McLaren make ‘massive’ gains…what’s driveability anyway?

I’ll have to take Eric Boullier’s word for it, McLaren have made massive progress. In many ways, team members are the only folks who would actually know how much progress the team made from Australia to Sepang as we, unwashed masses, don’t have the data to prove anything. What we do have is timing and scoring and if I look at those numbers, it does seem they’ve improved their pace.

I chalked the Australian GP up to teething pains and a lack of testing. That’s why they were rumored to be around 4-6 seconds off the pace of the leaders. That and a de-tuned engine. In Malaysia, however, they did seem to tussle with the mid-field when they were running and that seems to be a pretty significant advancement all things considered. Eric told AUTOSPORT:

“We’re not in the points, yeah we’re in front of the Force India but that’s not where we want to be,” Boullier said.

“Today we are not measuring the absolute performance yet – that is when you start to fight for a pole and win – but we are measuring the relative one compared with Barcelona testing and Australia, and it was a massive difference.

“Both drivers were happy actually with the car balance and driveability which is very important, but we have to keep going like this.”

There’s that word again…driveability. It may have been around for a long time in racing parlance but it bubbled to the top of many press reports when Red Bull’s Christian Horner and Daniel Ricciardo were suggesting that their car in Australia had serious driveability issues. Apparently it was better in Sepang and for McLaren, it seems to be very good.

As we head to China, it seems the gradual increase of the proverbial performance knob of the Honda engine is being turned to 11. Driveability is good and the drivers feel the car is well balanced. Boullier says they have made massive gains and I’ll take his word for it but somehow three DNF’s in two races is having a hard time finding a home in my head as being ‘massive’. Significant? Very impactful?

I’ve been watching F1 for quite some time now and I can’t recall a season where all the teams were discussing “driveability” of their cars. here’s an opportunity for us to discuss the term and what it actually means in context with the 2015 cars and why is this word being used so much now?

Is it just a term du jour this year for team bosses and drivers? Like saying “mega” back in the late 90’s? Or is it something more that is indicative of these drive-by-wire cars in 2015? We didn’t hear this term in 2014 nearly as much as we do this year.

In short, the driveability the teams are speaking of is the way in which the car behaves under acceleration. As Paul mentioned on a recent podcast, you don’t want to put the throttle down and have erratic of unpredictable torque and acceleration. It has to be smooth and predictable for a dirver. Smooth acceleration and predictable throttle response is key.


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Paulie M. Veltum

The term is used in the automotive industry to describe the performance of an engine. For example, if an engine is not performing properly due to a misfire or something like that, it would be deemed as a drivability issue.

Chuck C

C’mon, Todd … good “drivability: means no “heavy steering”. #notbrilliant

Negative Camber

Oh…right. I forgot. And no wind.


To me, drivability’s simply the predictability of a car’s response to driver inputs. When he/she hits the gas or brake pedal, is the requested acceleration/braking given? Given the newish tech, it’s somewhat expected drivability’s been a major obstacle and thus differentiator between teams, and it’s not new; recall Berger’s famous quotes about the 2 second lag between hitting the go pedal and the power hitting, and how that power came in a difficult-to-modulate rush, or Jackie Stewart criticizing the Matra V12 for lacking mid-RPM bite compared to a DFV; it happens when engineers try something new. I even equate it… Read more »

Junipero Mariano

The original Porsche Turbo had the reputation of being a widowmaker due to the turbo kicking in at inopportune times, such as during corner exit.

Maybe drivability is akin to how an acoustic guitar strung with .013’s and super high action may sound awesome, but definitely does not make for high playability.

The Drivers Seat

I can attest to that having driven a Porsche 935 once, nothing then everything at once! nearly lost the whole thing. Hats off to John Paul Jr et al from the IMSA era of those cars.


Wow, Paul’s driven the Slantnose… Scary awesome. I haven’t had the privilege of trying the first whale tail models, but have driven the last of the breed with the intercooler/tea tray wing and the G50 5 speed, all which helped the power delivery. It still was “exciting,” as my spin at Laguna Seca’s carousel can attest… :D

Peter Riva

driveability? Look at the two words…
drive = it goes, steers, stops
ability = it can go, ster, stop
Okay, so far, bravo McLaren.

The Drivers Seat

Driveability is so important for consistently driving fast, most racing drivers would give up HP for it, most engine buliders don’t understand the ramifications


A nice powerband is key if you ask me. A laggy turbo or a torque curve that is all over the place just ruin a car.

Negative Camber

So as we can see, we all have our concepts of driveability and fair enough for those who have it right and those of us who are orbiting the intent of the F1 pundits using the word like it’s going out of style these days. This is where F1 would do well to help viewers understand by offering some context and you’d think NBC could have Steve explain this in his own awesome way in about 30 seconds but perhaps they will in future broadcasts.

Paul KieferJr

You may want to consider reading George Orwell’s “1984”.


It’s one of those catch-all words that is vague enough to explain everything from a quarter turn on the front wing to a wheel falling off.

“Boy Kimi is experiencing poor drive ability after his car caught fire.”


I used to be a driveability tech for a dealership. It’s specifically about engine performance related to the small components. Think air and fuel delivery, fuel trims, oxygen sensing, efficiency, no-starts, ignition etc. otherwise, most of the things that set off MILs including engine bay wiring looms. Others in here have mentioned predictability and are generally correct. It’s not necessarily about if the vehicle itself is predictable (i.e. Turbo lag on the Porsche) but about the car acting in the manner in which it was designed or intended.

jiji the cat

so, my wife said i have good drivability ;) whatever that may mean


You get good tire wear?

jiji the cat

i often find myself in slippery conditions, the Cinturato intermediates seem to work a treat.


I believe that ‘driveability’ is the English translation of the Austrian term that Nikki Lauda often uses on your podcasts “this car is schit-box” = “the car is experiencing poor-driveability”