Jenson Button finished McLaren’s testing schedule at Jerez on Wednesday. The world champion managed a total of 35 laps and a lap time of 1m27.660 before an issue set in. A fuel required changing so late in the afternoon that there was not enough time to complete the repair and exit the pits, so the team completed the test early.
There have been promising signs of improvement from the MP4-30. In the afternoon, the team even decided to focus on aerodynamic development. Meanwhile Alonso left the south of Spain to go for some winter mountain training, in order to extend his fitness.
The next test gets under way in Barcelona on the 19th of February.
Here’s a video of Jenson Button cruising down the start/finish straight on Day 2 of the Jerez test:
Jenson Button had his first run out in the McLaren Honda at Jerez today. The MP4-30 only managed a total of six laps, due to some ancillary issues and rain late in the day halting progress. The Briton completed six laps in the car, with an unrepresentative time of 1m54.655.
Fernando Alonso will take control of the car for tomorrows running, the third day of the four day test.
McLaren released images of the 2015 Formula One car, the first year of a new partnership with the Honda engine company. The photos of the new car show a similar colour scheme to ones previously used by the Woking squad, something the team says “firmly contextualises McLaren’s brand in the 21st century.”
McLaren say the MP4-30 chassis is a thoroughly refined evolution of last year’s McLaren, it is the only chassis on the grid to be fitted with Honda’s RA615H Hybrid power unit. Honda have developed a 145kg 1.6 litre V6 power unit for the forthcoming season. The rumours are that the Japanese engine manufacturer have done supremely well in being able to produce sufficient power and efficiency as well as managing to package the power unit into the tighter McLaren chassis, which has been produced by Chief Engineer Peter Prodromou, hired from Red Bull in September 2014, Matt Morris the Director of Engineering and the Technical Director Tim Goss.
Jenson Button said: “The off-season has really brought about a sense of renewal coming into 2015 – continuing my relationship with McLaren, getting married, and now embarking on such an exciting chapter: McLaren’s new partnership with Honda. I’ve trained hard over the winter, and I’m absolutely itching to get going in the new McLarenHonda MP4-30. “It’s been interesting to spend time in the factory during the past few weeks: you can really sense a feeling of reignited optimism and positivity around the building. I’ve never seen such motivation amongst the guys – we’re all massively keen to get going in Jerez and to work hard on developing our new car. But we’re under no illusion that it will be easy – there’s a huge challenge ahead of us to try to pull back the gap to our rivals, but we’re certainly up for it. We ended last season with great momentum and clear progress, and I’m determined to carry that forward into 2015. “I’m also looking forward to working with my new team-mate, Fernando [Alonso], and I’m confident that our joint experience on track will pay dividends in our development race to get our team back to the front of the grid. I’m hugely motivated to make more history in this new McLaren-Honda era.”
Fernando Alonso said: “Although the winter period is a time for rest and relaxation from racing, my motivation could not be stronger for the new season. I’ve done a lot of training during the winter break, to reach my peak physical fitness, and I’ve been working hard in preparation for this new era of McLaren-Honda. I’ve never felt better, or more ready for a new season. “Of course, we’re prepared for a steep learning curve, but it’s clear to see that inside McLaren-Honda there’s total commitment, and a real change in feeling, as we start this new partnership. We’re all focused on the challenge ahead, and I feel extremely honoured to be part of a relationship that has shared so much history together. My aim is to help write a new chapter in the history of McLaren-Honda. We understand the effort and teamwork required to take McLaren-Honda back to where it should be, at the front of the grid, and all our energy as a team is focused on that goal. “Our first target will be to learn the maximum from the car at the pre-season tests, understand the package, and extract as much performance as possible. That won’t be easy or trouble-free, but we’re ready for that. Why? Because our key focus will be on development. Historically, McLaren has already been characterised by its ability to bring updates to the car quickly, and develop a strong package. It’s going to be a real privilege to be the first person to drive the new McLaren-Honda MP4-30 at Jerez, and I can’t wait to begin what I’m certain will be a very exciting new chapter in my career. I’m as motivated now as I was when I was given my first opportunity at the wheel of an F1 car. “Last but not least, I’m excited to be sitting alongside Jenson [Button], a great team-mate and a very experienced competitor. Together we’ll push the team forward, to learn, to progress, and eventually to achieve the best possible results together. We are ready for the new era.”
Yasuhisa Arai, the Senior Managing Officer of Honda R&D said: “Today is obviously a very exciting day for me and for Honda. It’s not every day that you’re involved in a launch of a new Formula 1 car and a start-up of a new partnership. “As you can see with the new MP4-30, we’ve dedicated ourselves as one team with McLaren to creating a new car that compromises on nothing – either power or aerodynamics. “Yet, in the midst of the excitement, both myself and our engineers are 100 per cent focused in both Sakura and Milton Keynes to prepare for Jerez and beyond. We’re confident that the technology is there, and I’m looking forward to see how it will perform. “We’re about to commence a long season, with numerous challenges, but Honda is determined to face them head-on. After all, we’re here to drive Formula 1’s technology forward and give our fans a thrilling ride.”
