Category Archives: Red Bull

Was Hungary the turning point for McLaren, again?

Last year Lewis Hamilton achieved McLaren’s first race win of the season at the Hungaroring. This year Hamilton retired on lap 23 with a gearbox failure while Jenson Button came in 8th, behind Pedro de la Rosa, Nico Hulkenberg and Vitaly Petrov, as well as the 2 Ferraris and the 2 Red Bulls. In 2009 the Hungarian Grand Prix marked the return to form of the McLaren as Lewis Hamilton went in to gain more points in the 2nd hlaf of the season than any any other driver. This year I fear it could be a turning point of a different kind.

At the rick of being labelled pessimistic, I do fear that Hungary showcased just how far McLaren are falling behind the Red Bulls and Ferraris. Before Hamilton’s retirement he’d performed far better than the car by getting past Felipe Massa in the pits and moving from 5th place to 4th place, while Jenson Button had been languishing in 10th place, at least a slight improvement on his 14th place starting position. In qualifying Hamilton drove out of his skin just to get 5th place on the grid while Button failed to make Q3 and started in 11th. Bad qualifying had been a constant during Button’s season and it’s a testament to his race performance, and some luck, that he currently sits in 4th place in the Driver’s Championship.

While a 5th place start for Hamilton might not sound catastrophic, he was nowhere near the pace of the Ferraris and Red Bulls and the gap seems to be increasing with each race. Like McLaren last year, Ferrari have made a remarkable comeback and with some questionable tactics have catapulted Fernando Alonso right up into Championship contention. Hamilton meanwhile has relinquished the Championship lead to Mark Weber, who leads by 10 points, and is being chased down by Vettel who is just 6 points behind him, and 4 points ahead of Button, who himself is 6 points ahead of Alonso.

After the Hungarian Grand Prix McLaren also lost the lead in the Constructor’s Championship with Red Bull now ahead of them by 8 points. In fear that’s a lead that McLaren won’t be reclaiming, as performance issues aside Jenson Button seems to be falling more out of love with his car with every race. It’s a little similar to last year where Button suffered a drop in performance, such that he was almost caught by both Vettel and Barichello. of course last year he had a cushion of 6 wins, not something he can rely on this year.

Lewis Hamilton on the other hand, while not driving the best car, can always be relied on to get at least 100% out of the car and often more, retirements aside. But is that enough to make an impact in the last 7 races and give Hamilton a chance at becoming a 2-time World Champion? If I had to bet on a McLaren driver winning the 2010 Driver’s Championship I have to confess that’s not a bet I’d be putting much money on, though the combination of McLaren development and Hamilton driving is one that always has the potential to surprise and perform.

Am I being too negative? Maybe, but the speed of the 2 teams in front of McLaren is frightening, at least to a McLaren fan. Am I also being a bit harsh on Jenson Button? Again, maybe, but he does seem to under perform unless he’s 100% happy with his car and frankly in this race for the title we need more. With Red Bull’s apparent driver friction and Ferrari’s alleged team orders, I sometimes wonder if the harmonious atmosphere in the McLaren garage couldn’t benefit from a bit more fight between the two drivers. It’s great for PR to have 2 drivers getting along so well but is it really conducive to the best results on track?

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Filed under Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Hungarian, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Weber, McLaren, Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel

McLaren Excel as I Wilt!

I can’t give you answer to the question ‘why have you not been updating this blog?’, I can only apologise. I’ve been watching the races every week and I’ve been thrilled at the success of both Lewis and Jenson for McLaren – you’d think it would be the perfect time for someone running a McLaren blog to post lots of updates. I’ve been taking lots of photos and have just launched a photo gallery website: Fable Photos and have been regularly updating my other blog: Fabled Thoughts Expanded, but why I’ve not been posting here is a mystery as I constantly think about doing so, but then life gets in the way.

Anyway, moving forward and going into the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend, we see Lewis leading the Driver’s Championship ahead of Jenson, with McLaren sitting atop the Constructor’s Championship. Will it continue like this? I can only hope it will, but one has to be wary that if the Red Bulls don’t have any reliability problems and don’t crash into each other, then they could take both Championships back at any time.

