• GP Week

More to come from McLaren

Adam Hay-Nicholls March 29, 2011

GP Week speaks to the McLaren drivers and their team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, to find out how they bounced back from a fruitless winter to take a podium at the first race

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were both impressed by the performance of the upgraded MP4-26 © Sutton Images

Did you expect this turnaround in form from what you saw in Barcelona to today?
Lewis Hamilton: I think we were always optimistic and praying we'd find something, and deliver. But in Barcelona we were still struggling a little bit with the reliability and not maximizing the potential of the exhaust we had at the time. When I got a call from Martin saying we'd found an alternative solution, and it gives us this amount of time, I tried not to get too excited, because I remember at Silverstone last year we [were promised] 8/10ths and it took a few races to actually get that. So I didn't think we should get our hopes up too much, but I kept my fingers crossed. And today the car felt fantastic.

Jenson Button: As you say, the test wasn't easy for us and I'm very happy we've had this improvement. Driving in the simulator, you know that you're faster than with what you had before, and you've got a smile on your face but you're still a bit apprehensive. I've been around racing a long time now and you always hope you get what you see in the wind tunnel and in the simulator, but you're never quite sure. Martin said it was going to be a second quicker when we arrived here. But I personally think it's given us more than we expected, it's not just the laptime it's the feeling of the car. The ride is great. I also think this is a very young car compared to who we're racing against. They've done so much mileage in testing, and we've turned up with a car we're only just getting to know. This is the start for us after the winter we've had, and it's great to know that there's so much more to come.

You're always talking about the hard work of the guys back at the factory, but have they even caught you by surprise this weekend by how quickly they've delivered this upgrade?
LH: We're obviously always pushing the limit. It seemed like the new parts arrived without a sweat, but I know the guys worked massively hard to get it right.

JB: McLaren have always delivered in difficult times. Seeing the parts they brought to the car in 2009 was just unbelievable, and this feat is similar. The other thing to remember is that this exhaust system is new to us, we're testing it here at the race.

There is more time to be found in the MP4-26 © Sutton Images
Martin, without giving any secrets away, what was the problem with the exhaust before and what have you done to remedy it?
Martin Whitmarsh: There were some very creative solutions this year across all the teams. We've seen a lot of exhaust blowing, and this is because increasingly the rear diffuser has become boxed in by the regulations. It's quite difficult within these regulations to create performance differentiation. We had some very create solutions of our own, but they were very difficult to achieve technically, too ambitious. We've stepped back a little bit, said let's find a simpler solution. Given the timeframe we gave ourselves it's unlikely that we've optimized the solution. I'd be disappointed if we can't really make some progress now on the diffuser, floor and exhaust system. Lewis and Jenson are still learning about the car, which they only first drove on Friday really. There's a limit to how exploratory you can be given the restrictions on tyres and laps on a grand prix event.

Were there any fall back solutions had the new exhaust system not delivered the performance gains you predicted?
MW: I don't feel we had the luxury of fall back solutions, and we decided to take some risks. If it hadn't have worked we'd have had a pretty tough weekend.

Lewis, you were second on Sunday. How do you assess this result given where you and the team were a month ago?
LH: I think we can definitely take this and be very proud of ourselves. Just a week or two ago we were not expecting to be anywhere near the top five, so to come away with second... the car was reliable, it is the longest the car has ever lasted, so I think it is a great achievement from us guys. This is a great position, a great platform, for us to push on into the next races. We have upgrades coming and we have a better understanding of the car and a better understanding of the tyres and strategy.