Honda to power McLaren from 2015?

Honda are reportedly planning a return to F1 in 2015. According to a Jiji Press report, Honda is reportedly working on Formula One engines for McLaren.

The Japanese car manufacturer quit F1 at the end of the 2008 season with the team sold to Ross Brawn, who changed the name to Brawn GP and went on to win the 2009 World championship.

If the rumours about the Honda-McLaren partnership are true, it would not be the first time that the pair have teamed up. Their previous partnership was between 1988 and 1992 and in that time, they won four constructors’ World Championships.

Whitmarsh: I think we should be worried about the pace

McLaren on Friday admitted it is now “worried” about the pace of the new MP4-28 car.

Jenson Button was just ninth in opening practice in Melbourne, before lagging more than two seconds off the pace in the second ninety minute session. Team newcomer Sergio Perez was consistently even slower.

“I think we should be worried about the pace,” team boss Martin Whitmarsh told British broadcaster Sky. “It is a tough day in the office for everyone at the moment, we are lacking grip and there is a lot of head scratching at the moment,” he said.

While most top teams – notably continuing pacesetters Red Bull – simply evolved their 2012 cars for the final season of V8 regulations, McLaren unveiled a radical new car for this year, including novel pull-rod front suspension.

“I think we are still learning and there is a lot we still need to learn about this car,” Whitmarsh added, “but we have struggled frankly to quite understand how it is performing.”

Sporting director Sam Michael likened McLaren’s new struggles to Ferrari’s of early last year, when Fernando Alonso would ultimately go on to challenge for the title.

“By the fourth or fifth race they were there,” he said.

Source:GMM

Perez admits pressure higher at McLaren

Sergio Perez has felt the added pressure of stepping up the F1 grid for 2013.

Formerly the surprise podium-getter in a Sauber, the 23-year-old has now been signed up by McLaren, to replace the ultra high-profile Lewis Hamilton.

“Of course the pressure is higher now,” the Mexican is quoted by Speed Week, as he represented his new employer at the Geneva motor show.

“But I have no problems with it. “Anyone who can’t handle pressure should not sign for McLaren,” added Perez.

According to most pundits, Perez has had a mixed first winter with the famous British team, complaining about “extreme” tyre degradation and a difficulty adjusting to the new MP4-28.

“Of course I would have liked to collect more information before going to Australia,” he admitted. “Some days it was cold and really difficult to learn about the car,” said Perez.

“But I don’t know anyone in the pitlane who had carefree winter testing. So it’s the same for everyone, not a disadvantage for us.”

Source:GMM

McLaren denies 2013 car off the pace

McLaren has denied it is slightly off the pace as teams enter the final week of pre-season testing.

With multiple sources reporting that Red Bull and Lotus look to be narrowly leading the 2013 field at present, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali this week admitted he would be “very surprised” if the new F138 is quickest in Australia.

Drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez have been making similar noises about the 2013 McLaren.

Team newcomer and Mexican Perez sounded alarmed when he said the degradation of Pirelli’s new tyres is “extreme”, while Button admitted recently that while the radical new MP4-28 often feels good, “at other times it doesn’t”.

But McLaren’s managing director Jonathan Neale has this week sent out a more upbeat message, insisting the drivers have reported that the “handling is good”.

“I don’t think we’ve seen anybody yet do a laptime that we felt we couldn’t have done if we’d changed the fuel load,” he told British reporters. “A bit like the beginning of last season,” added Neale, “nobody stands out as being head and shoulders above everybody else at the moment and nobody appears to be hanging off the back either.”

Source:GMM

McLaren says Mercedes wooed Lowe with ‘exotic salary’

McLaren suspects its former technical director Paddy Lowe was lured to Mercedes on the promise of a “telephone number salary”.

“From time to time we have all done it,” managing director Jonathan Neale told reporters this week, after McLaren confirmed it has installed Tim Goss in Lowe’s former role, as the 50-year-old begins a period of ‘gardening leave’. “People are prepared to pay exotic salaries and wait 12 or 18 months, or longer in some cases. That’s the state of the market,” he said.

It is strongly rumoured that Lowe is headed to Mercedes, where multiple sources insist he will almost certainly replace team boss Ross Brawn.

