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McLaren Honda completes first laps

The MP4-30 has completed it first laps as the new partnership between McLaren and Honda began at the Jerez circuit. Fernando Alonso managed six installation laps of the track as the team and engine manufacturer begin to work with each other. Alonso ended the day with an unrepresentative time of 1m40.738.

Alonso leaves the garage

         Alonso leaves the garage

There were some electronic issues throughout the afternoon, which meant the car had to remain in the garage, however, there are high hopes for a successful day tomorrow when Jenson Button takes over the steering wheel.

After the running, McLaren boss Ron Dennis also alluded to a change of livery for the MP4-30 in the coming weeks.

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McLaren Honda MP4-30 Revealed

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 and Fernando Alonso

Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso

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.”

Ron Returns

Former team boss Ron Dennis has been appointed Group CEO of the McLaren Group and has immediately vowed to return the Formula One to the head of the field after a disappointing 2013 season.

Dennis addressed staff for 20 minutes at the teams Woking base on Thursday afternoon. He is believed to have told employees, “there will be changes…We will win again.” Dennis has announced that he will set up a review of the company and its strategies to enable McLaren to “win at whatever we do.” Dennis will remain the chairman of McLaren Automotive.

Current Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh was not present at the address and it is unclear whether he will retain his current position at the head of the F1 team. Whitmarsh is also the Chief Operating Officer of the McLaren Group.

Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh

Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh

Statement

“My fellow shareholders have mandated me to write an exciting new chapter in the story of McLaren, beginning by improving our on-track and off-track performance,” Dennis said.

“Over the coming weeks I intend to undertake a thorough and objective review of each of our businesses with the intention of optimising every aspect of our existing operations, whilst identifying new areas of growth that capitalise on our technologies, and where appropriate further investing in them.

“During February, I will articulate a new Group strategy and implement the organisational structure best suited to achieving it. I am excited by the prospect of returning to the role of Group Chief Executive Officer and working with my many colleagues and fellow shareholders to fulfil our objective, which is to win at whatever we do.”

Ron Dennis has been a shareholder of McLaren since 1980. He became CEO of the Group in 1982 until 2012. He was also the Team Principal of the F1 team from 1982 to 2009, before stepping down from his position as part of an ongoing spat with the then-FIA boss Max Mosley.

Hamilton’s adverse 2013

2013 was woeful for Lewis Hamilton. The 28-year-old only had five podium appearances during 2013, a feat matched by the beleaguered 2009 season in the McLaren MP4-24. In fact it was the first time in his career that he failed to score more than one victory in a season (he managed two in ’09). Here, we aim to establish issues the world champion suffered with over the course of the 2013 F1 season.

PASTURES NEW

In January Hamilton arrived at his new base in Brackley. It is a new and wholly different environment to the one he had long become accustomed to at Woking. A factory less eminent to that of McLaren’s metallic, clean mega structure set upon a pristine, gleaming lake. New surroundings, faces and names to memorise. The only man Lewis truly knew was his team mate Nico Rosberg. Throughout their youth the two traveled and raced against each other in several junior series’. They grew up with each other. Hamilton now lives just a stones-throw away from the German after he bought an apartment last year in Monaco.

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Its not just communicating with new faces, its adapting to a completely different F1 car. No one car is the same. Lewis would have had to get used to all the different buttons on the steering wheels, the different maps the car runs, the different terminology and codes that team engineers use.

BRAKES

Mercedes used a ‘FRIC’ (Front and Rear Interconnection) suspension this year, a system which helps stabalise the cars pitch under braking and roll through corners. By the time the F1 circus headed to Europe, it was the much talked about must-have device. And whilst this helped Lewis gain lap time over his rivals, it wasn’t long before Mercedes’ rivals caught up and other problems developed.

In June, Lewis conceded that he was struggling with the brakes, in comparison to Rosberg. At McLaren, Lewis had always used Carbone Industrie. A brake material he could always rely on to give him the power to stop as late as possible in the braking zones. Late-braking was Lewis’ forte. It had a different feel to the Brembo brakes he now uses on his Mercedes car. The Brembo is more adept to braking and turning at the same time, its a driving brake.

Back in Montreal, Hamilton told the press that he wants to evolve for the long term rather than look for the short term solution: “I can change them if I want or I can just get used to them, and I prefer to grab a hold of it, get used to them and do a good job.”

He had tried going back to the factory over the summer to alter his driving style, by braking in a different manner and allowing the car to slide into a corner and progressing on the throttle: “I’ve been working in the simulator, using different techniques. There are a lot you can use: for example, lift and coast in a race situation, so instead of braking at 100m, you lift at 120m and brake at 80m; or later downshifts.”

The Brembo’s are not Lewis’ friend and it shows on track. So often this season, Lewis has been unable to attack into a braking zone, or more worryingly, he has been unable to defend himself from an overtake. He has looked far out of his comfort zone. On more than one occasion this year the Brit has been overtaken around the outside, something he had proudly boasted about never happening to him. Braking has been the biggest thorn in Lewis’ side all year long. It is yet to be seen whether Mercedes will cave into placing his much favoured Carbone Industrie brakes on his 2014 machinery.

TYRES

Tyres were the biggest talking point for the first part of the season. Many teams and drivers couldn’t make them work .Mercedes problem was the tyre not lasting long enough to do a sensible stint in the race. It was not uncommon to see a silver Mercedes on Pole for Sundays race.

