Monaco: What Happened to Buttons McLaren on the Grid

Fans blow through tubing into a duct, with an optional dry ice tray, which is secured into the sidepod with a foam block

At the start of the Monaco Race, McLaren had a rare engine failure. This was not a problem with the engine itself, but caused by a procedural problem on the grid.
Before setting off for the grid the car is warmed up in the garage and the driver often completes several laps, cutting through the pit lane before finally parking on the grid. By this time the car is fully up to temperature and needs fans to keep the car cool. In the case of the engines radiators and oil coolers, this takes the form of fans inserted into the sidepod inlets. Fans pass cooling air through the radiator cores to cool the engines fluids.
For McLaren their sidepod fans comprise several parts, an external fan which feeds into convoluted tubing to a carbon fibre duct, this has the option of a tray of frozen nitrogen being inserted into it to further reduce temperatures. This then is inserted into a rigid foam block that is squeezed tightly into the sidepod inlet itself. Other teams have electrical fans fitted into similar carbon mouldings, these are all in one piece and when removed nothing can be left behind.
What happened to McLaren in Monaco, and this was partly shown by the FIA TV feed, that the mechanics withdrew the ducts and tubing, but on one side the foam black was left stuffed in the sidepod inlet. This was obviously missed by the mechanics, but was brought to their attention by the BBC TV pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz. By then it was too late and the car had to complete the formation lap and start the race with the block still in. The team were obviously anxious, but the block does have a hole through it, so some cooling airflow was getting through. With the safety car deployed on the opening lap and the pit lane closed, Button had no choice but to circulate a low speed, with the engines temperature slowly rising until steam could be seen spewing from the sidepod.
Although this was a rare error, as the car has these fans fitted when it pits during testing and free practice. One still wonders if McLaren will revert to a one piece design or tighten up the grid procedure to prevent another similar situation arising at future races.

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20 thoughts on “Monaco: What Happened to Buttons McLaren on the Grid

  1. Pingback: Tι έπαθε ακριβώς ο Button; «

    • No panic fellow readers, this isnt spam, just a link in from my good colleague Dimitris over at
      It looks like the greek characters don’t tranlsate too well…!

  2. Why didn’t McLaren tell him to pit during the warm up lap?
    Why didn’t they tell him to pit after the first lap?
    And when the safety car came out why didn’t they pit him, immediately?

  3. I wonder if we’ll start to see these things painted bright yellow, or with long red tassles on them like you see in aircraft.

    It seems odd that these things are made to be as obvious as humanly possible.

  4. I thought this was what happened, until I listened to BBC coverage again, Ted Kravitz said that the block was left in on the lap to the grid, not on the grid.

  5. Pingback: F1 Fanatic round-up: 18/5/2010 | F1 Fanatic - The Formula 1 Blog

  6. Thank you for your amazing insight and for explaining to ppl like me who know little about the technical side 🙂 Excellent post, I was very disappointed that after the race we didn’t really get a detailed explanation of what happened to him, and this is exactly what was missing.

    • Correct … it stays open, as demonstrated by Alonso pitting for his hard tyres as soon as the SC board appeared.

      Kravitz wasn’t on the grid, he was hovering around the McLaren pitbox, so as others have said, the damage was done on the recon lap, before Button even got to the grid for the first time.
      By then something was already smouldering, but must not have been near any temperature sensors or surely they would have thrown a couple of big scoops of dry ice into the sidepod.

      I still would have pitted him with Alonso, especially after getting mugged by the Force Indias, nothing to lose, change tyres, even more ice, and get out of the slowly circulating pack and get some cool free-air.

  7. In hindsight, two options seemed to have been ruled out. Take the bung out on the grid and take a penalty OR pit when Alonso did and live with the outcome of possible points

    Pity. These things happen but it’s such an own goal

  8. As mentioned above I thought Ted Kravitz spotted it as Jenson left the pits to go to the grid, so he had to do the sighting lap with it in before it could be removed when he arrived on the grid.

    I don’t think he started the race with it in though, it was just that the damage was already partly done on the lap to the grid and in conjunction with the safety car, that tipped the cooling system over the edge.

    • Exactly. He didn’t start the race with it in i don’t think, but rather the warm-up cycle of the engine had been disrupted. If he had been able to continue on the race without the safety car, i can imagine he might have been able to cool the engine down.

      • Sorry about the double comment, but I was just thinking that a pit stop probably would have worsened the issue aswell. Sort of a tough spot for the team once it’s actually happened.

  9. I stand corrected, my notes made during the race lead me to believe the bung was not removed on the grid, but instead it was when the car the left the garage for the grid.

    Here’s Ted Kravitz explanation from the BBC website

    “There’s a blanking plate that sits firmly in the sidepods when the car is in the garage. A cooling fan is attached to the plate to force cold air through the radiators housed in the sidepods.
    It would appear that the fan was removed from Button’s left sidepod but the blanking plate did not come out with it. Jenson drove out of the garage to the grid.
    I was in the pit lane at around the Renault garage and noticed the blanking plate still in the sidepod. It was black, with a green R1 sticker on the top edge.
    I told Button’s engineer, but by the time his driver had reached the grid, it would seem the damage was done. Drivers are not allowed to drive slowly to the grid. So short of Jenson stopping the car and asking a marshal to remove the plate, there was little that could have been done.”

    • awesome work. i love this site. i was wondering how new this engine was. i’m trying to find out who is on what engine, but can’t find it. do you have access to this info?

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