- Japanese Grand Prix
McLaren confident gearbox problem is solved
McLaren is confident it will not suffer a repeat of the gearbox problems that forced Lewis Hamilton to retire from the Singapore Grand Prix and resulted in a grid penalty for Jenson Button this weekend in Japan.
Hamilton retired from the lead in Singapore and after the race McLaren discovered the same issue on Button's McLaren, resulting in a five-place grid drop. Technical director Paddy Lowe said the team now understands the problem and is confident it won't happen again.
"It was the same on both cars, just more extreme in Lewis's case and obviously terminal," he said. "Jenson was, to be honest, lucky to finish and the gearbox was not in a good state at the end, which is why we've had to change it.
"It's a quality problem that unfortunately affected both of those gearboxes. But we completely understand it now and it won't crop up again. It had affected a certain batch."
When Hamilton retired his race engineer for the weekend, Mark Temple, said the team had done everything it could on Saturday. Lowe said that quote had been misconstrued as meaning the team was aware of an issue before the race.
"That caused a lot of confusion, didn't it? I think the BBC picked it up and immediately jumped to a conclusion that was wrong, which is understandable when you watch it back. Mark was the engineer on that car because Andy [Latham] is off for three races [with paternity leave], but what Mark meant was that we did an excellent job in qualifying to get pole and we failed to translate that into a win. It came completely out of the blue in the race. It also had no relationship to the tap against the wall [in qualifying]."
Lowe said gearbox issues are common in modern F1 as they now have to last five races without being changed.
"It's very difficult, as you can appreciate, to build a new gearbox each year in a very limited amount of time, type approve it to run five races uninterrupted and in our case committing to that across two teams [Force India being the other]. It's a big pressure on the system actually. With the engine they're doing a similar thing in terms of endurance, but with the design it's far more stable. That engine has been running for over five years now, but the gearbox we are doing a new one every winter. It's tough. What is making it tough these days in F1 is the programme demand and the timing in relation to the high endurance that is needed. It's quite an unforgiving set of rules actually in relation to penalties."