When the top teams got it wrong

McLaren MP4-19, not their best car ever

McLaren MP4-19, not their best car ever

The pace of new McLaren MP4-24 is becoming a hot topic these days. The team either got it wrong, or they are sandbagging, or they simply do not care about the lap times and go testing according their plan. We will see in about two weeks in Melbourne …


But if they indeed got something wrong (as James Allen suggests in his blog) it would not be the first time for them or for another top team. Here is a quick memory refreshing look back to very recent past.

In 2003 Formula One season Kimi Raikkonen finished with his McLaren 2nd in the championship, only 2 points behind Michael Schumacher. A year later after 6 races McLaren only had 5 points to their name. It took a new car – MP4-19B for their fortunes to improve in the second half of the season. The first podium came at the 10th race of the season (British GP) and during the entire 2004 season they only scored 4 podiums (one of them was win). McLaren finished distant 5th in the constructors table almost 200 points behind the champions Ferrari. Their drivers ended the season 7th (Raikkonen) and 10th (Coulthard).

Ferrari F2005

Ferrari F2005

While McLaren struggled in 2004, Ferrari dominated that season winning 15 out of 18 races. But then came season 2005 and the new tyre rules. Instead of the whole season Ferrari dominated only one race in 2005 – the infamous US GP where their only racing competition were Jordan and Minardi. Also thanks to that clean sweep in United States the team still managed to finish the season in 3rd place as did Michael Schumacher but for most of the season the red cars were no match for Renault and McLaren.

Renault R27

Renault R27

Renault and Fernando Alonso won 2 consecutive titles in 2005 and 2006. But then came year 2007. Michelin left F1, Alonso left Renault, few mistakes were made in R27 design and all of a sudden the double champions turned from race winners to not so regular point scorers. Their only podium came in the wet Japanese GP thanks to Heikki Kovalainen’s second place. Renault’s fortunes only started to turn around in the later part of 2008 season.

Honda RA-107

Honda RA-107

The saddest recent case is the case of BAR and Honda – the second best team in 2004, the race winners in 2006. But then they decided to let a motorbike guy design their F1 car. The RA107 was a dog of a car and could not even compete with the rebadged RA106 used by Super Aguri. Only thanks to Button’s 5th place in the wet Chinese GP the Honda team leapfrogged Super Aguri in constructors championship saving the team from embarassment of being beaten by their B-team. Six points was all the Honda cars managed in 2007. The only thing that made Honda stand out that year was their Earth livery – the beginning of their disastrous concept of going alone without sponsors. The RA108 in 2008 did not turn out to be any better and we know how it all ended – with Brawn GP topping the time sheets 2 weeks before 2009 season kicks off :-) .

Ron Dennis however clearly is not worried about McLaren and their 2009 season:

“Whatever performance level McLaren have today we will be a competitive racing team. That means we will be fighting for the world championship. The objective is to go to Australia and be the most competitive car there, not to come out of every single test at the top of the timesheets. Testing is about a disciplined approach to making the car go faster and you have to ignore the performance of the other teams. Whereas our main competitors are finishing testing in two days we still have the ability to test next week in Jerez. When we get to Australia that will be the first measurement of everyone’s performance.

We expect our car to go faster with every grand prix and we expect to maintain our pace to allow us to win the world championship.”

And he may well be right.

23 Comments Post a Comment
  1. I think it would certainly be a huge surprise if Lewis Hamilton, the defending champion isn’t able to get podium finishes in 2009, it would look real bad for him. For McClaren’s sake I hope that they are sandbagging, because I don’t see a bright future for them, if they just got it wrong. I am hoping for Felipe Massa to be Champion in 2009 =D

  2. The really curious thing about Ferrari in 2005 was they were bag on the pace in Imola, and if Schumacher hadn’t gone off in practice they could have won there as well. A very odd season.