In my completely unbiased opinion (!), I’d say that Lewis has been the best driver so far this season, by quite some margin. He’s been the one to watch in almost every race and has achieved success through sheer racing aggression and ability. If the McLaren has the out and out speed of the Red Bull then I truly believe that Lewis would have a sizeable lead in the Championship, far more than he currently has. It was watching Lewis Hamilton racing in Japan 2007 that got me into Formula 1 and he’s showed more than ever this season why I was right to place my faith with him.

Not taking anything away from Jenson Button, who has had almost as much success as Lewis so far, but his success has not been as exciting to watch and some may say that a sizeable amount of luck and fortune has helped him to get to where he is. Still, I’m glad for that fortune as his points are almost half of those obtained my McLaren this season, the current leader of the Constructor’s Championship.

Maybe someone more knowledgeable than myself can confirm or deny this, but I’m sure McLaren are an upgrade behind the likes of Red Bull at the moment and we could be seeing those upgrades this weekend at some point. I’m hoping these upgrades will see McLaren close the gap on the Red Bulls even more, and maybe even surpass them – though that could be unrealistic wishful thinking.

On a different topic altogether and if I can be very childish for a moment – ha ha ha ha ha, to Fernando Alonso and Ferrari for their failure to spoil things for Lewis and McLaren in the last race. Get a grip guys – concentrate on getting your race up to speed rather than throwing your toys out of the pram and attempting, and failing, to rely on penalties for success.

This time tomorrow qualifying will have happened and we’ll have some idea of how the teams are relative to one another and whether a McLaren is sitting on pole position. Who knows, with in-laws up tomorrow I may have more time to myself and you may be treated to another blog post. I will try very hard, but don’t hold your breath!

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Filed under British, Constructors, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Red Bull

Neglected Blog, Turkish Delight & Communications Breakdown

Apologies for the lack of blog updates (busy times which should be easing off soon, hopefully) and also for the very corny pun in the title of this update – I couldn’t resist!

Am I happy that Lewis Hamilton won in Turkey? yes, I’m over the moon. Would I prefer it the victory had have come from actually beating the Red Bulls rather than capitalising on the collision between Weber and Vettel? of course, but the improvements of the McLarens are very encouraging and Hamilton and Button were within pouncing distance of Weber and Vettel for the whole pre-collision race. This victory out Hamilton right back into the title race, something which comes as a huge relief to me, and lots of other people too, I’m sure.

Now, onto more serious matters, and the information that has come out of the radio communications that can be heard on formula1.com, which went something like this:

Team to Hamilton “Save fuel”
Lewis Hamilton- “If I save fuel will Jenson pass me yes or no?”
Team- “No Lewis He won’t”

Of course we all know what happened next. So, was this a case of the team not communicating to Jenson what they had just told Lewis or was this Jenson deciding to race for the win ignoring what the team had said/ No doubt we’ll get an explanation from Martin Whitmarsh at the next race, as I am sure the BBC team will ask him what went on. With no team order there can be no real blame for Jenson wanting to race, but he was given the passing opportunity due to Lewis slowing down, so the fault lies with the lack of communication.

If Lewis needed to save more fuel than Jenson, as the case may have been, would the team have been right to tell Jenson not to pass Lewis? Conserving fuel, just as with tyres, is part of the race and if Jenson has done than better than Lewis then all credit to him, surely, and a shot at the win in his right. Of course this is only mass speculation but I know that if the shoe were on the other foot than I’d want Lewis to be given that chance at victory.

If we assume the team didn’t pass on Lewis’s concerns, why would that be? Could it just be an innocent communication breakdown or could they have realised that if Jenson gets the win then he’d be top of the Driver’s Championship, while their team points would remain the same, seeing them top of the Constructor’s Championship. It’s maybe a cynical look at what occurred but as a fan of McLaren that doesn’t mean we have to be blinkered, we have to consider all angles, especially given the large amounts of money involved in Formula 1.

