Tim Goss Q&A: Ten or more upgrades for McLaren in Barcelona 18 May 2011
At the last round of the championship in Turkey, McLaren opted to drop some planned upgrades to the MP4-26 for fear they wouldnt last the weekend. Whilst the decision may have cost drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button the chance of fighting for a place on the podium, it means the British teams car will be crammed full of new developments at this weekends Spanish round. In a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 'Phone-In' session, engineering director Tim Goss revealed what we can expect to see on the silver cars in Barcelona, and discusses the impact of possible new exhaust/engine regulations and the merits of DRS, KERS and the Pirelli tyres...
Q: Both drivers left Turkey unsatisfied. Whats the plan with upgrades for this weekends Spanish race?
Tim Goss: The relentless pace of upgrades continues and we have a package of upgrades that we are taking to Spain. We take upgrades to every race. In total we have about 10 or 12 upgrades, some of which will be noticeable from the outside and some of which are not noticeable. Our objective obviously is to win races and ultimately win championships, and to do that we need to close the gap on Red Bull and we just keep chipping away at the problem. We had a package for the Turkish Grand Prix that we took there - we are always trying to accelerate getting upgrades to the circuits as quickly as possible. And just prior to the Turkish Grand Prix we had a relatively minor issue which meant I wasnt confident the upgrade would be durable so we pulled out of using it at the last minute. We will re-evaluate all of our upgrades on Friday in Spain and those that look good well take forward.
Q: (McLarens principal race engineer) Phil Prew said in a previous phone-in that he thought Red Bulls use of elaborate engine modes could be a key reason why theyre quicker in qualifying than in races. The FIA have said they have changes pending to limit the use of exhaust-blown diffusers. Do you see that bringing you closer to Red Bulls pace?
TG: Its difficult to know. I think all the major teams are up to the same tricks with regards to engine mapping. We certainly exploit them. If the latest guidelines from the FIA on the use of engines to drive exhaust systems came in force then it would be a performance setback to us. I know it would almost certainly be a performance setback to our major competitors, but as to whether it affects us more than our competitors its impossible for me to say. I know what we get out of it and we get quite a substantial benefit, but I imagine it would be just as much of a setback to our competitors as well. We are just working to the latest set of guidelines from the FIA. I think we can react to whatever they tell us reasonably promptly. And, for the moment, it would appear that the FIA have decided its quite a complex matter and they need more time to consider how they will police it, so it looks like at the Spanish Grand Prix it will be business as usual.
Q: Barcelonas known as being one of the more processional races on the calendar. Do you think the DRS etc will help buck that trend this weekend?
TG: Its made a dramatic difference to the races so far. Its not all down to DRS and the KERS hybrid. Quite clearly the tyres and the tyre life play quite a large part in creating the race spectacle that weve had. Also the fact teams and drivers are on different strategies means that you can get some quite dramatic changes towards the end of the race -for example, Lewis (Hamilton) taking Sebastian Vettel at the end of the Chinese Grand Prix. You also have cases like at the Turkish Grand Prix with Webber and Alonso on similar strategies, following each other. In the past this might have led to a processional event, yet the two of them swapped places just as they managed to either look after their tyres a little better than their competitor or not. Most of us will be surprised if Spain is not an entertaining race. Tyre life and wear will play a large role in it, DRS will help. I think, for me, one of the most encouraging things this season are all the overtakes that are not happening in the DRS zone. I think if that was the case it would be very predictable, but you get a lot of moves outside the zone, which is really making it quite exciting for the spectators.
Q: What is the background to the FIAs attempt and subsequent roll back to restrict the use of exhaust gases?
TG: On the FIAs rule change, Im afraid I dont know that background. Whether theyve taken it on themselves to clamp down on it or whether theyve been prompted to, Im afraid I dont know.
Q: Has it been discussed in the Technical Working Group before? Has the issue been floating around?
TG: No it hasnt. Since the middle of last season its become quite apparent to journalists and hence the rest of the public that the teams have been changing their engine maps to get more out of exhaust momentum and the effects of that on the rear ends of the car and the front. Its been around for a while but there hasnt been much debate about clamping down on it, if any. So Im afraid youll have to ask the FIA on that matter.
Q: You said some of the updates were obvious, some arent. Can you tell us what the obvious ones are?
TG: As you know we introduced a change of concept at the rear end of the car just before the start of the season. Weve been living with some sort of sub-optimal packaging in that region for several races now, and I think what youll see is some bodywork and floor changes that aim to tidy up that area of the installation.
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