With McLaren’s MP4-24, a car Eddie Jordan suggested was “possibly the worst car McLaren has ever designed,” Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen found themselves propping up the pre-season testing times. With fundamental aero problems, things didn’t improve for a considerable time. By mid-season McLaren had just 13 points in the constructors’ championship and Hamilton did not visit a podium until round 10 in Hungary.
By then, McLaren had a significant upgrade package on the car and Lewis actually managed to win at Hungaroring. He did it again in Singapore and graced the podium five times in the final eight rounds. Engineers in the F1 paddock are fond of the expression: you can’t polish a turd — if a car starts off bad, it’s never going to be a world-beater. In ’09 though, McLaren had some pretty good dusters!
Lewis will be profoundly hoping that Mercedes does, too, although the W13 is nowhere near an MP4-24 in the dollop stakes. If Mercedes can get on top of it somewhat quicker than McLaren managed back in ’09, imagine a championship battle between an evenly-matched Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton! Perhaps I’m getting greedy…
Will Mercedes development see these two fighting for the title with Verstappen?
Ironically, that ’09 season signalled the end of McLaren’s works Mercedes status and tipped the balance in persuading Stuttgart to become a full works entity in 2010. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh even magnanimously oiled the wheels of a Mercedes power unit for Ross Brawn, who was bereft after Honda’s withdrawal. Talk about taking a Kalashnikov to your own foot…
Leclerc, who took the 2019 pole in Bahrain and led convincingly until he had an engine issue (he wound his engineer up about the same thing on the last lap last Sunday!), has always been excellent around Sakhir but Carlos Sainz had problems keeping him in sight throughout the season’s first weekend. In a year in which Maranello seem to be title contenders, that is going to develop into an interesting dynamic.
Sainz did a great job in his first season at Ferrari. Even if finishing ahead in the points table did not reflect the true competitive picture between the two, an average single-lap deficit of just a tenth to the guy some will tell you is the quickest driver on the grid, was highly impressive. In Bahrain though, Carlos was scratching. Yes, he finished second, but whereas Charles had the measure of Verstappen up front, Sainz came under pressure from Perez and the late race safety car disguised how much further up the road Leclerc actually was.
Leclerc’s lead was closed down behind the safety car
“In FP1, FP2 and FP3 I was very far behind, the most I’ve ever been at Ferrari and that’s why, even with a one-two that we scored, I’m not entirely happy with the weekend,” Carlos admitted. “As a Ferrari driver, it’s been my most difficult weekend and it just shows that I need to put my head down, understand this car, understand where Charles is making the difference with his driving and the way that he’s approaching the corners and driving the tyres, also in the race. I need to improve if I want to fight for a win. I will put my head down and try to do some steps coming into Jeddah.
“Can I improve it from one weekend to another? I think I can. Can I cut down the deficit completely? It’s a very good question. In the end, let the bad weekends as a Ferrari driver be P2! I’ll take it and move on.”
Guenther Steiner celebrates Kevin Magnussen’s fifth place
LAT via Haas
Feel-good stories from last weekend? If, last autumn, you’d told Valtteri Bottas that he would split the Mercs on the grid on the occasion of his Alfa Romeo debut…
Ditto Kevin Magnussen, who just 10 days earlier had been on a beach in Miami with his mates when he got the call from Guenther Steiner to resume his Haas career in place of Nikita Mazepin. It seems Netflix’s portrayal of him shattering Guenther’s glass door in a fit of pique, had not precluded career advancement!
“It’s crazy. I’m super-happy,” Kevin beamed. “It’s been a massive roller-coaster. I was really surprised by the call from Guenther. I feel so unbelievably happy to be in F1 with a good car.” Apart from fortune smiling on a decent guy, it provides a decent yardstick for Mick Schumacher, who had a much more impressive debut season than he was able to demonstrate. You’ve got to love this sport!