McLaren expect better high-downforce pace

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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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

Jenson Button finished second in the Italian Grand Prix having lost the lead during a pit stop. Prew defended the team’s Monza race strategy:

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

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Keith Collantine
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32 comments on “McLaren expect better high-downforce pace”

  1. Well they sure need some improvement.

    Wonder if it will be Silverstone all over again, promising improvement in the wind tunnel but not on the track, I hope not.

    1. Everything points on that direction unfortunatly singapore may be another hungary

    2. Their new front wing certainly looks like something different. Will it be enough?

  2. I think allot of McLarens problems were that they couldnt test all their parts because of all the rain during practice. Thats why it took them so long to get the EBD to work for them

  3. I hope the team will deliver something this weekend! Humm , doesn`t Hamilton DNF at Monza means he still actually has two engines left ( one relatively fresh )?

    1. Decent point, although it has done a qualifying, though I definately see what you mean because it hasn’t done a full race distance. And I don’t think it was damaged because the crash wasn’t anything to do with the engine.


    2. Good point, depends what other use it got during the weekend. But still wouldn’t bet against them running it at Singapore, not the most engine intensive race ever.

      1. Monza is full throttle 70% of a lap (the highest of any circuit), Singapore is full throttle 48% of a lap (the lowest of any circuit, and only course less than half a lap at full throttle). So they’re as polar opposite as you can get in terms of engine wear. Where they’re similar is in terms of both being hard on brakes. Red Bull (and Torro Rosso) had problems with that last year.

  4. With the three top teams all pushing hard for the championship, will it hurt them next year? I’d guess not, Ferrari and Mclaren are too professional, and Red Bull has Newey, who is much too wise, but the chance is still there, And I’m interested to find out if this is the case.

    1. Well, we’ll find out next year. Red Bull was strongest at the end of the season last year, and that didn’t hurt them. If anything that development momentum carried over into this year. McLaren also had a good development pace at the end of last year that seemed to carry over. I’m guessing those three teams all have the manpower and finances in place to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

      1. “development pace at the end of last year that seemed to carry over” They didn’t start off with a great car in Bahrain but their development rate this year saved them.

        In 2009 it was clear the title contenders fell behind but that was because they got the cars so badly wrong with the new rules. There isn’t that big of a change for next year so it could hurt them but I doubt it will be dramatic plus they all seem good with developing their way out of trouble. There is a risk but I think most if not all of the top teams are already planning for next year.

    2. new cars for next season 2011 will not have double diffusers and no F Duct, this means they revert back to 2008.
      sure will be interesting to see what new devises they end up with.
      plus they all will have to contend with the new tires, which could be a bit of a lottery.

  5. Please let McLaren have made a leap, that would be just great, I have the horrible feeling that their challenge this year is going to start petering out and that would suck.

    1. Never! It’ll peter in if anything… Believe Scribe, Believe!! :)

      1. Ahhh keeping the faith, I wish I had the perserverance but we haven’t looked good enough for a while.

        We shall know sunday.

        1. I’ll join in, if every fan hopes then maybe the update will work…
          Please, Please, PLEASE!! ;P

          1. Pray upon an update? Despite 08 McLaren are still basically in the midst of a massive drought. 3rd most sucsefull team of the last decade it won’t doooo PLEASE CAN WE HAVE SUM TITLES NOW?

          2. Everyone says Mclaren are great these days, but truthfully they are just an above average team in the 2000s. Apart from 2008,2007,2005 they havent been in contention, and they wasted 2007 and 2005 :'(
            Hopefully this changes and 2010 is the begining ;)

          3. Calum, they were in contention in 2000 and 2003. If ya ask me. Bridgestone cheated in 03 as well.

    2. …is going to start petering out…

      HEY! I resemble that remark!

      1. personally i think they have some improvements that are working, the engine retard thingy and definitely a better front wing which is likely to bend a little by how much i wouldn’t know.
        as much as RB say the new regulations have not effected them, i think it just might have, if so then maybe this race could end up being a lot closer than we think.

  6. Nice little ding on Button for getting in and out of the pits so slow and thus causing the loss of position in Hungary. Only fair since the story line of the race was that McLaren’s crew lost the race.

    1. I didn’t read it as blaming Jenson for the pit speed error. The actual pit stop times were something like 4.2 vs 3.4.. so I would read that as a general admission that their pitstop wasn’t fast enough.

      1. McLaren don’t have either the traffic lights system or the twistable front jack. Both of which appear to be timesavers so it’s no wonder their pitstops are a little slower.

        McLaren do seem slow to catch on sometimes, but still best developers out their woooo, I hope there wings are flexing in Singapore cause you bet any money Redbulls will.

        1. Red Bull also have tapered hubs, allowed the wheel to be removed and replaced, whilst standing at a slight angle. They gain something like .2 of a second that way.

    2. as far as i am concerned the pit wall made the wrong call,
      you cant come in first and expect the faster driver which was Alonso to go slow while you are changing your tires, Alonso new when Button was about to pit so did a faster time plus the extra fast pit stop combination gained him enough time, he was always going to come out in front.
      Button could never have got those hard tires up to speed while Alonso was roaring around on the softs.
      McLarens wall pit crew were idiots on that call.

      1. If LH were told to “PUSH FOR A GAP!!” you can be damn sure he will do it. JB was told to do the same but he could not create the necessary gap to keep the lead. So he lost it and rightly so!!

        Like always, he likes to blame others for his inabilities :-(

        1. Button isn’t blaming anyone here, this was the race engineer talking.

      2. as far as i am concerned the pit wall made the wrong call,
        you cant come in first and expect the faster driver which was Alonso to go slow while you are changing your tires,

        You’re wrong. As McLaren said, the new tyres were faster, so they had to change to them. Alonso’s car was faster than theirs so whatever happened if he had a lap without Button in front it was going to help him.

        Remember there’s no refuelling any more so there isn’t necessarily a benefit to staying out a lap longer than your rival. Indeed, it’s often a disadvantage. They brought Button in as soon as the new tyres were faster and they could bring him out in clear air. It was exactly the right thing to do.

        But if you take a look at the in- and out-laps it’s clear what cost Button most was the 0.8s lost in the pit lane.

  7. I have full confidence in team in the world!! Go Lewis!!

  8. No more major updates just tweaks so the car really needs to work.

  9. Mclaren will be 100% on it from now until the end of the season, no question!! Trouble is, so will Ferrari and Red Bull and Renault will be snapping at their heals and will punish any sloppy operations.

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