McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says the mistake that led to Jenson Button’s early retirement in Monaco was “devastating” for the mechanic involved.
A cover was left blocking a radiator inlet when Button drove to the grid, and despite the team having over 20 minutes before the start to address the issue, the damage had already been done. Jenson retired soon after the safety car came out, which forced him to run slowly and added to the overheating problem. It was his first retirement of the year, and cost him his championship lead.
“It was something that’s used in transport or the garage,” Whitmarsh told this writer. “It’s a cooling cover, a water one, and it was left in. So the car went to the grid with no air flow. So the car was cooked. You do what you can after, but you can’t recover it. On a circuit like this, and with safety car as well, you really can’t recover from that sort of thing.
“These cars don’t have fans, they rely on airflow, so if you deny the airflow, you’re not going to live very long. An F1 engine dissipates 200kW of heat energy, and if you don’t take the measures to do something about that, then it’s over very quickly unfortunately. You don’t know what’s going to fail, but we knew we were over temperature, and there’s not much you can do at that point.
“Obviously people are monitoring temperatures, and at a race like this it’s particularly critical anyway. Other parts under the engine cover would have been very, very hot, and it was a secondary failure rather than a primary failure of the engine.”
The only positive for Button the team was that the engine was near the end of its working life: “Fortunately it was an engine that was on its third race, and it was due not to race again.”
Whitmarsh said that the problem was a huge blow for everyone in the camp, not just the mechanic involved.
“I think it’s disappointing for everyone in the team, and devastating for the person responsible. I know these things happen, but it’s just hard to accept when it happens.
“Anyone who’s involved with a team like this, when you’re trying to do your best and you make a mistake and it contributes to something like that, it’s devastating for them.”