McLaren F1 had a disastrous start to the 2009 season, when Brawn GP surprised everyone with its double diffuser, and then Red Bull Racing got back on track and started winning too.
In the first half of the season, Lewis Hamilton only managed fourth, sixth and seventh places, finishing outside the points quite often.
However, the Woking team worked hard to develop their troublesome car, and Hamilton eventually recovered to win the Hungarian and Singapore GPs and take four pole positions.
Hamilton cited the MP4-24 from the 2009 season as an example of a team’s ability to change an uncompetitive car for a year.
“There are people who say I’ve never had a bad car,” he said after finishing 14th in the Imola sprint race.
“And I can assure you that I have. The 2009 car was a long, long way off, and it was the worst car I’ve ever had.”
“This car is currently not very far from that, but I think it has a lot of potential.”
“With that Formula 1, in the end we fixed it and we went back to the fight, or to be there. And I have a lot of faith that my team can do that this time too.”
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-24 Mercedes
Delving deeper into 2009, Hamilton said McLaren had underestimated the amount of downforce it had to recover after a big rule change for that course.
“The scenario in 2009 was that I was in my third year in this series, and it was a new era of cars,” he recalled.
“And I remember coming into the team in February or January, and the aerodynamicists and senior management saying, ‘We’ve reached our goal.’
“The new rules said we’d have 50% less downforce in 2009, so they designed the car to have 50% less downforce! And I remember back in February we said, ‘Oh, we’ve hit our target.’ I was like, ‘That doesn’t sound good…'”
“But I had no experience at the time. And then obviously we got to the first test and realized that others had almost as much downforce as the year before.
“And then they said, ‘Hell, we have to work to get that back.’ We saw that the key was a double diffuser, and we ended up getting there.”
Hamilton clarified that Mercedes did not make a similar mistake with the W13 and that, however, they had been in another unpleasant surprise.
“This case is different, because it’s not like the team thought they hit our target. We didn’t know where everyone would be. They’ve been super innovative with the design. And our wind tunnel said we had really good downforce.
“And unfortunately, we didn’t see that in the simulator… There was no porpoising, for example, in the wind tunnel. And suddenly on the track we found that phenomenon.”
“This experience is much more difficult to fix than we could have imagined. But like I said, it doesn’t kill us, it just makes us stronger. And we will find a solution one way or another.”