Tag Archives: McLaren

Matsuhita lands McLaren testing role


Honda protege and GP2 racer Nobuharu Matsushita has joined McLaren as a test and development driver.

Matsushita won the Japanese F3 title in 2014 and was Stoffel Vandoorne’s team mate at ART last year. He will continue with the French team this season alongside his F1 commitments.

McLaren says that he will focus on simulator support and engineering work to underline the efforts of our race drivers.”

His promotion means that Honda will have a driver who is ready to graduate to F1 and who could one day be attached to a customer engine deal.

“Nobu’s first season racing in Europe showed great promise,” said team boss Eric Boullier. “He produced some extremely impressive performances, and with experience and consistency, will surely build on that potential in 2016. His position as a McLaren-Honda test and development driver will be extremely important – he’ll underline and corroborate the learning we acquire at the track, and will play a key role in improving our performance throughout 2016.”

“Last year’s GP2 Series season was a steep learning curve for me,” said Matsushita. “It was my first year racing in Europe – but, thankfully, my experiences with Honda’s young driver programme meant I was well prepared for the task ahead.

“As a GP2 Series driver, my sole focus for 2016 is to win the championship. I believe that I have the best package around me to succeed and reach my ultimate goal of becoming a Formula 1 driver.”

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Button confirmed at McLaren for 2016 – and he gets his money

McLaren has confirmed that Jenson Button will indeed stay with the team in 2016.

Button always had a two-year deal but McLaren could have terminated it by September 30, and indeed the 2009 World Champion could have retired and walked away.

The contract included a substantial pay rise for 2016, but Ron Dennis had been attempting to get Jenson to stay on for the same money that he got this year, under a renegotiated deal. It now appears that Button has won this battle of wills, and will get his money after all, as Dennis says that the original terms and conditions have been met.

Jenson and I have been discussing his plans in private for the past few weeks,” said Dennis in a statement.And the fact that our talks have led to today’s announcement is very pleasing to both of us and will delight and motivate all at McLaren-Honda.

As I have made clear whenever I have been asked about the subject, Jenson’s current contract is of two years’; duration [2015 and 2016]. There is a ‘terminate after year one’ option that McLaren could have triggered if we had wished to do so, but, once it became clear from my many conversations with Jenson that he remained as enthusiastic and as committed and as focused as ever, that option immediately became an irrelevance. That being the case, Jenson will race for McLaren-Honda next year, under the terms and conditions as set out in the two-year contract that both parties entered into a year ago.”

Button himself added: “Over the past month or so I have done quite a lot of thinking, and it is no secret that I was at one point in two minds about my future.

But I have been a McLaren driver for six seasons now [2010-2015], and in that time I have got to know Ron very well. He and I have had some very good chats these past few weeks, and during those chats it has become clear to me that Ron is both utterly determined and uniquely equipped to lead our team through its current difficulties to great successes in the future.

That gives me great confidence, and it is for that reason that, together, he and I have decided to continue our partnership; and, as soon as I had made that decision, straight away I realised it was the correct one.”


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Eric Boullier: “It’s good to get points on merit…”

Jenson Button’s eighth place in Monaco was a small but significant landmark for McLaren Honda as it represented the first points for the team after its difficult start to the 2015 season.

Team principal Eric Boullier said it was a boost for the staff but conceded that there is a long way to go.

“It’s just a reward for the hard work for the people of McLaren Honda,” Boullier told this writer. “It’s good to get points on merit. Obviously Monaco was a track that suited us, so there’s nothing to get excited about, but it’s showing some progress.

“Obviously I would have loved to have had both cars in the points, which was possible, and that would be even better, so there’s an investigation to understand what happened to Fernando. There are some positives out of the weekend, even if we are not where we want to be, it’s always the same story. But one milestone done, which was to get the points.”

Boullier admitted that reliability remains a concern: “We are pushing hard, so that’s why.”

The Frenchman believes that after Montreal – where straightline speed is paramount – the latest updates will start to pay off.

“We keep pushing, we keep improving every race. There is now more visibility about the performance coming for the next races, so it’s just encouraging. I think Canada will be a difficult one, but from Austria is should be better.”

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Fernando Alonso: “The car is easy to drive…”

Fernando Alonso had a solid first day back in the McLaren Honda today in Malaysia as he logged 45 relatively troublefree laps.

He finished FP2 in 16th, a place ahead team mate Jenson Button, and the only drivers who were slower than the McLaren duo were Romain Grosjean, who did very few laps before he was sidelined by a technical issue, and the two Manor drivers. Nevertheless Alonso is pleased with progress.

“It felt great today in the car,” he said. “Finally after the gym, after the simulator, whatever you do it is never the same as the car, so I enjoyed so much driving here. The conditions obviously are extreme, very hot, and physically it is very demanding. I am not 100 per cent physically and fit after two weeks on the sofa, and two weeks of not in the car.

“It was really the second day of testing for me because I have one good day in Barcelona with 63 laps. and today 45. The rest of the days were seven laps, nine, eleven, so today I really enjoyed it. Definitely a step forward, a big step forward for us.

“It’s much better. The experience that we had in winter was a lot of problems, after four or five laps we stopped and we had to change something, but today we ran 45 laps with zero problems, everything went as we predict. We will see tomorrow in qualifying. We were I think 4.6s behind pole position in Australia, here could maybe be 3-3.5secs, so that is a 1 or 1.5s gain in two weeks, so it’s a big step forward.

Regarding the latest updates he said: “I think there are a lot of things going on in the car now. There are big steps on aerodynamics, a lot of understanding of the power unit, interaction between everything in the car. Every lap is a learning curve for us. In terms of driving, I felt great. The car is very consistent, the car is easy to drive, and it gives you confidence to push to the limit.

