McLaren gamble backfires for Button and Magnussen

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Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen left yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix asking themselves where it all went wrong after a mixed weekend for McLaren.

The British team showed good pace during practice and managed to get both of its drivers into the top ten qualifying shoot-out, only for Magnussen to crash heavily during the short rain shower in Q3. The damage to his car forced the team into a rebuild, and meant that he had to start from the pit lane.

More rain on Sunday meant that all of the drivers started the race on intermediate tires, and as the track began to dry, the forecasts were constantly changing. During the first safety car period, most of the drivers moved onto slicks, but McLaren rolled the dice and fitted more intermediates to Button and Magnussen’s cars in anticipation of more rain.

At first, it seemed to be a masterstroke. Button moved into the lead of the race with ease, passing Daniel Ricciardo once the safety car came in. However, it did not last long, and he soon dropped back before finishing the race in tenth place.

“I’m glad it was an exciting race for the fans, but it was a tough afternoon for us,” Button said. “We didn’t make the right decisions today.

“The opening laps in the rain were great. I got up into fifth, which wasn’t a bad position for us, but it went downhill from there.

“I feel like I did everything right, and in every track condition, which is why it’s tough, but we win as a team and we lose as a team, and we’ll quickly put this behind us and move on.”

Magnussen eventually finished the race in 12th position and out of the points for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May. However, after starting from the pits, he did not feel that the team had much to lose.

“We didn’t make the best of things today, but having started from the pit lane, I don’t think I really lost too much by choosing to stay on the inters when everybody pitted for dries,” he said.

“I know we took a risk to wait for more rain, but I think we had to take that risk. I don’t think things would’ve been much different if we’d made a different strategy call, but we now need to sit down with the engineers and strategists to discuss it.

“Once we switched to the prime, we didn’t have the pace to challenge for too many points. After a race like today’s, we just need to stay positive and look for areas where we can further improve.”

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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