Until we hear from McLaren themselves, all we can do is guess any number of scenarios. The facts are that McLaren are now competitive with Red Bull, and with that in mind the rest of the season should be very exciting indeed.

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Filed under Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Weber, McLaren, Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel, Turkish

The Hamilton Highlight Reel Continues in Malaysia

We all expected rain, there was none. Most expected the Red Bulls to break down, they didn’t. Just what can you rely on in Formula 1 these days? The answer to that question is Lewis Hamilton. Yesterday’s race in Sepang was just another example of superb driving and passionate racing from the 2008 World Champion. In the first lap alone Hamilton made up 8 places from the 20th place he started, to 12th.

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Aside from the tussle between Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, the cameras were rightly on Hamilton for the majority of the race, despite the runaway success of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Weber at the front. For those bemoaning this season for it’s lack of overtaking, Hamilton was there to give a master class, as he passed one driver after another. It was with ease that he did this until he came upon the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, who proved to be a more troublesome rival than Hamilton’s previous victims.

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When Hamilton finally got past Petrov he was accused of excessive weaving, something which the stewards saw fit to warn him about but not take the matter any further. Of course this has angered some people, forgetting how Hamilton has been on the very harsh end of some decisions in recent years, not forgetting McLaren’s £100,000,000 fine for the whole Ferrari ‘spy-gate’ situation while Renault get told not to do it again after fixing a race by having one of their drivers crash his car on purpose! I think it’s about time someone in a McLaren car got let off lightly.

It was a magnificent drive by Lewis Hamilton, who ended up finishing 6th, and would have progressed even further had his good friend Adrian Sutil proven to be the one car he couldn’t get past. With an equally good Mercedes engine in his Force India car, Sutil defended excellently against the rampaging Hamilton.
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While not being able to match Lewis Hamilton’s success, Jenson Button did well to improve from his 17th place qualifying position on the grid to 8th place in the race. He went up the outside at the start of the race and Lewis went up the inside, and whether it be luck, judgement or both, it was the inside line that gave Lewis the advantage. For the second race in a row Jenson Button made a decision to come in for a tyre change early and this looked like it may be fortuitous and see him ahead of the Ferraris and Lewis Hamilton after their pit stops. It did get him past Alonso and Massa but not Hamilton, though only by a whisker as the two were side by side when Hamilton rejoined the race track. Button ended up being overtaken by Massa and looked like he would fall victim to Alonso too but the Spaniards car disagreed and came to a smoke engulfed halt at track side.

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After what appeared to be a disastrous Saturday’s qualifying, McLaren came back fighting and made sure they stayed well in the title race. I personally found the race very entertaining and particularly exciting it times. being a McLaren fan has had its advantages this season as the lion’s share of the action and intrigue has surrounded Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. With The Red Bull failures in Bahrain and Australia, Mercedes (Michael Schumacher) and Ferrari’s break down in Malaysia, McLaren can hold there heads up high as the kost reliable of the 4 front running teams, something which will serve them very well over the course of a season.

Before I go, just let me remind you of the predictions I made for the Malaysian Grand Prix:

1st – Vettel – Correct
2nd – Weber – Correct
3rd Rosberg – Correct
6th Hamilton – Correct
9th Button – Incorrect, but only one place out!

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Filed under Adrian Sutil, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Force India, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Malaysian, McLaren, Red Bull, Vitaly Petrov

Qualifying: Bahrain 2010 – Surprised to be pleased with 4th

Let’s cover the three practice sessions first, and with just 6 hours till the start of the Grand Prix I’ll keep it brief.

