McLaren has become the first team to fully reveal their 2014 F1 car. Photos of the MP4-29 in the McLaren Technology Centre were displayed online just before 12:00 GMT today.
The car features the narrow nose that is unfortunately likely to be the distinguishing characteristic of most 2014 Formula One cars. It’s notable that the space on the car occupied in recent years by Vodafone has not been filled by another sponsor. Either there is not yet a new title sponsor or McLaren are waiting for a later date to reveal it.
The press release issued by McLaren includes comments from Jonathan Neale and Sam Michael, but not from last year’s team principal Martin Whitmarsh, fuelling the idea that Whitmarsh is on the way out in a management shake-up that has already seen Ron Dennis return to the role of McLaren Group CEO. There are rumours the Whitmarsh will be replaced by Eric Boullier, who has left the position of Team Principal of Lotus.
The car will hit the track for the first time on Tuesday in Jerez, Spain. The MP4-29 will be driven by Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen over the four days of the test.
John Button, father of 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button, died on Sunday 12 January 2014 from a suspected heart attack. The former British rallycross driver was 70 years old.
Throughout Jenson Button’s career, John has supported his son, attending almost all of his Jenson’s F1 races and becoming something of a pit-lane personality. Scenes of father and son celebrating Jenson’s victories have been a welcome reminder that behind the precision and ruthlessness of Formula One there is a soft, emotional and human side to motor racing.
John Button’s death was sudden and took his family and the racing community by surprise. There was, until four days ago, no reason to suspect that John would not be present in the McLaren pit garage during the 2014 F1 season.
Social media has been full of tributes from teams, drivers and other members of the motor sport community over the last few days. The most touching of them all came from Jenson Button, who tweeted yesterday evening:
“Thank you all for your lovely messages about my Dad, it’s so nice to see he touched so many people. He was such a big part of my life I’m going to miss him so so much.
“Papa you cannot believe how very proud I feel to be able to call you my Dad. I love you Papa Smurf, you’ll forever be in my heart.
“Rest in Peace with the Angels
“Your son XXXX”
Fernando Alonso set the pace in a delayed and shortened Free Practice 1 session at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Jenson Button was second fastest for McLaren, ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who was third for Williams.
The circuit was shrouded in heavy mist at the scheduled start time of the session. The conditions were too poor for the medical helicopter to take off, which meant the start of the session had to be delayed.
40 minutes after the scheduled start time, conditions had improved enough for practice to get underway. It was announced at that point that the session would be shortened to an hour as a result of the late start. Heikki Kovalainen was first out on track, keen to get as much mileage under his belt as he acclimatizes to the Lotus team after being drafted in to replace Kimi Raikkonen, who has undergone surgery on his back and is out for the remainder of the season.
All of the drivers did at least one lap before returning to the pits. The McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez made good use of the early running time, racking up as many laps as possible in the 15 minutes before the red flag came out and the session was stopped.
The cause of the stoppage was soon revealed: the medical helicopter, quite apart from not being able to take off, had not even arrived. The session had only started at all because the helicopter had apparently been on its way to the track, but when the drivers started to set quick lap times and the helicopter had not arrived, race control had no choice but to halt the session on the grounds of safety.
Half an hour later the medical helicopter finally arrived and the session could continue. When the green flag came out, there were just 32 minutes remaining in the session, as it had to be further shortened to finish by 11am local time, as F1 regulations require a break of at least 2 hours between F1 sessions and FP2 is scheduled for 2pm.
At the end of the combined 47 minute practice session, Fernando Alonso was quickest for Ferrari, demonstrating that his aching back is not affecting his ability to drive on the limit. Jenson Button completed 25 laps, more than any other driver, and set the second fastest lap time in the session. Valtteri Bottas was an impressive third for Williams.
Heikki Kovalainen, in his first practice session for Lotus, was just a quarter of a second off the pace of his team-mate, Romain Grosjean. Considering that Kovalainen had never driven the Lotus E21 before today, that is an impressive performance from the Finn.
Daniil Kvyat made his F1 weekend debut, driving Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso in FP1 just a week after earning his FIA Super Licence. Kvyat will race for Toro Rosso in 2014. Other drivers who subbed in for the session were Rodolfo Gonzalez, who drove Jules Bianchi’s Marussia, and Alexander Rossi, who took over Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham in front of his home crowd.
Gonzalez coasted to a halt in the closing stages of the session as his Marussia’s engine switched off to protect itself from imminent failure. That was the only on-track incident of the session.
