How a factory mistake made McLaren unrealistically fast in Jerez test

McLaren’s impressive pace on the first day of testing in Jerez in February was generated by a mistake when the car was being put together in the factory, Martin Whitmarsh has confirmed to this blog.

A suspension component was fitted incorrectly to the new car – apparently it was simply the wrong way round – and the unexpectedly low ride height that resulted happened to work well at the Spanish track. Button set the pace that day, suggesting that the MP4-28 could be the car to beat.

However once the mistake was discovered that night, it was rectified, as the car could not be run in that state long term at other venue, especially with heavy fuel loads.

Since then the team has struggled to get close to that initial performance, leading rivals and other observers to wonder just why the McLaren had been so impressive out of the box.

On Friday in Australia Jenson Button pinpointed the issue by saying: “We had a set-up we didn’t think we had. It wasn’t one we could work with.”

A little investigation has revealed that it wasn’t simply a question of a miscalculation of settings, but a part being fitted wrongly.

“It was a part fitted incorrectly which caused us to run the car unrealistically low, that happened to play to the strengths of the car,” Whitmarsh confirmed when asked by this blog. “It wouldn’t work on a bumpy circuit like this. That’s why the car at the moment is too peaky in its performance, and that’s something we’ve got to resolve. It was a set-up which on many tracks was not realistic.”

Whitmarsh also noted that McLaren’s extreme problems on Friday in Australia were related to trying to run the in a low configuration once again.


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9 responses to “How a factory mistake made McLaren unrealistically fast in Jerez test

  1. Hmm, that explains morbid faces for McLaren staff in Jerez:

    This is weird, I listened to CBB’s posscat with James Allain, who went inside the Death Star aka McLaren factory with (pictured above) uncle Sam Michael, and it was all space age and angels with wings designing beautiful cars, mechanics consuming liquid fluids instead of normal food and all of a sudden they bolt something onto the car “the wrong way round”.

    What if they confuse the double confuser on McLaren supercar with front bumper? I’m scared to drive McLaren road cars now.

    • As a Williams fan, Sam Michael was always my whipping boy, but McLaren have had done enough goof ups even before the arrival of Sam Michael since the last season.

      Remember in 2011( or was it 2010) when they had left bung on Button’s car in Monaco, He retired on lap 1 and in the Chinese GP in 2008, they mounted tyres in the reverse order on Heikki’s car, Heikki retired half lap after the pit stop.

      I can list out few more incidents from earlier era, and that was under the perfectionist ( or micro managing) Ron Dennis. So human error are part of life, one can’t beat up too much for that

  2. hahahaha, are they serious? One does not simply fit a suspension component the ‘wrong way around’ on an insanely complex specimen of automotive engineering that is the modern day F1 car.

  3. Excellent post, Adam!

    However, do we know which suspension component was mounted incorrectly? Torsion bar, heave spring or something else?

  4. damleda

    In all fairness, this is something which, quite frankly, anyone who has ever made a revell/model formula one car will immediately recognise.

    In all seriousness though, there is precedent for this to occur. I remember the day whel Tyrell was it turned up with six wheels… Oh how we laughed at the team who had just kept attaching wheels even though they should have finished two whole wheels before that. They just decided to keep it up for the whole season and pretend it hadn’t happened. Way to commit gents. (At least, I think that’s how it happened.

    Finally, and on a truthfully serious note (eventually): This is, in my humble opinion, always a possibility on first build (From what Williams and Lotus have shown us in the backstage access over recent years anyway!). The car is designed, and mocked up over the preceeding year, with individual assemblies being machined and assembled seperately. The first full race build takes place from the design schematics over the winter, and to prepare the mechanics, the build is done by the engineering team rather than the design team with design oversight. It is a ‘scratch’ build, meaning it is built from scratch to specifications, with the engineering team taking notes on packaging, access, etc. Under these conditions, and “especially” with a new suspension system it must be fairly easy to mis-fit something you are unfamiliar with.

    To me then, this is a failure of the design overseeing rather than the initial design or build of the car.

    Still stupid though.

  5. Brian

    Why not use it on the tracks that are not bumpy ?

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