McLaren head to this year’s Spanish Grand Prix in a mixed mood: on one had they’ve totally confounded those who wrote off their new motor during the pre-season; on the other Ferrari appeared to have leapfrogged them on pace between China and Turkey. Here’s what their drivers have had to say aheda of round five of the 2011 world championship.
Lewis Hamilton had a disappointing Turkish Grand Prix, coming as it did after his stellar drive to victory in China. The Brit will be looking to produce a strong result to re-ignite his assault on Sebastian Vettel’s points lead at Catalunya, a circuit at which he has twice made the podium (2007 & ’08) but is yet to win at. Last year he was running second only to be pitched in to the barriers by brake failure on the penultimate lap.
“Barcelona has traditionally been the start of Formula 1’s European season, and we’re optimistic that we’ll once again be back in the fight for the big points this weekend.
“I think we didn’t meet our full potential in Turkey last week, and I’m hoping that the MP4-26 will be able to make a step forward if our initial testing on Friday goes successfully.
“It will be interesting to see how the DRS affects the racing. Typically, it’s been very tough to overtake at Barcelona because the best opportunity – into the first corner – is too fast to make a pass stick. It’s always been too hard to really get alongside another driver into the corner.
“But we benefited from two great races in China and Turkey because the DRS area led directly into a heavy braking zone, meaning it was possible to get two bites of the cherry: using the slipstream and using the braking zone. In Barcelona, it’s likely to be less clear-cut.”
Jenson Button was an unhappy lad after the Turkish Grand Prix, his three-stop strategy proving to be the wrong way to go at the Istanbul Park circuit. In Spain he’ll be looking for a return to his Malaysian form, where he got the better of team-mate Lewis Hamilton – and 22 other drivers – to finish second to Sebastian Vettel. Going one better and winning would be even more well received for the Frome native. Button has contested ten Spanish Grand Prix to date, winning in 2009 and picking up minor points in 2004, ’06, ’08 and ’10.
“After a relatively low-key race for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team in Turkey, I think we’re headed to Spain and Monaco feeling more positive about getting the most from our planned upgrades.
“Turkey showed us that we are still on a learning curve with these Pirelli tyres, and while in Turkey it was a hard lesson to lose position due to strategy, I think it’s given us a lot of valuable lessons in how to work as a team, how to devise our strategy and how to get the most from the tyres out on the track.
“I think Barcelona will be interesting. Personally, it will feel strange to go back to a track where we had a difficult winter and to drive a car that will hopefully allow us to once again race at the front.
“As always, the Circuit de Catalunya is a very unforgiving track – it’s a track that brings out the best in cars. It’s important to get another strong result under our belts, particularly as we head straight to Monte-Carlo, so maintaining momentum will be vital.”