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Horner blasts McLaren ECU

NEWS STORY
18/03/2013

As if things aren't bad enough for McLaren, the Woking company finds itself under attack for its ECU, Christian Horner accusing the company of wrecking Mark Webber's race.

Although rarely the quickest off the line, Mark Webber's departure from the front row in yesterday's race was even worse than we have become accustomed to. However, speaking after the event the Australian revealed the cause of his problem. An ECU glitch that developed on the warm-up lap not only wrecked his start but meant that he drove without telemetry or KERS for the early part of the race.

"We had absolutely no idea what the car was doing in terms of KERS, in terms of clutches, all sorts of stuff," said a clearly disappointed Webber. "We lost KERS as well for the majority of the first part of the race, so that made it very difficult."

However, the Australian's mood was nothing compared to team boss Christian Horner. "Mark's problems were hugely frustrating, we lost all telemetry on the formation lap," thundered Horner.

"It had nothing to do with Mark," he insisted. "You need to ask McLaren why the ECU didn't work and why it messed up his preparation, because he was blind. It is something that they need to get on top of.

"There's been a lot of issues during testing," he continued. "We lost all telemetry on the formation lap and then you can't do the preparation that you need to for the start so then he's blind for the start and that ECU issue shut the KERS down as well. By the time we'd reset the whole system he'd obviously lost the start, lost early ground."

Yesterday wasn't the first time that McLaren's ECU has faced criticism this year, during pre-season testing a number of teams express their unhappiness with the unit supplied by McLaren Electronics Systems (MES), a subsidiary of McLaren.

"We could not talk to our car," Williams team manager Dickie Stanford was quoted as saying in Barcelona, while Ferrari's engine guru Luca Marmorini added; "Every day there are new upgrades."

With Lotus and Red Bull also highly critical of the ECU, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, described the situation as a return to "the Middle Ages of motor sport".

At the time, Peter van Manen, Managing Director of MES, told Pitpass: "There is a new ECU for 2013, replacing the unit that has been running on F1 cars for the past five years. This new unit will be used with the V8 engines this year and will go on to control the new powertrains in 2014 and beyond.

"They are complex units and, despite considerable bench and dyno testing during 2012, there are inevitable teething problems that are revealed and need to be resolved during track testing. The FIA, the teams, the engine manufacturers and McLaren Electronics Systems are all working together during the current pre-season testing to ensure that the systems are in good shape for racing in Melbourne."

Speaking again over the Melbourne weekend, Van Manen once again defended the unit, claiming that many of the problems drivers are encountering have nothing to do with McLaren. While race director Charlie Whiting was unable to automatically disable the DRS systems on the cars, a telemetry failure meant that, among other things, cockpit warning lights were not working meaning that drivers had to rely on the flag marshals.

"Formula One has a new marshalling system this year that includes a new radio link between the cars and Race Control," said Van Manen. "The Australian Grand Prix is the first Grand Prix at which the system is being used on all cars in true race conditions.

"That being the case, we think it's a prudent move by the FIA not to rely on it here for disabling and enabling DRS on race day," he added. "Incidentally, the marshalling system is quite separate from the standard ECU that controls the powertrain, and is separate from the teams' telemetry systems also."

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