“He (Lowe) has to think about number one,” Jenson Button, who has worked closely with Lowe since joining the Woking based team as world champion in 2010, said. Button denied Lowe’s departure is a personal blow.

“I didn’t come here because Paddy was here, I didn’t come here because Lewis (Hamilton) was here,” said the 33-year-old. “I came here because this is McLaren, with its heritage and history, and – a word we always use, but it is the truth – its ‘strength in depth’.”

Having also lost star driver Hamilton to Mercedes, some have suggested McLaren’s similar failure to hang onto its top engineer is a major management error.

Neale insisted: “The reality is that if somebody rolls up and says ‘I don’t like being here, you are not paying me enough money’ or whatever, then even if you have a good contract, you don’t want them in the team anyway.”

So with Lowe looking set to oust Mercedes’ Brawn, could McLaren make a move for the former Ferrari technical director?

“Ross, by his own admission, would say he hasn’t achieved what he wanted to in the last few years,” answered Neale. “He is still a fantastic guy and still well respected through the industry — a great leader of men and a good technical guy.

“But it is about the chemistry and the blend,” he added.

Source:GMM

McLaren replaces Mercedes-bound Lowe

Paddy Lowe is no longer McLaren’s technical director. Hot on the heels of reports the 50-year-old has been placed on ‘gardening leave’, the British team announced that long-time McLaren engineer Tim Goss has replaced Lowe.

“The great mystery is no more,” Tobias Gruner, the correspondent for Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, said. “The only thing missing is the official confirmation.”

He is referring to speculation Lowe will almost certainly be joining Mercedes after his ‘gardening leave’.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said: “He’s been a good and successful F1 technical director, and we wish him well when he embarks on a fresh challenge in 2014.”

Whitmarsh’s comment will increase speculation Lowe has been drafted by Mercedes to replace team boss Ross Brawn.

“I cannot officially say anything,” Niki Lauda, Mercedes’ new shareholder and executive chairman, told Reuters. “If Paddy Lowe is coming or not, I cannot tell you now … (but) Ross is in his position and will stay in his position. Everything is under control.”

Prior to the news about Lowe’s ‘gardening leave’ breaking, Brawn told F1’s official website on Monday: “I am responsible for the sporting side; running the team on an operational level.

“If we can maintain that then there will not be a problem.”

A report in the UK newspaper Express said confidently: “Brawn feels his status has been undermined and will not hang around the new regime.”

Source:GMM

Button: McLaren struggling with 2013 car

Jenson Button has admitted McLaren is grappling with its new car for 2013.

Unlike most other main rivals, notably Red Bull and Ferrari, McLaren – whose British driver Button won the 2012 finale in Brazil – did not simply ‘evolve’ last year’s car for the new season. Red Bull’s outspoken Dr Helmut Marko said this week he didn’t understand why McLaren changed so much between 2013 and 2013.

Mark Webber agrees: “This sport is hard enough – and the cars difficult enough to understand technically – without taking risks unnecessarily.”

Indeed, things are going well in the Red Bull camp.

“I’m very happy with the car, with the balance, how it feels,” Germany’s SID news agency quotes world champion Sebastian Vettel as saying.

McLaren’s contrasting philosophy, however, was that development of the 2012 concept was almost exhausted, and so a new base was necessary. Button explained that, had the Woking team simply evolved the MP4-27, “I think after three or four races you would realise that you’re at the end of the development curve with it”.

The problem right now, though, is that McLaren is struggling to “understand where the car is”.

Button continued: “At times it feels good, at others it doesn’t.”

There are whispers in the paddock that arguably the best-performing car at the present moment is the evolved Lotus.

Romain Grosjean did a four-stop race simulation on Thursday, and team boss Eric Boullier beamed afterwards that – towards the end of the faux race – the E21 seemed to be showing potentially grand prix-winning pace.

“It (Lotus’ pace) certainly was not bad,” Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg told Auto Motor und Sport.

“But Lotus was also good here during winter testing last year.”

McLaren’s Button thinks it’s too early to say if there’s a standout performer in 2013.

“I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is that no one is massively standing out.”

Source:GMM