The much-anticipated McLaren-Honda MP4-30 is rumoured to be the colour black when it is launched on Thursday. It is not yet known whether it will be painted black or in it’s manufactured carbon-fibre look. This could just be a launch-spec colour scheme and may well change in the weeks leading up to the first race at Melbourne in March.
Meanwhile, photos of drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button appeared on Twitter in their race overalls for a campaign for Mobil1. The overalls were predominantly white and were missing the logos for both Hugo Boss, who left for Mercedes at the end of 2014 and Santander. It was presumed that the Spanish bank would upgrade their support for the Woking team in 2015 with the arrival of double World Champion Fernando Alonso. There is still plenty of days and weeks for the McLaren team to find some sponsors to support the #NewEra with Honda
Sergio Perez faced stern criticism at the end of the Chinese Grand Prix from journalists, fans and his team bosses for his lack of “fight” when dicing with other drivers for position.
The young Mexican yielded position to several drivers with ease, and something that is unbefitting for a Mclaren driver to do. Quickly after the race was complete, Martin Whitmarsh took Sergio aside and told him to “toughen up”, the Team Principal said: “I think he’s been very polite so far this year; I think he needs to toughen up, I think he’s been generous in allowing people to get past him.”
In Bahrain the 23 year old Mexican talent repayed his boss handsomely with a storming drive from 12th on the grid to finish well above his team mate in 6th come race day. His duel with Jenson Button was controversial, despite earning plaudits from press and public alike. The two touched cars no more than five times during Sunday’s race, with Perez eventually blasting past his more experienced team mate.
Later in the race, Sergio came to battle with two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, after making it past the Spaniard he remained ahead by placing his Mclaren on the racing line at Turn 4 and ruthlessly forcing Alonso wide off the circuit warranting a call of distress from Fernando to his team. On the final lap ‘Checo’ also made it past Red Bulls Mark Webber to claim 6th position.
If ever there was a time to respond, Sergio Perez mastered it perfectly stepping up to the plate come the race. He not only robustly held off drivers from overtaking him, but he went wheel-to-wheel with two megatrons of Formula One, the two adversaries he needed to overtake to prove is worth to the world, his World Champion team mate and the most fruitful and wisest driver Fernando Alonso.
He will now have to keep up this top form not just for the next race in Spain, but for the rest of his Mclaren career to prove his many doubters wrong and to assert his worthiness of a seat for the Woking based team.
McLaren may be forced to revert back to last years car in the wake of their poor performance at Albert Park last weekend. However, they will only look towards a ‘B-Spec’ chassis if they cannot make inroads on their MP4-28’s lack of pace in Malaysia.
The main bone of contention derives from the change in front suspension towards a pull rod front suspension. Such a layout was used by Ferrari last season and attributed to their poor form for the beginning segment of the year. Such a set-up allows for a lower suspension unit at the front of the car which subsequently lowers the centre of gravity, however, it has to be set up correctly with the rest of the car. Areas such as the ride height, rear anti-roll bar and even front and rear wing angles all have significant impacts on the car handling. As Ferrari discovered last season, a pull rod front suspension has it’s benefits, but also has a very narrow window for performance.
McLaren engineers and drivers have not had enough running time or experience with the new car to begin to understand what the consequences are to the changes that they make, be it rear ride height, rear camber, front camber, toe or roll bars. The scope for potential can be there though, if they get it right.
Albert Park was not the idea circuit for McLaren to gain an understanding or experience with the street circuit track being particularly bumpy. Jenson Button explained they are hoping for inroads at a smoother Sepang circuit, “Hopefully in Malaysia it’s a smoother circuit, hopefully we will get rid of those issues and we can find a bit more performance,” he said.
Sergio Perez agreed, hoping that they could produce something a little better next weekend, “I’m now part of the best team in Formula 1 so I’m certain they’ll improve it fast. Going back to this afternoon’s race, I don’t think the Albert Park circuit suited our car very well – it accentuated its problems in fact – so I’m hoping we’ll be able to put up a better showing in Sepang next weekend.”
Team bosses and engineers all held a lengthy debrief on Sunday and Monday to discuss future development routes. They will have an engineering meeting back in Woking after the Malaysian Grand Prix next Monday to see whether they had made successful inroads to continue development on the current car or whether to revert back to a push rod suspension they found so productive last year.
If they do decide to change to a B-Spec chassis, expect it to be before the European season begins. McLaren will not be content with languishing down the points order, and with one less race this season compared to last, every Grand Prix and every result now matters.