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Q&A with McLaren’s Paddy Lowe 23 Jun 2010

Paddy Lowe (GBR) McLaren Engineering Director. Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday 25 April 2009. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 13 June 2010 Portrait Paddy Lowe (GBR) McLaren Engineering Director; Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren, second position; Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, race winner; Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday, 30 May 2010 Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren in parc ferme. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 13 June 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 13 June 2010

With McLaren riding high in both the drivers’ and constructors’ standings, the British team is determined to do all it can to keep hold of the advantage. An integral part of this will, of course, be development work. In a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 'Phone-In' session, McLaren’s engineering director Paddy Lowe discusses the team’s planned introduction of a Red Bull-style ‘blown rear end’ exhaust solution at Silverstone, the regulation changes for 2011, and the departure of colleague Pat Fry to rivals Ferrari…

Q: What upgrades do you have planned for the Valencia race?
Paddy Lowe:
For this weekend in Valencia we are not promising a massive step in terms of car upgrades. Most of our efforts have just gone into to making the best of this circuit. I know a number of other teams are forecasting large updates. We are not one of those for this event. We will have a bigger package for Silverstone.

Q: What will that involve?
PL:
It won’t have escaped your notice that Red Bull have an interesting use they’ve made of exhaust exit flow. It’s reasonably common knowledge that the rest of the teams are playing catch up in that area. It’s quite a significant performance step. So that’s something we’re aiming to bring to the British Grand Prix and to try to make work from the outset. There are some technical challenges with it, not least blasting your bodywork directly with exhaust flow. It can generate some very high temperatures. So it’s not without challenges to hit the ground running with a system like that when we don’t have any proper track testing to prove it out. But we’ll be doing trials at an aerodynamic test day before Silverstone, and we hope to have it working in the practice session and then race it on the Sunday.

Q: Red Bull have said they’re going to bring their F-duct to Valencia this weekend. Is that a cause for concern for McLaren at all?
PL:
Well we’ll see what they do with it. They brought it before to Turkey, ran it on the Friday, but then didn’t use for the rest of the weekend. It’s a system that’s not without challenge - to get it to work. It’s up to them. I don’t know how well they’re going to do but it’s not a huge concern for us. We expected teams to be playing catch up in that area, just as we’re emulating the exhaust. So when Red Bull get it to work, we’re ready to face that.

Q: Are you looking forward to the return of KERS next year? What other 2011 changes can we expect to be announced by the FIA World Motor Sport Council this afternoon?
PL:
KERS was obviously still in the regulations, but within FOTA it has been agreed we can use it next year. We’re taking a very serious look at it and we’ll decide in the next month or so if we’ll commit to it for 2011. I think second time round we’ll have an opportunity to do an even better job than was done 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, you’re aware anyway about the removal of double diffusers next year, so that’s a significant aerodynamic change. The other thing that’s been agreed is to ban the F-flap or F-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 we’ll 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 can’t use it for the first two laps at all, but after that if you’re within a second of the car in front then you will be able to deploy it. So it will be very interesting. It’s a FOTA initiative to help improve the show and I think it’s very exciting.

Q: How worried are you about Ferrari bringing their own blown rear end to Valencia? The teams seem to be saying it is worth approximately half a second a lap. If you subtract that from Ferrari’s Canada lap times it puts Ferrari in a dominant position…
PL:
Well I’d agree with your maths there. It is a concern. I think we’ll have to see how they get on with it. It’s 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 can’t predict - as an overall package - where they are going to end up, no more really than I can predict where we’re going to end up. What’s so very interesting at the moment is the variation you get in the very fine differentials between teams as you go through the different circuits.

Q: And McLaren’s will definitely be ready for the British race - not for Germany?
PL:
Yes, that’s our plan.

Q: Was it straightforward to integrate the exhaust system into your design, or was it quite a challenge? What is your biggest concern about it - the effect it will have, or reliability?
PL:
It has been a pretty big project, not least because you have got to design a new exhaust system and that has many challenges, particularly when you want to do it quickly, and of course the heat as I mentioned earlier. We’re reasonably confident we’ll get the performance we predict. We test in the wind tunnel and we’re able to evaluate in the simulator how these things work. I think we’re very well prepared to exploit it. The concern will be more about making sure it’s reliable and fit for racing.

Q: We saw an exciting race in Montreal thanks to the tyres. Do you think next year’s tyre supplier should produce softer and more aggressive compounds?
PL:
I think we can clearly see the effect of having tyres that degrade rapidly, and we would like to see that more often. Whether we’d like to see that in every race, I don’t know, but certainly it increases the spectacle, uncertainty and stress on the pit wall. There is a little bit of a difficulty which we should recognise - the tyre supplier doesn’t generally want the discussion to centre on how bad the tyres were in a given race result. There’s a little bit of a conflict of interest there that we should acknowledge. Drivers, when you’re not in a tyre war, are not generally saying how great the tyres were. But when they’re saying how bad the tyres were - it’s not a great outcome for the supplier from a commercial point of view. But for that, you’d want a lot more of that type of outcome.

Q: In Germany we’re going to have two steps between the tyre compounds - super softs and hard. How do you think that will affect racing?
PL:
I don’t know if we can expect such an extreme result as we had in Canada. What happened in Canada was that even the prime tyre was graining up quite badly and that’s why in the race even the prime runners were stopping very early and I think that’s pretty atypical. The nature of the Canadian circuit is that it has that tendency on all the tyres. So I don’t think that while Bridgestone are planning greater splits between the tyres at some of the remaining races we should expect the tyres to be so systematically grained up.

Q: How concerned are McLaren about Pat Fry’s move to Ferrari? He’ll take with him 18 years of McLaren experience and knowledge…
PL:
Well Pat was here for a long time and is a great friend to all of us, and a great engineer. So we’ll miss him a lot from that point of view. I’m very pleased to see that he’s got something else that he’ll enjoy doing. Ferrari are long-time rivals of ours. I think he’ll do a great job there. It doesn’t fill me with great fear that Pat’s taken all of our knowledge over there. The team has great strength across all the disciplines. Single individuals contribute; they don’t bring a whole, across-the-board set of knowledge to a team. You go there and do a good job, which I’m sure Pat will do. The answer is we’re very happy for him. We’re not filled with dread. Pat won’t mind me saying this, but when we have change in the organisation it’s an opportunity for growth within the team, which you need to sustain your long-term development. It’s thrown up some great opportunities for the next generation.