“We had some issues today on braking, with front and rear locking that was a little bit inconsistent, and we are looking at this. Hopefully tomorrow we can push more.”

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Eric Boullier: “We were expecting to get into trouble…”

McLaren boss Eric Boullier admits that he knew that the Australian GP would be a tough weekend – and says that conservative engine settings are part of the reason for the team’s poor showing today.

Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen will start the race from the back of the grid after Manor failed to run.

“Obviously not enough mileage at the testing, and we knew there were so many things to do and to check and to value,” said Boullier. “It’s true that we went through a lot of systems, but we had even on the last day of testing some issues, so we couldn’t use or run all the tools to exploit the performance of our car, so we were expecting to get into trouble in Melbourne.

“And obviously we tried to hear to achieve more mileage actually than we maybe have done in testing, so at least to be able to run in every session. And to achieve this we had to do some compromises.”

Boullier said that the team knows what it has to do to recover: “We have identified the issues. Actually we had much less issues this weekend than we had during the testing, which is the good news, we do some progresses. Yes there is a fix in place, and we’re working on our absolute recovery plan, if I may call it like this. We don’t want to give a time, we just want to do our best as early as possible.”


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Alonso crash not caused by any problem with car, says McLaren

Fernando Alonso remains in hospital in Barcelona as he recuperates from his accident on Sunday.

McLaren insists that the former World Champion is “making a solid recovery” and “is chatting to family, friends and hospital staff,” and that his extended stay is routine.

Meanwhile the team says that there was no failure on the car and addressed internet gossip that suggested that Alonso had lost consciousness before he crashed.

A statement said: “From the scene of the incident he was driven to the circuit’s medical centre, where he was given first aid and, as per normal procedures, was sedated in preparation for an air-lift to hospital.

“In hospital a thorough and complete analysis of his condition was performed, involving CT scans and MRI scans, all of which were completely normal.

“In order to provide the privacy and tranquillity required to facilitate a peaceful recuperation, he is being kept in hospital for further observation, and to recover from the effects of the medication that successfully managed his routine sedation yesterday.”

The team hinted that he might not drive in the second Barcelona test: “We intend to give him every opportunity to make a rapid and complete recovery, and will evaluate in due course whether or not he will participate in the next Barcelona test.”

Regarding the cause of the accident, McLaren added: “Over the past 24 hours, we have been carrying out a detailed analysis of the damage to Fernando’s car, and its associated telemetry data, in order fully to understand the cause, or causes, of his accident. Even at this early stage, we have been able to reach some firm conclusions.

“His car ran wide at the entry to Turn Three – which is a fast uphill right-hander – allowing it to run onto the Astroturf that lines the outside of the track. A consequent loss of traction caused a degree of instability, spitting it back towards the inside of the circuit, where it regained traction and struck the wall side-on.

“Our findings indicate that the accident was caused by the unpredictably gusty winds at that part of the circuit at that time, and which had affected other drivers similarly (eg, Carlos Sainz Jnr).

“We can categorically state that there is no evidence that indicates that Fernando’s car suffered mechanical failure of any kind. We can also confirm that absolutely no loss of aerodynamic pressure was recorded, which fact indicates that the car did not suffer any aerodynamic loss, despite the fact that it was subjected to a significant level of g-force. Finally, we can also disclose that no electrical discharge or irregularity of any kind occurred in the car’s ERS system, either before, during or after the incident.

“That last point refutes the erroneous rumours that have spread recently to the effect that Fernando was rendered unconscious by an electrical fault. That is simply not true. Our data clearly shows that he was downshifting while applying full brake pressure right up to the moment of the first impact – something that clearly would not have been possible had he been unconscious at the time.”

Pictures showed that Alonso sideswiped the wall, and that the wheels remained on the car.

“Our data also confirms that Fernando’s car struck the inside concrete wall, first with its front-right wheel and then with its rear-right. It was a significant lateral impact, resulting in damage to the front upright and axle.

“After the initial impact, the car slid down the wall for about 15 seconds before coming to a halt. All four wheels remained attached to the car, but no damage was sustained by the bodywork or crash structure between the front and rear wheels.”


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Boullier: McLaren and Honda still opening a “Pandora’s Box”

McLaren team boss Eric Boullier is adamant that the major electronic problem that cost the team the first two days in Jerez has been resolved.

Fernando Alonso ran 32 laps today, before he was sidelined by a completely different issue.

“After the last laps of Jenson [yesterday] we believed we had fixed the issues,” he said. “But sometimes you just open the Pandora’s box and you pick up one [problem], and then another one is coming. This morning it was just a relief to see the car getting out of the garage at 9am and running actually faultlessly for a few hours.

“The reason we didn’t run this afternoon was different, it was a component which created a water cooling leak, we had to take the engine off, open everything to change it, because it’s in the middle. We could have run maybe half an hour at the end, but we decided to stop the day and make it properly for tomorrow. But the main issues are now away.

Asked how much of the planned programme had been completed he said: “Not enough, obviously we are maybe less than 50%. It’s better than nothing, but operationally we have covered everything that we wanted. The good thing is that the car is running as you saw this morning, 10 laps in a row, so we have no design concept or conceptual issues or architectural issues. Cooling is working, everything is fine.”

Although Alonso ran only in the damp the team learned a lot.

“The driver comments were very, very positive. Fernando said the car is really reacting well, the car is really stable, and you could see a couple of times on the pitwall checking in Turn One, with Mercedes driving at the same time, and you could see the car was really stable on the entry, and this is just a sign.”


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