Free Practice 1 – Friday 12th April
Jenson Button – 5th
Lewis Hamilton – 6th

Free Practice 2 – Friday 12th April
Jenson Button – 4th
Lewis Hamilton – 2nd

Free Practice 3 – Saturday 13th April
Jenson Button – 7th
Lewis Hamilton – 12th

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=2010+bahrain+grand+prix&iid=8226231″ src=”8/3/c/8/Feature_9588.jpg?adImageId=11238167&imageId=8226231″ width=”500″ height=”335″ /]
 
Lewis had a problem with one of his front brakes 15 minutes from the end of FP3 which meant his session was over, meaning he never got a chance to do a simulation qualifying lap ahead. At this point I started to get worried, for 2 reasons: 1) Would they be able to sort Lewis’s car out in time for qualifying?, and 2) How much of a disadvantage would Lewis be at having not done that simulation qualifying lap, given that the Bahrain track had changed since he qualified there in 2010? After what appeared to be a great few weeks of testing, was the McLaren dream of a return to form beginning to unravel?

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That last question seemed to become answered as we started the first qualifying session of 2010, one in which Lewis finished up 6th and Jenson 11th – not what I had been expecting and hoping for, Though both made it into Q2, if Jenson didn’t improve he wouldn’t make it to Q3. The Ferraris and Red Bulls were leading the pack, with Adrian Sutil’s Force India in 3rd.

Q2 saw Lewis remain in 6th, while Jenson did manage to improve from 11th to 10th place – just scraping in to Q3 and a chance to start further up the grid. However, in getting 1st place in Q2, Sebastian Vettel was almost a second faster than Lewis Hamilton and well over a second faster than Jenson Button. It was becoming clear that I comparison to the front runners, McLaren didn’t have the pace.

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You can imagine my delight when Lewis Hamilton managed to claim 4th place on the grid by the end of Q3! 24 hours ago I’d have been disappointed with that result but after Q1 and Q2, the 2nd row of the grid was a major accomplishment. Jenson Button do so well, qualifying in 8th place – but at least it was an improvement from the 10th and 11th place finishes in Q2 and Q1 respectively. In qualifying 4th Lewis was more than 1.1 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel in pole position, just under a second slower than Felipe Massa in 2nd and more than 6/10ths of a second slower than Fernando Alonso in 3rd. Back in 8th, Jenson was over 4/10ths slower than team mate Lewis in 4th.

While the 4th place achieved by Lewis was a great effort compared to Q1 and Q2 it’s still somewhat of a disappointing first qualifying session for McLaren, not something I either wanted or expected after last season. Downforce on the corners seems to be the problem, so there is hope that on the straights the McLaren’s can make up time and places, especially given the reports that overtaking on the corners is nigh on impossible.

Yesterday evening I received a tweet from 5LiveF1 on Twitter saying this:

Rumours are that McLaren ran with a higher ride height in qualy to counteract the fuel weights tomorrow.

If this is the case then the McLaren MP4-25s of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button could perform better in the race than qualifying would have us believe. Until that’s proven it looks like it’s a Ferrari race to lose to lose in Bahrain, given than Vettel’s Red Bull will apparently be harsher on its tyres and has question marks over its reliability.

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It took half a season for McLaren to catch up last season, but they were in a much worse position in comparison to the fastest cars than they are this year. If when the dust settles later on today and we see McLaren with some catching up to do, we can take solace in the fact that they this will happen a lot quicker than last year, and with so many cars with a chance of getting big points the championship would still be within McLaren’s grasp.

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Filed under Adrian Sutil, Bahrain, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Qualifying, Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel

Is 2010 the most eagerly anticipated Formula 1 season ever?

I personally have been counting down the days till the start of the 2010 F1 season, and from the amount of people on Twitter, websites and other Formula 1 blogs, I’d say I’m not alone. The anticipation and almost lack of patience to get to the Bahrain Grand Prix seems to have Grand Prix Fever at an all time fever this year, but why is that? I don’t think it’s one thing, but many factors are contributing to people’s desire to see the season start.

The Brawn Dominance of 2009
Last year Brawn, and in fact Jenson Button himself, won 6 out of the first 7 Grands Prix.The extra months of development put in by Honda before the buyout gave them an insurmountable advantage and though Red Bull gave them a few tense moments towards the end, the season was almost over before the halfway point. As such fans never got much of a competition last year and after the nail biting climax of both the 2007 and 2008 seasons, they are desperate for a Formula 1 season with some exciting rivalries and championship battles.

