M cLaren is faced with a riddle. Lewis Hamilton doesn't know how he got on the front row alongside Sebastian Vettel. And Jenson Button has no idea why he only ended up in a double-digit starting position again. The new rear suspension didn't help McLaren out of trouble either.
Tire worries since Bahrain
As usual, the McLaren engineers struggled with the tires. It has been like this for four races. The thread broke with the GP Bahrain. 'These tires are very difficult to understand. They change from one day to the next without us touching the car,' complains chief technology officer Paddy Lowe. 'But others do the same.'
Not entirely true. At Red Bull, they seem to be on the right track when it comes to understanding tires. Ferrari also seems to know what you're doing. Peter Sauber believes anyway: 'The tires are an excuse the top teams use for not being so superior.'
Although the asphalt temperature was 39 degrees and Pirelli delivered the super-soft tires, the McLaren Pilots struggle to get the black soles into their work window. It went so far that Hamilton was slower with the soft tires in the third training session than with the hard ones.
Button used up fresh tires prematurely
The fourth place in the World Championship was closed too Beginning of qualification Effort to use the grip advantage of the super-soft tires. 'I somehow managed to get into Q3 with two sets of Supersoft. Otherwise the same thing as Jenson would have happened to me.' As usual, Button had even more problems 'lighting' the tires, as the drivers put it. At the last minute he slipped eight thousandths ahead of Kamui Kobayashi into the top ten final.
Just to have no fresh set of extra glue left in the crucial part of the qualification. 'I was faced with the choice of not going out, with a used sentence supersoft or a new sentence soft. We decided on the third option. That was wrong. We would have stayed in the pits.' Then Button would have saved a fresh set of the harder compound for the race. 'Here it is not so important how many fresh sets of tires you have left for the race', team boss Martin Whitmarsh waved off.
Hamilton surprised after second place
During Button fought with blunt weapons in Q3, Hamilton made it to the end again, the tires in the magicBring working window. 'I was amazed that it was enough for second place, but I don't think we have the speed of Red Bull and Ferrari,' admitted the Englishman.
That doesn't sound like high hopes at. 'If we have difficulties warming up the tires during the race, we pay with more wear and tear and loss of grip. A tire that is too cold spins faster or slips more. Then it becomes too hot and you also have no grip. It is a vicious circle from which there is no escape. '
McLaren puzzles over the Pirellis
But what is so difficult about perfect tire management? 'The window is incredibly small,' explains Whitmarsh. 'If you try too much with the vehicle set-up, you can easily shoot out again.' The problem is eerily complex, according to Whitmarsh. 'We differentiate between surface temperature, carcass temperature and sidewall temperature. If you have solved one problem, that is not automatically the solution for the second.'
The team boss forces himself to think positively: 'Lewis can start from second place on the grid win. For that he has to get off to a perfect start. ' And button? The Melbourne winner will be the only one of the top ten to start the race with the harder tire compound. 'Nobody can say today whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage. Nobody has experience with these tires at asphalt temperatures above 40 degrees.'