McLaren to introduce major upgrade at Silverstone 23 Jun 2010
In Formula One racing, theres no rest for the technical department. If theyre not making race-specific changes to a car for a particular Grand Prix, theyre carrying out large-scale upgrades after being inspired by rivals or looking ahead to next years design. So even though his teams MP4-25 is already eight races old, McLarens engineering director Paddy Lowe is a busy man.
At the top of Lowes to-do list for some time has been an upgrade to rival Red Bulls successful low-blown exhaust solution. Widely believed to cut as much as half a second off lap times, Lowe revealed in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 'Phone-In' session that the team will unveil their version for Julys British Grand Prix.
It wont have escaped your notice that Red Bull have an interesting use theyve made of exhaust exit flow, he explained. Its reasonably common knowledge that the rest of the teams are playing catch up in that area. Its quite a significant performance step. So thats something were aiming to bring to the British Grand Prix and to try to make work from the outset.
Although introducing such a complex system mid-season is a far from ideal scenario, Lowe believes their planned preparations - and a forthcoming aero test day - will be thorough enough to leave him feeling upbeat about the upgrades chance of success at Silverstone.
There are some technical challenges with it, not least blasting your bodywork directly with exhaust flow, he explained. It can generate some very high temperatures. So its not without challenges to hit the ground running with a system like that when we dont have any proper track testing to prove it out. But well be doing trials at an aerodynamic test day before Silverstone, and we hope to have it working on the practice session and then race it on the Sunday.
Were reasonably confident well get the performance we predict. We test in the wind tunnel and were able to evaluate in the simulator how these things work. I think were very well prepared to exploit it. The concern will be more about making sure its reliable and fit for racing.
Long-time rivals Ferrari are expected to debut their own exhaust solution a race earlier - at this weekends European Grand Prix. Even though he acknowledged the Italian team could get a major boost from the system, Lowe wouldnt be drawn on whether Ferrari could dominate the Valencia weekend.
It is a concern, he said. I think well have to see how they get on with it. Its a shame that some others have been slightly quicker to get it than us, but we are where we are. It all depends, every circuit has different characteristics. They suit some cars and not others. We saw that Ferrari really struggled in Turkey so I cant predict, as an overall package, where they are going to end up. No more really than I can predict where were going to end up.
McLarens other main championship rivals, Red Bull, will once again bring their own version of the British teams well-documented F-duct system to Spain. Lowe, however, is determined to bide his time before he worries too much about the revised RB6s.
Well well see what they do with it, he commented. They brought it before to Turkey, ran it on the Friday, but then didnt use for the rest of the weekend. Its a system that not without challenge - to get it to work. Its up to them. I dont know how well theyre going to do but its not a huge concern for us. We expected teams to be playing catch up in that area, just as were emulating the exhaust. So when Red Bull get it to work, were ready to face that.
If this seasons development race werent enough to distract him, Lowe is also already considering McLarens 2011 car - and how next years regulation changes will affect its design. With KERS, the ban on double diffusers and an adjustable rear wing, designed to boost overtaking, to think about, its an exciting time for the Woking teams technical department.
Were taking a very serious look at KERS and well decide in the next month or so if well commit to it for 2011, he concluded. I think second time round well have an opportunity to do an even better job than before. The system that Mercedes introduced for 2009 was truly excellent and I think it was easily recognised as the best in class at that time. I think if we can make it work - and integrate it well in the car - then I really am looking forward to that.
In terms of other rule changes, youre aware anyway about the removal of double diffusers next year, so thats a significant aerodynamic change. The other thing thats been agreed is to ban the F-flap or duct system, but in their place we will have an adjustable rear wing. The flap will be adjustable by the driver.
He can run it however he likes in qualifying so what well do is raise the flap, so it has low drag down the straights. In qualifying that will allow you to get a better lap time through using it wherever you can. In the race, you cant use it for the first two laps at all, but after that if youre within a second off the car in front then you will be able to deploy it. So it will be very interesting.