McLaren principal race engineer Phil Prew expects the team to perform better at Singapore this weekend than they did at the last race on a high-downforce track.
The team were 1.7 seconds off Red Bull’s pace in qualifying at the Hungaroring and half a second slower than Ferrari.
Prew said developments since then and new parts being brought for this weekend should allow them to be more competitive:
It’s a big weekend after the difficulties and lack of pace we had in Hungary which is our reference for slow-speed high-downforce circuits.
After Hungary we realised the pace wasn’t at where we needed it to be and since then we’ve had a whole number of upgrades on the car, some of which have already been run, for instance at Spa. They will carry over to this race.
In addition to that we also have further upgrades here in Singapore which are a new front wing and other devices to increase the downforce on the car. So there’s some quite big upgrades for ourselves.
Also I think our understanding of the car – how to exploit it, how to get the downforce to work for us – has improved since Hungary.
So I’m optimistic we’ve closed that gap and hopefully we’ll be competitive. We know that some of [the updates] are working, we’ve seen that at the previous races at Spa and Monza, albeit at different downforce levels. So we’re hopeful that what we’ve added to the car over the last six weeks since Hungary will be sufficient to close that gap up.
Prew added he expects the new load tests introduced for the front wing and the floor since then to have cut Red Bull’s advanatage:
I would like to say it’s going to be very close but I think it would be very brave to say where we’re all going to end up. It should be competitive between Red Bull, Ferrari and ourselves.
The legality clarification and changes that we’ve all made could well influence it. This circuit is quite bumpy so that could affect how low and how much compliance you can accept in the mid-area which has obviously been tightened up quite significantly.
I think the regulations that are in place now mean that it should be a level playing field and everybody knows the constraints that we have to operate in. And I think that’s good for the sport and good for the teams.
The advantage that was felt to be gained by Red Bull and Ferrari in Hungary will be harder to exploit with the new regulations, if that is indeed what they’re doing. I think this should be more of an indication of these regulations levelling the playing field.
McLaren have struggled with bumpy circuits this year and Prew admitted the re-surfacing of the characteristically bumpy Singapore track could help them:
I think so. Our car prefers the smoother circuits, for sure. And hopefully that will have some influence.
Until we actually run it’s difficult for us to gauge just how much of an improvement the re-surfacing will have made. But hopefully it’s a step in our direction and doesn’t give us too many problems.
I think one of the areas that has been re-surfaced was the main straight between turn four and turn five. That was quite strange, it was bumpy in a straight line which is inconvenient for the drivers, they’re having to adapt their driving line to avoid the bumps. It’s not really a bumpy [corner] entry or something like that which is a real stability issue, it’s literally they have to drive off-line to avoid bumps.
So it may not be a massive performance differentiator to be honest but we shall see.
With five races to go the team is increasingly switching its development efforts to the 2011 car:
It’s always difficult to find a balance. We have a separate development team working on the 2011 car. They’re obviously eager to have resource and wind tunnel time and equally those of us who are working on this season are pushing very hard to continue development of this car. It’s one of the balancing acts that we have to make, hopefully we do a reasonable job of doing it.
The reality is now, as we approach the end of the season, the time to develop and produce a new component is getting short so really focus is looking to fully exploit the components we have to make sure we’re getting the very best performance.
We have upgrades coming through but to start a brand new project at this stage would be very difficult to design, develop and implement and deploy it on the circuit.
As I say, a difficult balance but hopefully something we know how to do.
McLaren still have one unused race engine left for both their cars. But Prew doesn’t expect that to give them a significant advantage over Ferrari, who have used all eight of their engines:
No, certainly not. I can tell you now that our use of our race engines is exactly as we planned back in March. It was always our intention to use new engines in Spa and in Monza and take advantage of the new engine effect on the most power-sensitive circuits. We’re running exactly to plan ourselves, it’s not something we’re concerned about.
Perhaps for Ferrari I think despite having used their eighth engine they’re probably following a similar approach to ourselves, i.e. putting the new engines in for the power-sensitive circuits.
While they have had some failures I think that will only really affect their Friday running in terms of having to use fairly used engines on the Friday. From the information I can gather and have gleaned from press releases etc… then, sadly, I don’t think that will be an advantage for ourselves over them.
In terms of the strategic decision of when we stopped we’re still comfortable with that.
The new tyre after the pit stop was faster however our pit stop was not competitive with Ferrari. We lost time through coming into the pit lane to exiting to the pit lane relative to the Ferrari which was 0.8 of a second. And that was sufficient to lose our track position.
Had we got through the pit lane at the same speed I’m confident we would have got out in front, or certainly given Jenson far more of a chance to defend his position into turn one.
If we’d stopped on the same lap as Ferrari maybe with different pressure on the two teams it’d have been different. But with the knowledge that we had I think we made the right call.
And of course it was massively disappointing to lose the lead when we’d been leading for so much of the race.
With both McLaren drivers still in the hunt for the championship, Prew is not singling out any of their competitors as their greatest individual rival:
I think any driver who is able to finish the remaining five races in a competitive position, i.e top three or top four, will be the most dangerous driver. It comes down to consistency and any one of the five drivers who could potentially have a string of five good results will be in a very strong position to fight for the title.
And that’s what our target is now: to get both our drivers to the end of all five races and I think if we achieve that we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.
2010 Singapore Grand Prix
- Technical review: Singapore Grand Prix
- Webber: Ferrari have momentum (Video)
- Final tracks suit McLaren better – Button
- No change in my approach – Hamilton
- Williams expect to keep up with Renault
- 2010 Singapore Grand Prix – the complete F1 Fanatic race weekend review
- Who was the best driver of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend? (Poll)
- Fourth win of 2010 is Alonso’s best yet (Ferrari race review)
- Poor pace and another Hamilton DNF hits title hopes (McLaren race review)
- Webber has champion’s luck but lacks Vettel’s pace (Red Bull race review)