McLaren has welcomed F1’s three new teams to the sport.
In contrast to rivals Ferrari, who criticised the 2010 newcomers, McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale said he believes it’s important the new teams are able to compete:
I think we have to be supportive and try to get new teams of the ground. I respect greatly what some of the drivers are saying – I know one or two have raised concerns about that, but I think that’s a matter for the FIA to look at.
We’ve got to get as many of these teams off the ground, running and stable as quickly as possible because the loss of Honda, Toyota and BMW is disappointing. I’m excited by the new prospects but I’m saddened at the loss of some of the previous guys.
I wouldn’t like to be a managing director in their position, with my car running for the first time on the Friday – in terms of the reliability of the package as well as how on earth do you dial it in with such limited running and so few tyres? That’s going to be a real handful.
And I’m sure the FIA are going to look closely at them. If there are big gaps if closing speeds and if there are lots of red flags I’m sure they’ll take the necessary action.
But do we want to see them succeed? Yes I think it’s important.
Speaking to reporters from Warsaw, where McLaren revealed a new sponsorship deal with X-Trade Brokers, Neale also said the team would have some minor updates on the car for the first race of the championship this weekend.
However they’re not planning to change the design of their rear wing, which will be inspected by the FIA to check it meets the rules after complaints from Red Bull and Ferrari. Neale said:
It’s down to the stewards on the day. We have a contingency but we’ve not put much effort in that and I’m not planning to deploy that.
He complimented rival Ferrari’s race performance over long runs but thinks qualifying will be much closer:
I think most of us are looking at Ferrari’s enviable consistency on long run pace and thinking that looks pretty good, there’s a lot of effort gone into that. And if you look at the Barcelona times, at the Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, ourselves and Force India, on light fuel, I think qualifying’s going to be really tight.
The team are not yet looking into different development routes for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s cars despite the marked difference in their driving styles:
I think we’re still getting to know Jenson and his preferences on set-up and how we best dial the package in for him. I’ve asked the question myself about who will have the advantage, if any, given the characteristics of the car or even the nature of the tyres.
Lewis is a more aggressive braker and turner of the car. He tends to drive the corners in more of a V-shape, whereas Jenson’s super-smooth style means that he carries more momentum into the corners. He loads up the car with lateral G much higher.
Both have the propensity to damage the tyres if that’s done in an unguarded way. So I think at this stage there’s no separate development plan, I don’t see anything about the way that the vehicle dynamics package works that would cause us to deviate, as perhaps we have in the past, for these drivers. So far so good but it’s early days and I think we’ll know more in a couple of races’ time.
Jenson and Lewis both commented about the way the car ran through turns three and nine at Barcelona, saying it felt really planted, so that gives us good confidence in our high-speed performance.
At low speed, with these fuel loads and these tyres it’s really easy to lock-up and flat spot, and if trying to get the car turned at low speed is a challenge I think a lot of the teams are going to have to navigate.
As for the new section of track on the Bahrain circuit. Neale expects it to be quite slow:
We’ve run it in simulation, it’s quite a tight little piece actually, so it is going to remain a high-downforce circuit. I’m not sure that anyone’s going to get to full throttle on this new piece so it’s going to be quite high-workload section before you get back onto the old circuit as was.
It’s still going to be punishing on the brakes and punishing as far as temperature goes if you’re following in traffic. None of us want to give away aero efficiency and cooling lightly so we’ll all be on the edge there.