    Keith Collantines last blog post..Coulthard joins new-look Autosport

  3. TimmieNo Gravatar says:

    Definitely a concern for all outside of the F1 circus as well, unless you are a McLaren staff member and know of the problems or details of their testing schedule, no one can really say exactly what is going on. I believe there probably is an issue, but i don’t think it is as major as when they screwed up with the MP4-19. Now that was a disaster!!!

    Maybe not the quickest when we get to Melbourne, but i think they will be fine for the season overall. Whether it hurts them being a little behind to begin with, who knows? And well if you take testing times, Brawn GP are showing everybody up, but as Briatore said, car with no sponsors is there to impress not prepare for the next race.

    Hopefully we do see some reflection of testing in the racing this season, with cars from all teams being quick and having at least the chance to steal a victory from the big teams! Would definitely enjoy this season more if some results worked in favour of the little guys!

  4. vectraNo Gravatar says:

    I certainly hope McLaren have got it hopelessly wrong just to knock that stupid smirk off that Hamilton git LOL

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      well, I do not want to knock anything of anybody, but if there really is something wrong with McLaren the one benefit for all of us would be that we would be able to see how Lewis Hamilton can handle a not so competitve F1 car. We haven’t had chance to see that yet

    • TimmieNo Gravatar says:

      Whether you like Hamilton or not, i can’t really say i would be happy with Mclaren being off the pace. I would rather see the likes of Ferrari or BMW or even some other team gain a world championship win when all teams were strrong and competing against eachother with good cars. Who wants to see one team dominate every race and win the championship easy because McLaren weren’t there to battle it out to the end of the season.

      And as much as Hamilton may annoy you, he still is as F1Wolf says a stellar driver and if his car is affected by an underperforming McLaren it will be great to see how he handles himself and if it doesnt go well, see whether he turns himself into a whinger like Alonso is when it doesn’t work his way!

      • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

        at the end it all comes down to how good or bad is the car when compared to others. there may be nothing wrong, the drivers may be comfortable, the car can respond well, it may be quick, have a good grip, manage the tyres well and still someone can come up with a car that is 1 second faster :-)

        when talking about Alonso – yes, he whines a lot, or he used to, but one has to give it to him after the 2008 season …

  5. […] When the top teams got it wrong – F1 WolfIn the wake of McLaren's problems, F1 Wolf takes a look at other big teams taking their eye off the ball. […]

  6. TobyNo Gravatar says:

    I hope McLaren have got it wrong. I only wish Ferrari had done the same, which doesn’t seem to be the case. A season of F1 without McLaren and Ferrari (or Renault) winning most races would be a breath of fresh air for me, and I hope the younger veiwers would get more of a sense of what this sport is about. No one team can or will win season after season. Ferrari from 00-04 should remain an anomaly imo. Let’s give the other guys a go – and I’m talking BMW, Toyota, Red Bull and Brawn, even though I want my Williams boys back at the top!

    • KotenokNo Gravatar says:

      Wishng them a tough year is far from my likings, but I really want that our boys get better results :) For Williams already passed a long and difficult period, for their big efforts for returning to the bright results and the big hopes of all their fans, I wish the 2009 season the team achieves a significant improvement.

      Good luck!!

      PS: Well, I recognize that I’ve done uncountable sessions of my7 own voodoo against M. Schumacher, but it ever worked to blame him or waiting some unlucky moment through the TV :P HEHEHE!!

      Kotenoks last blog post..Barcelona test March 2009 – Day 4

      • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

        you are not at the track ? :-)

        • KotenokNo Gravatar says:

          Today I had some acupuncture therapy, and still losing some air :P HAHA I have to be quiet after, and it’s not allowed to do big walks. So, next testing sessions for me will be in october maybe, but I already saw what I wanted to see :) The car’s handling and the adaptation from the drivers to the new technical specs.