The chassis was very good at generating tyre temperature straight out of the pits, so the tyres always had good heat for the first qualifying runs. However, it was tyre degradation and heat management that was the issue. There were more than a few times when we heard the team over the radio telling drivers to preserve rear wear rates or that the rears were heating up too much. Lewis’ problem was actually trying to generate temperature from the brakes, which almost ‘osmosises’ through the rims and into tyre itself.  During qualifying Hamilton could take half a lap to generate enough tyre temperature to have confidence in the car, by then he would have already lost a significant amount of time.

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Then there was the British Grand Prix. A race which Hamilton was leading comfortably until the tyre cried no more and exploded. The fault was with the kevlar belt in the rim. Hamilton wasn’t the only one to suffer that race.

Towards the second half of 2013, Pirelli brought along last years compounds for the remaining races. The Mercedes cars did not suffer with massive degradation anymore, but they did not have the raw pace of the Red Bull, which was allowed to scamper away into the distance. Fortunately Pirelli look like they will be bringing a stronger, slightly more durable compound for the 2014 season, which means cars with higher downforce will be rewarded as drivers should be able to push to the absolute maximum.

PERSONAL

Hamilton is a lot ‘stockier’ today to that of the young boy who walked into the sport back in 2007. Back then he weighed a slight 66kgs. He is clearly more muscular in the upper body and arms, and whilst this may look athletic, it comes at a massive cost. Additional weight is a Formula One designers nightmare. An extra 5kg generally will cost around two tenths of a second per lap, a huge amount in Formula One terms. Lewis now weighs 71kgs, thats 5kg more than he did seven years ago. But it is a far cry off the 58kg that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel weighs.

Lewis’ love life never seems to be out of the tabloids. It’s no secret it has affected him in the past, his emotionless celebration of Pole Position in Korea 2011 was due to his split with pop singer Nicole Scherzinger. Since then the relationship had been on and off. Lewis is an emotional driver, we hear it over the radio at races. He just needs to focus and channel his energy onto the race track.

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He has allowed personal issues to affect his racing before when he decided he no longer wanted his dad as a manager. Since then he has long craved for the family feel in his garage. Last year at McLaren he admitted that he was envious of Jenson Button’s entourage of family, friends and management. He may well require that to help him feel more relieved at the back of the silver garage.

Lewis attended a lot less sponsorship and partner events during 2013. This year was the first year where Lewis felt that the shackles were released. He was no longer required to be demure. Mercedes had no intention of holding him back or slowing him down. Less frequent sponsorship events were a driving factor in his transfer to the Silver Arrows. He had long become bored of having so many days of the year dedicated to sponsor events at McLaren.

Lewis will try and develop his driving style for next year, all the drivers will, the new engines will require it. He will have time to compare the data for braking styles between him and Rosberg over the course of 2013. He will have to go away and get leaner if he is to fight at the front. He will hope that this year is just a blip, after all  he could have had a nightmare year similar to that of former team mate Jenson Button.

Rumour: McLaren set to announce Samsung

General paddock consensus is that McLaren will announce Samsung at their car launch in January. The announcement was due to go ahead on December 2nd, however the team thought it may be able to generate better publicity fore the brand at the launch.

It follows the announcement by Vodafone at the beginning of the year that they would be withdrawing from the sport. That deal for the title sponsorship and branding on the cars, driver overall and other team merchandise was said to be in the region of $50m per year.

McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen

McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen

Samsung pulled out of sponsoring the British Superbike team Honda Racing earlier this month which has added fuel to the rumours.

The other leading contender is Procter & Gamble using their Gillette brand. Gillette starting its partnership with Mclaren earlier in 2013 at the Chinese Grand Prix. The companies main focus was on expanding into the Asian market.

Many insiders have said that this deal will be key for Formula One marketing as it will be able to tell where the sport stands after the global financial crisis.

F1 will be considered in ‘good health’ should McLaren’s new sponsor yield a similar return to the partnership with Vodafone. Should the deal fail to impress or  impact, then it may well raise some concerns for the sports financial health.

Either way it looks like the future is blue for McLaren.

Perez’s coming of age

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.

Button battles Perez

Button battles Perez

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.

Perez struggles

Sergio Perez has been struggling for pace in Shanghai. His first two practice sessions were blighted by incidents, in Practice 1 he ran straight on at the pit lane entry and broke his front wing, whilst in Free Practice 2 he found himself sliding off backwards around the fast Turn 7 Turn 8 complex, flat-spotting his tyres and lightly touching the barrier with the right rear of his Mclaren.

The young Mexican conceded that the two Friday sessions were not perfect preparation for Sundays race and that his incidents have left him lacking in confidence and feeling uneasy “Today was a difficult day for me, but an important one for the team. Still, I’m sure we will improve tomorrow.”

Perez is pining his hopes on changing the cars balance before Free Practice 3 on Saturday, “I’ll effectively be starting from zero because I’ll adopt a completely new set-up.”

Gary Paffett had begun work back in the Mclaren simulator in Woking straight after the sessions in China, to find a different set up which may help Sergio get back up to speed and on the right track for the rest of the weekend. The pair even had a conversation on Twitter to complement each others work:

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