appears to be reliable or not. Usually you can compare opinions with sources you know are reliable and then decide whether those opinions reinforce comments from other reliable reports or whether they should be ignored totally. Often the truth comes from reading comments from many sources and even then it sometimes requires us to read between the lines.
 

Kewee

Race Winner
By the way Hamberg, the reason I singled out Button was Hamilton is irrelevant in relation to next year. He's leaving the team at the end of the year and my posting related to where McLaren were likely to find themselves next year when they will be depending on Button more than ever in virtually every way, which is why I referred to their transitional phase. You should note that I mentioned Button had worked hard at developing his "relationship" with the team, not just car development. There's ample evidence of this since he joined McLaren.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
The 2006 McLaren was developed along two quite divergent paths to suit Raikkonen and Montoya, with little success in either case. Unfortunately having two drivers who like the same balance in a car tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

Of course, you can still develop it around your number one, if you think you know who that is. It just leaves you exposed if they play too much "tennis", have a leg-breaking accident or fall out with their girlfriend.
 

ZakspeedYakspeed

NeverUnderestimateThePredictabilityOfStupidity
Valued Member
In todays parlance (of exceptional "being able to finish a race" reliability)... I think the McLaren gets the "super fast but fragile" tag...
 
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