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McLaren not expecting reliability issues in Korea 11 Oct 2012

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 7 October 2012 Jonathan Neale (GBR) McLaren Managing Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 5 October 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 7 October 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 7 October 2012 Natalie Pinkham (GBR) Sky TV in the McLaren pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Thursday, 11 October 2012

McLaren are confident their cars should prove reliable in this Sunday’s 2012 Formula 1 Korean Grand Prix, after finding the causes of the gearbox and handling issues which hit Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton respectively during last weekend’s Japanese round.

Button dropped five places on the Suzuka grid for a gearbox change following the transmission failure that led to Hamilton’s retirement at the previous round in Singapore. He nevertheless still complained of gear-change glitches en route to fourth place, though the box itself was not at fault.

“When Jenson came into his first pit stop the rear-right brake duct was very hot and smoking,” explained McLaren MD, Jonathan Neale, in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. “Although the stop went okay, the mechanics reported there was a small fire in the rear brake duct, which is not altogether uncommon, but on this particular occasion that melted one of the harnesses that travel down the rear suspension through into the brake duct.

“It was that melting of the harness that caused an electrical short from time to time and that upset Jenson’s gearbox. We could see that on the data back in the garage and we had a range of options open to us, but actually the software in the gearbox contained it pretty well. So there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the systems or the systems’ design, just the result of an overheating right-rear brake duct.”

Hamilton, who finished fifth, struggled with understeer throughout the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, but complained of particularly bad handling issues midway through the race. As with Button’s problems, however, it later transpired there was a simple explanation.

“At around lap 21 Lewis felt what he thought was a mechanical balance change with the car,” said Neale. “Fortunately that was probably an aerodynamic balance change as a result of debris somewhere - probably pick-up of rubber debris, either on the front wing or around the front floor somewhere.

“He ran four laps with a car that had a very forward balance, which made it very difficult to control, and then it cleared. So whatever was on the car let go and Lewis came on the radio and said it felt like the car had come to life and he could drive properly again.”

After the disappointment of Suzuka, Neale now expects a much stronger showing from McLaren at Yeongam, where they will be looking to close down Red Bull’s 41 point advantage in the constructors’ championship.

“I think we go into this race with better certainty about the car and with some performance upgrades we expect to be on par with the Red Bulls, but you never know what everybody else is doing - which is what makes it so exciting,” he concluded.

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