Full result from FP1:
|8||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.083||0.740||17|
|14||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.699||1.356||15|
|15||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.836||1.493||15|
|18||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:40.662||2.319||21|
McLaren have confirmed that 21-year old Danish driver Kevin Magnussen will make his Formula One debut with the team at the start of 2014. Magnussen will partner 2009 World Champion Jenson Button.
Kevin Magnussen is the son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen, whose Formula 1 career began with a one-off drive for McLaren at the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix. The younger Magnussen recently won the Formula Renault 3.5 championship by a comfortable margin, demonstrating his considerable talent behind the wheel of a racing car.
Magnussen replaces Sergio Perez, who yesterday announced that he will be leaving the team at the end of 2013, despite this being only his first season with McLaren.
Here’s what Kevin Magnussen and McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh had to say in McLaren’s press release:
Kevin Magnussen: “I’m absolutely overjoyed to be making my Formula 1 debut with McLaren. I’ll put it simply: this team is the best. It’s been my dream to drive for McLaren ever since I was a small kid, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve dedicated almost every day of my life to achieving the goal of becoming a McLaren Formula 1 driver.
“I have an enormous amount of respect for everyone at McLaren, and I want to say a massive ‘thank you’ to everyone, but most of all to Martin and his senior colleagues, for giving me this chance. I won’t let you down, guys!
“Equally, in Jenson, I have absolutely the ideal team-mate. He’s extremely quick, obviously, but he’s also very experienced and superbly capable from a technical perspective. He’s a Formula 1 world champion, which is what one day I also hope to become, and I’m determined to learn as much as I can from him.”
Martin Whitmarsh (Team Principal): “We’re delighted that Kevin will be joining Jenson as a McLaren Formula 1 race driver for 2014. Their confirmation is an important step for us as we continue to strengthen our organisation ahead of the 2014 season.
“Next year, we’ll witness the biggest raft of technical changes to Formula 1 in many years, and every team and manufacturer will be pushed to the limit as they try their best to adapt to those new challenges.
“Jenson’s race-winning speed, intelligence and racecraft have long been a crucial advantage to McLaren, but it’s his skill as a development driver and his peerless technical feedback that will be equally valuable as we make the transition into a new and complex technical formula during the winter and new year.
“Kevin, too, is clearly very talented and very determined, and we therefore have high hopes for him. Moreover, every time he’s tested our Formula 1 car, he’s been very quick and very methodical, and his feedback has been first-class.
“Furthermore, the manner in which he won this year’s World Series by Renault 3.5 Championship was truly outstanding, showcasing as it did not only his impressive natural pace but also his increasing maturity and ability to structure and manage a championship campaign.
“Last but very far from least, I want to take this opportunity to thank Checo [Sergio Perez], who has developed well during a difficult season, as his recent run of points-scoring finishes underlines. He’s a lovely guy and a fine driver – fast and combative – and I’m sure he’ll build on that firm foundation in 2014. All at McLaren wish him well for the future.”
Sergio Perez has confirmed that he will leave McLaren at the end of the 2013 season. The Mexican driver, who is in his first (and now only) season with the team, revealed the news in an open letter on his personal website, serioperez.mx.
The letter reads:
“First of all, I would like to thank McLaren for giving me the opportunity to be with them this season. It has been an honor for me to have been in one of the most competitive teams in the sport and I do not regret even a bit having joined them. I have always given the best of me for the team and still despite this I could not achieve what I aimed for in this historic team.
“I am committed to deliver very good results in these last two races, especially in Austin. I am so much looking forward to see all my people gathered together, feel their energy and show them the best of me. I would like to say to every single one of my fans around the world and in my country that I am eternally grateful to them. They have never let me down, especially in difficult moments like these. I truly appreciate their support, they have never forgotten me.
“I have met a lot of new people at McLaren this season and I have made many good friends as well. From the top management level to the marketing, accounting and engineering departments to the mechanics, the cooks, the catering people and basically everyone in the team, I am eternally grateful to them. It has been a learning experience to me.
“I would like to wish the team the very best in the future. I will always be a fan of McLaren. In the meanwhile I will be looking at my future to ensure my position in the best possible package to fight for wins.
“Thanks to McLaren and all of its partners for this season, you can rest assured that I will never give up.”
Perez has had a difficult season with McLaren, largely due to the lack of pace of this year’s McLaren MP4-28. The Mexican’s best finish in 2013 so far has been fifth place at the Indian Grand Prix. With two races left – in the USA this weekend and next week in Brazil – Perez is sitting 12th in the Drivers’ Championship on 35 points, 25 fewer than the tally of his team-mate, Jenson Button. Button has also not managed to finish higher than fifth this season.
It’s not clear yet what will happen to Perez in 2014. He has not been in talks with any other teams, as he assumed that his position at McLaren was safe. With the end of the season looming, there is not a great deal of time for him to negotiate a competitive drive for next year.