          But today I feel just sorry to not be there, I’ve formated my mobile phone and all videos were recorded in it!!! :(

          Kotenoks last blog post..Barcelona test March 2009 – Day 4

  7. vectraNo Gravatar says:

    @F1 wolf and Timmie

    How many times has Hamilton Beached the car and put it in the walls at recents tests?
    Does that not answer you queries as to how he would handle a bad car ??
    I only would wish for a full line up of equal machinery and rules as in tyre changes at a specified lap and full tank of fuel to take them to the end of the race. Then we would see who is good and hho is overrated

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      I am not sure we can make that conclusion from the test. Yes, it may be our answer. But we also have to consider the fact that during the tests the drivers often test the limits of the car and errors and mistakes and crashes are bound to happen.

      But if the McLaren cars performs in the early races of the season the way it performs during these tests we may soon find out answer to our question :-)

  8. seskuNo Gravatar says:

    i really love to see hamilton in a bad car…his f1 career seem to easy…..joining f1 in 2007 …winning WC in another year….no challenge at all…..i believe he is no good in bad car….

    seskus last blog post..yoga dan kentut???

  9. KotenokNo Gravatar says:

    My god, that’s not a reason to mean he’s not that good. I wouldn’t say that Lewis is the best driver so far, rankings and several “driver of the year” gave this prize to several other drivers, but he’s also not far from the top places, and so I’m coming with my own opinion out: he’s pretty talented but not the best in any specific skill, and also not the most complete, but he’s motivated, works well and concentrated.

    Maybe we can say he got it easy, but that’s also happening lately to all other sons of previous famous drivers, what we usually consider the “rich kids”. I consider he joined a good team in a very good moment, he was supplied with a good car, which finally was reliable, had incredible aerodynamic characteristics and had handling characteristics which suited his abilities since the beginning, he had the best team mate from which to learn something good and the tyre brand change to Bridgestone helped more McLaren than other’s (surprisingly, this could be relative to the Stepney Gate, but never have been proven that McLaren adapted well thanks to that documents).
    That combination helped Hamilton for sure to find himself in a great pace, but he didn’t arrive to the seat for free (but not paying anything for it), he had to work it out with he’s determination to be someone big in this world.

    Now, I think we could see a change in the car’s evolution. The MP4/24, does not look bright in testing, with any of their official and test drivers, Lewis already shared with the media that he really don’t feel confident with he’s new machinery.
    We could see him in a difficult situation? Probably yes, we have to wait how this develops in the season beginning, because pre-season is really another thing and has not much to do with competition (although there are teams which love to be in top the of the timesheets and so on). If Hamilton doesn’t perform in that brilliant way he used to or has trouble to make the car go further its possible boundaries, and gets some pressure above his shoulders, I don’t think this will affect anyway what he did before. The same situation happened to Kimi Raikkonen, and nobody rushes in the talks to consider him a bad driver with no enthu.
    But seeing Lewis Hamilton with a less competitive car would be something new, until the date he used to have good material in his hands, so let’s see how he does with the MP4/24 which possibly has more problems to adapt well to the new regulations.

    Anyway and anyhow, I wouldn’t say he’s a driver lacking skills.

    Kotenoks last blog post..Barcelona test March 2009 – Day 4

  10. vectraNo Gravatar says:

    @ F1 Wolf

    But we also have to consider the fact that during the tests the drivers often test the limits of the car

    Well you questioned your own answer there ;)

    Taking the car to its limits…Crashing it….almost 2 seconds off the pace???

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      well we do not know how the car was set up and what were its limits :-) we will likely not find out until March 27 afternoon :-)

      • KotenokNo Gravatar says:

        Also remember the grip factor, it is actually cool here in Barcelona, around 10-15 degrees. Far from the ambiental and track temperature which F1Wolf will find in Melbourne, good luck that you’ll refuel yourself with some cool beer ;)

        Kotenoks last blog post..F1Wolf.com now iPhone friendly

  11. seskuNo Gravatar says:

    hamilton maybe repeating the jacques villeneuve history. the unique backward trend of f1 career…from talented young driver to WC and then steeply downward to just a regular driver…wanna bet??

    seskus last blog post..yoga dan kentut???


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