Driver Q&A with McLarens Button and Hamilton 01 Feb 2012
Wednesdays launch may have been our first opportunity to glimpse the new McLaren, but it was also the first time either of the British teams drivers had properly laid eyes on the brand-new MP4-27. After ripping the wraps off their shiny new charge, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton revealed their first impressions, looked ahead to next weeks debut test and explained why they couldnt wait to get back behind the wheel after a winter of relaxation
Q: Your horsepower, your machinery, your office, Jenson and Lewis, for the 2012 season. Excited about this?
Jenson Button Yeah, very excited. First of all, good morning everyone, it's great to be here. A very exciting day for us all. You know, I think this is the moment when we see how hard we've all been working and it's a very, very exciting day. But first of all I need to say a big thank you to these guys. These guys [signals McLaren development drivers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey] have been flat out, since we finished the racing of 2011, on improving this car as much as they could in the simulator. So big thanks to them, and I'm looking forward to getting out in the car next week.
Q: Its the first time, Lewis, that you've seen the car. What are your initial thoughts on it?
Lewis Hamilton: I think it's fantastic. Its great to be here again after a great winter, and just seeing the hard work that's gone into building this car is, you know, it's very inspiring, and I think the car is probably the most refined-looking car we've had for some time now, so very excited to get back into it.
Q: How important is it to hit the ground running, as it were, when we come to testing?
JB: Very important. And it's something that we know, we've got to come out the box and be strong. And the important thing about testing, it is what it says on the tin: it's testing. And it's about finding your feet throughout the days of testing before the first race so that you arrive at the first race with confidence in the people you're working with, and also in the car that you're driving. So it's a very, very important time for the whole season, so we're excited. I'm sure every team is a little bit apprehensive when it comes to testing, but, you know, I can't wait to jump into the car.
Q: It looks very much like an evolution of last year's car but I'm sure a whole lot has changed underneath the skin, Lewis
LH: Yes, obviously we've changed the sidepods, we had the L-shaped sidepods last year. The front of the car is generally the same. Obviously the nose dips down a little bit differently to last year; we've changed our wing mirrors a little bit, so hopefully we'll be able to see a lot better, which is something that I was pushing hard for.
Q: I'm sure Felipe (Massa) is
LH: Yes, Felipe will be very happy with that. Then particularly the back of the car is a lot neater than it was last year. It's much, much tighter. So they've focused very much on making it as snug as possible at the back to improve aerodynamics, and, yes, it's just completely refined. Obviously the wing is a little bit better in terms of dropping drag, and we've tried our best to improve the rear floor, especially with no blown diffuser this year it's going to be very tricky for us. We'll lose a lot of downforce without the blown diffuser. When we were on power last year, and when we were off power, we had an incredible amount of downforce just coming from the back floor with the exhaust blowing just by the spat and we don't have that this year, so that's really the biggest loss for us, and we are trying to regain it in all other ways. But I think the guys have done a fantastic job, and its a lot trickier to drive the way it is right now, but as we get into the season I think we'll slowly begin to improve and find out where that downforce can come from.
Q: McLaren have been a team that have fought successfully for many, many years. What is it about this team that makes them so able to fight at the top and so competitive and successful over the years, do you think?
JB: Well, for me, I've been here for two years, but already I feel like I'm part of the team, you know, and it's very important to have that atmosphere where you all work together, you build the team together, and you race as a team, you know. You win and you lose together. And that is - that is key to any team, be it a football team, a rugby team or a Formula One team. And that's something that is very good here, the personnel - you know, we have a very good amount of engineers, aerodynamicists, but also the mechanics and everyone on this team seems to be very positive when they go into a new season. Even when things haven't quite gone their way or the team's way over the winter, they're still very positive knowing they can really pull themselves to the front. And you can see that, because almost every year that this team races in Formula One they are challenging for a world championship, or very close to it, and they always come away with race victories. It's a great place to be, and I've really enjoyed my time here so far, and this is only the beginning I feel.
Q: Lewis, this is your sixth season with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. I'd imagine you've enjoyed your time here as well, which is why you've kept on coming back year after year
LH: Absolutely. It feels very strange to be going into my sixth season. It feels very much like it was only yesterday that I went up to Ron (Dennis, McLaren chairman), when I was 10, and explained to him that I wanted to race for his team. But it's been a fantastic journey, and of course we've been competing at the front for all those years that I've been here. You know, we are one of the only teams, if not the only team, that's won a Grand Prix every year, and three of those years we've been competing for the title right to the end, so it just shows, as Ron's famous words are, our strength in depth. We've got a great team, with an incredible amount of strengths, a great foundation we work from and, as Jenson said, they just never give up.
