© Getty Images

McLaren staff gave up Christmas holiday to get new F1 car ready

Leave a comment

McLaren operations director Stephen Roberts has revealed that some of the team’s staff had to sacrifice time off over Christmas in order to get the new car ready for the 2016 Formula 1 season.

After enduring a miserable 2015 campaign that saw the team finish ninth in the constructors’ championship, McLaren has been working hard over the winter to prevent a repeat in 2016.

The new season had been scheduled to start at the beginning of April in Australia, only for the calendar to revert back to its traditional mid-March kick-off slot.

This in turn caused pre-season testing to be brought forward, leaving teams with a race against time to make up for this shift.

In a feature on McLaren’s official website, Roberts revealed that the McLaren team was forced to sacrifice its time off over the holiday period to speed up the development progress and ensure that the new car will make it to the first test in Barcelona.

“Our entire build programme wasn’t lined up for [the early start]” Roberts said. “So we knew we had a problem to solve.

“In terms of our design and engineering capacity, it’s a relatively straightforward re-planning exercise – there’s less time to get the work done, so everyone works a bit harder.

“But the build schedule is on a critical path. It needs to pass all the FIA safety tests and be ready for the first test, which was also brought forward. In that situation, you can’t just re-plan, you need to do something different.

“We put about eight shifts of work back into the programme over a five-day period – a fantastic effort. In total, there were about 110 people involved and we looked after our Christmas workers with a competitive package.

“We had a really good response, and people seemed to enjoy it too – it was a bit weird, not having all the time off, but there was a good spirit in the place. Everyone knew why they were doing it, and it really cleared the decks.

“Most pleasingly, it meant that, once we came back in the New Year, we were back on schedule – and it felt like the programme had always been phased that way. It was an incredible effort.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.