McLaren boss: We have 15 Monaco wins
13 May, 2010
May.13 (Grand Prix 247) Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh spoke at the FIA press conference on the opening day of Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
Looking back at last weekend and looking forward to this weekend.
Martin Whitmarsh: Last weekend was disappointing in some ways. I think Lewis drove a great race and really deserved a second place. To lose that with a couple of laps to go is always disappointing. He had a wheel failure. The wheel failure was the consequence of backing off of the clamping load with the wheel nit. You try and investigate and it is always difficult to know exactly why that is. I think it is a range of things. Being on bottom end of tolerance. I think the air regulator that drives the air wrenches was perhaps erratic. The gun was within tolerance but at the lower end and maybe the gun stayed on a little shorter than it could have done, so all those things meant that the wheel was able to flex. When it does that it rubs on the brake drum, gets hot, leaves the properties of the magnesium and leads to a failure. Very disappointing as it was a strong race for him. He has not had the luckiest or more fortunate starts to the season but I am sure he will come back very strongly. With Jenson again another solid race to come through the race. He had a dash failure fairly early on. The dash as you would imagine has a number of different uses for the drive, including telling them when to shift. Although they learn that for a proportion of that race he was close behind another driver and if you are in a tow your shift points change, so he is having to adapt. It also meant that when you are changing switches on the steering wheel you don’t get the feedback to know they are in the right position and it also resulted in the pit stop where he didn’t have the normal launch procedure. He was unable to see the rpm. The rpm was a little high, so there was dragging of the clutch and rotating of the wheel, so the guys on the rear had to contend with that while trying to take the rear wheels off and on very quickly. So no fault of the driver or the crew but it was a slow stop which obviously put him behind Michael and it is difficult to pass Michael at the best of times. So disappointing. He was capable of going quite a lot quicker than Michael was driving but as Christian said it is very difficult to overtake on a circuit like Barcelona.
Looking forward to this race?´
Whitmarsh: We always look forward to it. I have been here with Lewis in Formula Three, GP2 and Formula One for wins. It is a circuit he has shown his mettle on. Jenson also, and it is also a circuit we have won 15 times, so it is a great circuit for McLaren and we would like to do it again. It looks very, very tight. No doubt Red Bull will be strong here but I think this afternoon showed it is quite close. The track is evolving very quickly. I don’t think we are getting the best out of the first lap with the tyres but we’ll see what happens. Qualifying is going to be a challenge here. We are going to make sure we get through Q1 and it is difficult for everyone. Not just for the quick drivers it is difficult for the slower cars and they presumably are going to spend all their time looking in their mirrors and that is not easy to avoid penalty. If you are a quick car you come across them fairly quickly. They have every right to be there but it will be a challenge. The drivers will have to try and show better respect for one another and it is going to be quite difficult. I am sure because of that challenge lots of cars will be out for a long period of the 20 minutes of Q1 trying to find a gap. But it is very difficult trying to reverse back and gap the car in front when you have got cars coming down behind you, so if you get yourself trapped amongst cars that are of a different pace even if you are a faster one or a slower one it is quite difficult to correct.
One question about F-ducts. Some people are running it, some people aren’t. I think your team seem to be running it. Is it easy to run it here and is there a benefit?
Whitmarsh: It is less of a benefit obviously. F-duct is something which will work better on the long straight than a circuit like this. It is a standard part of our car. We don’t have a non F-duct variety to fit in any case. Its deployment is less significant than it was, for instance, in Barcelona.
You had a meeting about tyres in Spain. Can you name some names and tell us who is offering what and why it’s taking so long to get a decision?
Whitmarsh: I think, if you go back a few weeks it looked like there wasn’t really anyone who wanted to provide tyres, so the good news is that there appears to be several companies that are interested in supplying tyres to Formula One. I think those names have been widely speculated, I don’t think you need me to confirm them, and out of respect to those suppliers, we should wait until we’ve got a decision. A decision is necessary for everyone; it’s necessary for the teams because clearly we are designing our cars. We need technical information and the information – or the selection – is necessary for the tyre company because we need to make sure that they can get ready, particularly if they are new to the game.
Without naming names, can you say what the benefits and the options are? One is expensive, one is cheap?
Whitmarsh: Yeah, I think as you would imagine, established players with more technical capability cost more than the newcomers. So there’s a balance here and I think the teams will approach it in a responsible manner. Inevitably, in this climate, for all of the teams, having the lowest cost tyres is important. But at the same time, we mustn’t compromise on the technical information and the integrity of those tyres, so there’s a balance. I think the teams together have got to assess all of the new offerings and they’re changing on a daily basis. Once we’ve got the best offers then the teams need to come together, we need to make sure that the FIA is also happy with the route that we go forward with.
You have a chief engineer who has departed McLaren for places unknown. What are you going to do about that and will it affect your design process for next year?
Whitmarsh: We’re talking about Pat Fry and Pat’s been with the company for about 18 years, so he’s made a great contribution to the team over a number of years. I think it was probably good for him, the right decision for him to take a bit of a break, take a breather. I think he’s worked very hard for the team for a number of years. Within our team, then, I think we’ve got quite a bit of a talent and depth, so in these situations it’s a great opportunity for someone younger, maybe hungrier, to come along and replace all of us. We’re all replaceable. I think the process will be the same but we’ve manned with fresh new engineers.
When Christian Horner said his Red Bull was not as well funded as the more established ones you raised your eyebrows as if to suggest that maybe they are. Would you tend to disagree with him that they are just as well-funded these days as McLaren or Ferrari?
Whitmarsh: I think that whatever the level of funding, and I don’t know the funding, in terms of resources, the larger teams are pretty similar. The RRA (resource restriction agreement) is already having some impact on that and those teams will all become of fairly universal size and scope, I imagine. Red Bull is a well-funded, well-structured, well-led organisation. Winning in Formula One has never been more difficult, certainly in the 20-odd years that I’ve been involved in Formula One. There are some good teams and Red Bull is obviously one of those, Ferrari is another. We’ve obviously got Mercedes who have clear hunger to win as well. I think it’s going to remain very, very competitive in Formula One for a good many years to come, which is great for the sport.
Teams have started looking now at their 2011 cars; I understand that some of the engineers have been quite shocked by the difference in terms of downforce that you’re getting without the double diffusers. Do you think that’s going to add a lot to the costs in the next few months, as you go through the research and try to get that back, or is that going to be less of a shocking change than they appear to say at the moment?
Whitmarsh: I think that regardless of the opportunity to improve we’re all going to try as hard as we can. Not many Formula One teams save resources available, they spend it or use it, so I don’t think it will add to the cost but clearly moving away from double diffusers means that the rear end of the car will be very different and one would imagine that there’s quite a lot of work to be done in that area. I think that it’s a positive thing. I think that one of the challenges that Formula One has always is to control performance but also to enhance the opportunity to overtake. I don’t think any of us can, hand on heart, say we have the magic formula for that, because if you’ve got good drivers in good cars on the type of circuits we’re at, then it’s always going to be difficult but tendentially, if you can reduce the wake of the car, if you can reduce the effect that the wake has on you and you can reduce the aerodynamic downforce then one can imagine that’s going to allow the cars to be closer in the first place and hopefully facilitate more overtaking. I think it’s a good thing. I think Formula One was a little bit slow, frankly, in prohibiting double diffusers. Obviously this time last year there was a fair amount of controversy that caused teams to be dug in and not flexibly minded. We have now taken them out of the sport for next year. I personally think that’s a good thing, but it does mean that we’ve all got a relatively fresh start designing diffusers and the rear ends of our car.
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