The Return of Michael Schumacher
Love him or hate him there is no other driver in the history of Formula 1 who has made such an impact as Michael Schumacher. At 41 years old and after 3 years away from the sport as an active driver, he’s back. Just what effect will that have on the other drivers and the season as a whole? Speaking for myself, I am relatively new to Formula 1, at least as fan at the level where I watch everything, every week. That means I’ve never watched every race in a season where Schumacher has dominated, or at least been a factor in determining who would be champion. To have him on track at the same time as drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel is a mouth watering prospect, and has brought even more attention to an already fascinating 2010 season.

McLaren’s Poor 2009 Season
While the second half of the 2009 season was one of improvement and success, the first half was so bad that McLaren failed, at least by their standards. As a McLaren fan it was very disappointing not to be in the championship race, neither for the drivers or constrictor. Testing seems to have gone well for McLaren so I’m anticipating starting the 2010 season with a chance of victory from the very first race, and that alone is enough for any fan of McLaren to want to get the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend started as soon as possible. The sooner we see success in 2010, the sooner we can forget the mediocrity of 2009.

Most Competitive Season in Recent History
McLaren and Ferrari seem to have pulled themselves back from the doldrums of 2009, we have no reason to believe Red Bull have dropped performance from being the fastest car on the grid last year and Mercedes have taken over the championship winning car of last year and have had an off-season of development with a high level of funding. Add Williams and BMW Sauber Ferrari (wow, that’ll take some getting used to) into the mix and it’s looking like we are in for a season with more possible race winners than there has been for a long time. The first few races may tell a different story but on paper it would appear we are in for a very exciting season, and one which will see the championship race go right to the very end with no clear favourites right now.

New Teams and Drivers
Lotus, HRT and Virgin are brand new to 2010, while Sauber and Mercedes have been taken over fro the teams they were on 2009. Add in new names to Formula 1 like Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg plus the likes of Pedro de la Rosa, Lucas di Grassi, Vitantonio Liuzzi & Kamui Kobayashi and the 2010 season has a grid that looks vastly different to 2009, both in quantity of cars n the grid and the number of new or returning names behind the wheel. While a lot of these drivers may not be vying for the lead themselves, what they do on track will inevitably affect those that are gunning for big points – remember Spa last year?

Rule Changes
There have been a multitude of rule changes for the upcoming season but the three that make the most difference, at least from my perspective, are:

  • No refuelling during the race – this means that the cars have to fuel up at the start of the race with a full tank, enough to last them the whole race. This has a massive effect on qualifying where we used to see cars fuel light for pole position but have to come into the pits early in the race for more fuel. Conversely, some cars would fuel a bit heavier hoping the extra laps they stayed out would be enough to keep them in the lead after their later pit stop.
  • Tyres at end of qualifying just be used for the start of the race which gives way to one of two strategies; 1) Choose soft tyres in order to get near the start of the grid, but suffer greater wear with a heavy fuel load at the start of the race, or 2) choose the harder tyre and maybe not qualify as well, but have less wear on the tyres from the race start and thus go longer and better on the first set of tyres.
  • New Points System – this is the big one, and has been put in place to encourage drivers to go for the win every time rather being satisfied with a 2nd place finish. Where 1st, 2nd and 3rd used to earn the drivers 10, 8 and 6 points respectively – those positions now get a driver 25, 18 and 15 points. This means that someone who has fallen behind in the points after a few races could see some successful car upgrades catapult him back up to the top of the leader board with a couple of wins. The points also go back to 10th place, that’s 2 more points winning places than the 2009 season.

All these factors are going to change qualifying, race strategies and driver motivation – at least that’s the theory!