Q: This year there are only subtle changes to the regulations. How beneficial is that to a racing team going forward? No major introductions for 2012
JB: Well, there obviously are a couple. I mean, the change in the regulations with the blowing of the diffuser, which can be quite big, there's quite a lot of lap time there, but also there's a change in the front - of the nose of the car, of the height of the nose of the car, so there are a few changes that are going to make a difference. And also the difference to the look of the car. As you can see, this is a beautiful car. Many of them that you see will not be! So that's something that we definitely have. And for me that's important. So there are some good rule changes that I think are giving the engineers and aerodynamicists something to really think about this year. But everything seems good, everyone seems positive, yes, so we'll see what it feels like when we get out onto the circuit and that first test in Jerez.
Q: The pair of you make up one third of the world champions that will be on the grid in 2012, the first time we've ever had six world champions racing against each other. So is this the toughest year ever, Lewis, do you think?
LH: I hope so. Obviously we love to have the competition. I think it's great to have so many great drivers out there. Obviously we hope that there's not too many more world champions that will be added to it. I think there are definitely enough world champions. But I think that's great for the fans, I think it's great for the sport, and hopefully we will be able to put on a great show for everyone. But I think for us we are massively motivated for this year and coming in very fresh. I think, as we said, we do have a good looking car; I think generally when the car looks good, it generally is good, so hopefully that reflects on the circuit.
Q: Okay, since you mentioned before the fact that probably the biggest loss you've had in terms of performance would be from the blown diffuser, will this mean some sort of change in the driving style as well
JB: Well, its a lot of downforce obviously, and you would say it's more at one end than the other, but you would always try and balance that. So the feeling that you have in the car is good, it's just a different way of working with the aerodynamics. There's a lot more basic aerodynamics on the car compared to probably what there was in 2011.
LH: Yeah, I think Jenson answered it really well. It is about finding the balance, and last year we obviously had a lot of weight and a lot of downforce coming from the rear of the car, and we were always trying to balance it and struggling to balance it with trying to get enough front in. But I think this year it will be the other way round, we'll probably have too much front and trying to find more rear. I think in terms of driving we have yet to really put it to the test, how much we have to change our driving style for the tyres, and I'm sure it's going to be a real challenge this year.
Q: I just wondered first of all how you guys have wintered, what you've been doing, what you've been up to, whether you've done anything different in preparation for the new season?
JB: I've had a pretty good winter, spent quite a lot time away somewhere nice and warm to chill out and recharge my batteries but also to do a lot of training with friends and family, so it's been pretty amazing actually. But it's always the way, you know, you spend a couple of weeks away and it's great, then three or four weeks and, mmm, hang on, I'm missing racing, we've got to get back to it. I was back on 5 January, I've been spending quite a lot of time in the simulator and also just getting back to the way of life of a driver, and then spending time here at the McLaren Technology Centre. But it's been good, I've had a good bit of time off so, you know, I'm ready to kick on with the season.
LH: Completely the opposite to Jenson. I was over in the cold, in the mountains in Colorado, and spending time with family and friends and lots of training. I didn't actually miss much, I wasn't missing the car too much, it was nice to be away from it for a while and just to get the energy back, just to refresh, start off new. And as I say, getting back into the training was great. It was fantastic this year, and I think I altered it a little bit to last year; I think last year I was training probably too much at the beginning of the year. I think this year we balanced it a lot better. And again, spending more and more time with family and friends I think is just the only way you really get energy. And I had quite a good break, which I was very, very grateful to Martin (Whitmarsh, team principal) for allowing me to have.
Q: Formula One racing is returning to America this year. How much are you looking forward to racing in the United States again, and on the new track in Austin, Texas?
JB: You know, I'm really excited about heading back to the States. I've never been to Austin but I've heard great things about the city itself, and I've heard also great things about the circuit, the layout, and hopefully we can put on a great show when we get there. I remember racing in the States before in Indianapolis which was, you know, a good circuit, but I think the steps that Austin have taken to make sure this is a proper, pukka Formula One circuit, I think we're gonna love it. It's going to be a lot of fun. And hopefully we have the support of the American fans.
Q: Which track are you most looking forward to visiting this year, either for the first time or a track that you've been successful at before?
LH: I think for me, looking at a calendar, you always look at which races you've won and which you haven't won, and obviously there's the new circuits that we've only probably been to, like India, only once. There's places like that which you look forward to mostly because it's a serious challenge and they're ones that you need to tick off, you want to tick off. But of course Monaco is always probably the most exiting Grand Prix of the year and so that's the one for me. I want to get back there and have a better race this year than I did last year.
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