McLaren have not yet announced a replacement for Perez for next season. The current rumours suggest that it will be 21-year old Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen, who made his debut for McLaren at the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix.
It’s the end of an era for Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. Based in Brixworth, UK, the manufacturer of Mercedes Formula One engines has produced the last of the company’s V8 engines that will be used in F1, at least in this era of regulations.
From 2014, the engine arm of Mercedes will be producing turbocharged hybrid V6 engines for Formula One, as per the new regulations. That means the end of the line for the current V8 engines that have been used in more or less their current form since 2006.
The Mercedes V8 has, since its introduction to F1, powered Lewis Hamilton to the 2008 World Championship in a McLaren and Jenson Button to the 2009 World Championship in a Brawn. Mercedes V8 engines have won 46 races and secured 48 pole positions. Four teams – Mercedes, McLaren, Force India and Brawn – have used Mercedes power in the V8 era, and all four of those teams have scored at least a pole position. Force India is the only Mercedes powered team to have not won a race in the V8 era.
There are still two races left in which Mercedes, McLaren and Force India will be looking to improve on the results achieved by V8 Mercedes power in Formula One. Of those three teams, the most likely to achieve a win or a pole position again in 2013 is the works Mercedes AMG Petronas team, which has already won three times this season. But to do that, they will have to beat the all-conquering combination of Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull and Renault, which has been so dominant for the past four seasons.
To mark the occasion of the signing off of their last V8 Formula One engine, Mercedes released the following video of the BIPO (Break In, Pass Off) procedure for the engine:
Jenson Button and Sergio Perez currently hold two extremely sought-after seats on the Formula One grid. At least, they’re sought-after seats for the future. This season is another story, as McLaren have struggled so much that neither driver has stood on the podium yet in 2013. Both drivers have contracts with McLaren until the end of the season, with options to extend, but those options have yet to be taken up by McLaren, sparking rumours of a possible change in driver line-up at the Woking-based team.
At this point of the season, there is no reason for McLaren to delay confirmation that they are keeping Button and Perez in their cars for next season. Unless, that is, they are considering alternatives. Reasons for signing (or replacing) racing drivers fall into two broad categories: sporting and commercial.
From a sporting perspective, there really isn’t much of a decision to make. Button has only improved since winning the 2009 World Championship, and Perez is still in his first season at McLaren after being identified as a rising star in 2012 and snapped up to replace the departing Lewis Hamilton at the start of this year. Both drivers have made it clear that they want to stick around at McLaren. Any delays can only be coming from McLaren, and only for reasons other than on-track performance.
When it comes to commercial interests, it is not unusual for a commercial partner of a racing team to put pressure on the team management to sign a driver who is close to their interests. It is also not unusual for up-and-coming racing drivers to join forces with wealthy sponsors in order to jointly further their aims of securing a deal with the highest profile team possible. Examples include Pastor Maldonado, who joined Williams in 2011 and brought sponsorship from Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA.
There are at least two major changes taking place at McLaren in the next two seasons that have massive commercial implications. From 2014, the team will have a new title sponsor, as Vodafone have decided not to renew their McLaren deal at the end of this year. From 2015 onwards, McLaren will switch to Honda power, when the Japanese manufacturer returns to Formula One as an engine supplier for the first time since 2008.
McLaren’s new title sponsor, whoever it may be, could well be linked to a driver or a few drivers. Honda could also be interested in promoting drivers linked to their organisation. While McLaren have a strong history of choosing drivers with talent, that does not preclude choosing talented drivers with commercial benefits.
During a recent Vodafone teleconference, McLaren team manger Jonathan Neale told Autosport:
“What you really want is talent and high performance.
“We’ve shown in the past that we weren’t afraid to make the changes that we felt that we needed to in the team, whether it was inside the organisation or in the driver line-up, in order to get the job done.”
Neale’s comments suggest that McLaren are at least considering a change of driver line-up, although arguably nothing is yet decided. He went on to say:
“We don’t comment on rumour mill or drivers until such time as we’re ready to make an announcement. I hope that it won’t be too much further now before we’re able to clarify what’s going on.
“This is that time of year when everybody is talking to everybody, whether it’s technical staff moving around or drivers.”
If McLaren are being as coy with Button and Perez as they are with the media, then there could be some cause for concern for the drivers. However, it could also simply be that decisions are already made and the team could just be waiting for the opportune moment for a public announcement, such as a race weekend or other event that is important to the team’s 2014 sponsors. With Honda involved, the announcement could well be delayed until the Japanese Grand Prix on 13 October.
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