Dream Teams
What started off as a media fuelled fantasy, soon became reality when 2009 champion Jenson Button joined 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton to form the British Dream Team at McLaren. Over at Ferrari, Fernando Alonso made his much anticipated move and joins Felipe Massa, who hasn’t raced since Hungary where he had the horrific accident. At Mercedes there is the returning Michael Schumacher and the ever promising Nico Rosberg, all under the watchful eye of Ross Brawn. At Red Bull we have Sebastian Vettel and Mark Weber, who on paper may not have the allure of these other 3 teams but let us not forget that this is a team that gave Brawn a run for their money in the championships last year. Had Brawn not had that developmental head start last year we’d probably be starting 2010 with Red Bull driving the 1 and 2 cars. It’s a fascinating prospect, not only seeing how these teams compete against each other but to see how and even if the drivers can co-exist.

The Rise of Social Networking / Blogs
In the past 12 months Twitter has exploded and if you are ever tweeting during a F1 race you’ll see online social interactivity taken to new levels. There have also been a huge rise in the number of websites and blogs dedicated to the great sport of Formula 1. It could well be that it just appears that there is more anticipation for the upcoming season because more people are visibly talking about it, though I’m pretty sure the anticipation is real, it is bigger than ever before and it’s because of the points discussed previously. It is great that the F1 community is able to grow on a global scale and bring fans together thanks to the internet.

So, the question was: Is 2010 the most eagerly anticipated Formula 1 season ever? The answer is yes, and this time next week the first practice session will be under way on Bahrain. I’m excited about the upcoming season like never before, are you?

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Filed under Bahrain, BMW Sauber Ferrari, Brawn GP, Bruno Senna, Constructors, Drivers, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Grand Prix, HRT, Jenson Button, Kamui Kobayashi, Lewis Hamilton, Lotus Racing, Lucas di Grassi, Mark Weber, McLaren, Mercedes GP, Michael Schumacher, Nico Hulkenberg, Nico Rosberg, Pedro de la Rosa, Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel, Virgin, Vitaly Petrov, Vitantonio Liuzzi

McLaren in the News –14th February 2010

Hamilton expected to earn £379m @ The Independent on Sunday Business News
Sunday 14th February
British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is expected to earn more in his career than any other driver in the sport, according to new research.

The study, carried out by F1’s industry monitor, Formula Money, ranks drivers based on total predicted career earnings from salary and endorsements. It shows that Hamilton, who drives for the McLaren team, will earn £378.9m during his career. This is more than Michael Schumacher, who returns to F1 this year, and] outstrips the predicted earnings of Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button. (read more…)

Hamilton Steps Up the Pace @ The Press Association
Saturday 13th February
Lewis Hamilton ended this week’s Jerez test on a high note as the Briton powered his McLaren to the top of the timesheets with a string of blistering late laps.
The McLaren team were happy to bide their time over the previous three days of the rain-affected multi-team test as they concentrated on aero-mapping runs conducted at slower speeds.
But they took the shackles off the MP4-25 on Saturday afternoon, allowing Hamilton to pump in a succession of hot laps and finish half a second clear of second-placed Adrian Sutil in the new Force India VJM03. Hamilton’s best lap of one minute 19.583 seconds was also the quickest of the four-day test. (read more…)

RBR: Ferrari, McLaren have improved @ Autosport.com
Thursday 11th February
Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner says his squad is expecting a much greater threat from Ferrari and McLaren this year judging by early testing results.

Although RBR dominated the final three races of 2009 and starts this season among the title favourites, Horner is not underestimating the challenge from former champions Ferrari and McLaren – who he believes have made great strides during the winter. (read more…)

Button finally happy in McLaren MP4-25 @ ESPN F1
Thursday 11th February
Jenson Button said that the second day of testing at Jerez was the first time he had really felt comfortable in the new McLaren.

Last week Button said he was “frustrated” by his first day of testing in Valencia, as he hadn’t been able to get his seating position right. But after two days in Jerez, where he set the third fastest time of the week so far, he said he was finally comfortable with the MP4-25 and was making progress. (read more…)

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Filed under Constructors, Drivers, Ferrari, In the news..., Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Red Bull