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McLaren: We should be up to speed in Singapore 22 Sep 2010

The podium (L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, Phil Prew (GBR) McLaren Race Engineer and Robert Kubica (POL) Renault. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 29 August 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 26 September 2009 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 10 September 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Phil Prew (GBR) McLaren Race Engineer on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 29 August 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 10 September 2010

The question on everybody’s lips as they arrive in Singapore for this weekend’s Grand Prix concerns the performance of the frontrunners on the high-downforce and low-speed Marina Bay circuit. For McLaren, who struggled at the Hungarian round because of the track’s similar characteristics, it’s a particularly pertinent issue.

Whilst they floundered on the high-downforce Hungaroring, their rivals in the championship battle, Red Bull and Ferrari, dominated, with their four drivers filling the top four positions. Ahead of Singapore, however, McLaren are confident they have solved their high-downforce issues and have closed the gap.

“It’s a big weekend, certainly after the difficulties and lack of pace we had in Hungary, which I guess is our reference for a high-downforce, slow-speed circuit,” explained principal race engineer Philip Prew, in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 'Phone-In' session. “In Hungary we all recognised the pace wasn’t where we needed to be, and since then we’ve had a whole number of upgrades on the car, some of which we’ve already run at Spa and Monza.

“In addition to that there are further upgrades that we will see in Singapore which is a new front wing and other devices, which are looking to increase the downforce on the car. Also I think our understanding of the car - how to exploit the car, how to get the downforce to work for us - has improved since Hungary. So we’re optimistic we have closed that gap and hopefully we’ll be competitive.”

As well as their Singapore upgrades, Prew is also optimistic that the introduction of the FIA’s more stringent bodywork tests at the last round in Monza will make a difference to the relative pace of the top three teams.

“I’d obviously like to think it will be very close,” he said. “I think it should be competitive between Red Bull, Ferrari and ourselves. The legality clarification and changes that we’ve all made in response to that could well influence it. This circuit is quite bumpy and that could affect how much compliance at the bib end, which has obviously been tightened up quite significantly.

“I think the regulations that are in place now means that it should be a level playing field and everybody knows the constraints that we have to operate in. I think that’s good for the sport and for the teams. The advantage that was felt to be gained by Red Bull and Ferrari in Hungary will be harder to exploit. Only time will tell if we’ve done enough but we’re confident that we’ve added performance. We’re optimistic that the gap, which was massive by Formula One standards, should well have reduced.”

Another possible cause for concern could have been the team’s engine usage. Button and Hamilton both used their seventh new engine - of the eight they are allowed for the season - at the last round in Monza. Prew, however, isn’t worried.

“I can tell you now that the use of our race engines is exactly as we planned back in March,” he concluded. “It was always our intention to run new engines at Spa and Monza to take advantage of the new engine on the most power-sensitive races. So we’re running exactly to plan ourselves and it’s not something we’re concerned about.

“As for Ferrari using the eighth, I think that will only affect their Friday running, in terms of running used engines on the Friday. From the information I can gather - gleaned from press releases etc - then sadly I don’t think that will give us any advantage over them I’m afraid.”

McLaren - and their rivals - will be on track from Friday in Singapore.

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