McLaren apologise to Red Bull and Webber for software glitch

Christian Horner with Martin Whitmarsh

Christian Horner with Martin Whitmarsh

McLaren apologised to Formula 1 rivals Red Bull on Tuesday after a standard engine control unit that they supply to all teams contributed to Mark Webber’s poor start at his home Australian Grand Prix.

“There was a software-related issue that meant that Mark Webber’s…car’s garage data system had to be re-started during the formation lap,” a McLaren Group statement said.

“That disrupted his preparations for the start of the race, for which Mark and the team has our apology. We are working together with them to prevent any recurrence.”

Webber had qualified on the front row, alongside team mate and triple world champion Sebastian Vettel, but the problem dropped him to seventh place after the opening lap of the season-opening race. He finished sixth.

Mark Webber

Mark Webber’s race in Melbourne was compromised

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had pointed the finger of blame at McLaren, whose McLaren Electronics Systems business supply the ECU, after a race that saw Vettel cross the line in third place.

“We lost all telemetry on the formation lap…that meant he (Webber) was blind for the start and that ECU issue shut the KERS (energy recovery system) down as well,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday. “So by the time we reset the whole system he’d lost ground at the start.

“It’s something they need to get on top of because there has been a lot of issues during testing.”

The ECU is a new version for 2013 of one that has been used since 2008 without problem. It will also be used next season when a change in regulations ushers in 1.6 litre V6 turbocharged hybrid units.

It was run for the first time by most teams in winter testing in February, just six weeks before the season started. Each unit contains thousands of parts and hundreds of thousands of lines of software.

TAG 320 McLaren ECU

TAG 320 McLaren ECU

“It is a very complex piece of equipment that controls the powertrain and DRS (drag reduction system) and acts as a car’s primary data system,” McLaren explained, adding that the units themselves had run without incident in Melbourne.

McLaren Electronics System also supplies standard ECUs to NASCAR and IndyCar in the United States.

Shortly after the Melbourne race, when the matter came to light McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said,  “We’ll put our hands up if it’s a fault that’s derived from the hardware or the Bios. You can also inflict ECU problems on yourself by how you set it up, but I will look into it.”

“I’ll be disappointed if it is our fault because in Formula 1, Nascar and Indycar, we’ve not yet stopped a car, and we’re very proud of that record.”

McLaren Electronics Systems supplies standard ECUs to Formula 1, NASCAR and IndyCar. (Reuters)

  • muddles

    Give them credit for owning up to the fault. Let’s hope we can see MW do a decent start in Malaysia.

  • Butterfly

    Within the semiconductors industry it is said that the number of bugs on a new chip is proportional to the number of transistors it has.

    Maybe they should have continued with the 2012-spec ECU for 2014 and beyond. I fear we may see Webber-like situations again this year.

    The last thing you need is your F1 car to have bugs.

  • Not Bernie

    I have been to a presentation where one of the heads of the electronics section of McLaren was a speaker. The complexity of the device is amazing. It has to communicate back to the pits in a noisy and changing environment. That it works at all is amazing!

    That it was Mark who suffered from the fault and not someone else is just another example of all the bad luck following him!

  • Jeff

    Is that egg I see on Martin Whitmarsh’s face?

  • grat

    @butterfly: The current units won’t work with the new engines. They’re introducing the ECU a year early to prepare.

    From the sounds of it, the ECU was fine, it was the software in the garage that had a problem.

    Not sure why they’d have to reset the ECU/KERS though.

  • Butterfly

    grat:

    I know it’s for the next gen engines. I was just saying that, perhaps, it would have been better to adapt the new engines to the old ECUs for fear of software & hardware bugs.

    Regarding the rest, that ECU is, in essence, a computer, so it boots, it probably runs an OS and resetting it cleared the error.

  • Butterfly

    The ECU runs a PowerPC CPU if I remember correctly…

  • aaa

    Hi