Q&A with McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe 08 Jun 2011
Over the last two races McLaren may have hounded Red Bull at every turn, but they havent quite managed to push the defending champions off the top step of the podium. But in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-in, technical director Paddy Lowe suggests that its only a matter of time before the Woking team get the better of their Milton Keynes counterparts and repeat their success from Aprils Chinese round
Q: Weve two zones for the Drag Reduction System (DRS) in Canada this weekend. Do you need two to have any effect on overtaking in Montreal?
Paddy Lowe: I dont honestly know the answer. Its something the FIA have developed as a solution. This is the first race that weve had the system fully commissioned in order to run two sectors. They clearly feel that will assist overtaking, as thats the point of DRS. Whether it does or not remains to be seen. I think our own analysis, which hasnt been extensive I must admit, seems to suggest that it may not particularly help. I think the role of DRS will play out mostly in the initial straight from the hairpin, and that the second straight may just aid with performance. I mean in theory, if youve overtaken on the first straight, ironically the guy ahead will be able to continue to use his DRS on the second straight, even though hes only just overtaken, to open up a bigger gap. I think well just have to see how that pans out.
Q: Will it effect how the cars are set up?
PL: No. I think, as always, well be trying to get the right set-up between the qualifying and race set-up.
Q: Jenson Button has suggested you were 30 points behind Red Bull in terms of downforce and that it would take six or seven races to make up that deficit. Do you agree with that analysis and can you explain what 30 points means?
PL: A point is Formula One code for a hundredth of a fraction of cl, where cl is the downforce coefficient. Physically a Formula One car has a downforce coefficient of lets say 3 to 3.5. So 30 points would be 30 hundredths which would equate to 0.3. So 30 points might be getting on for 10 percent of the downforce on an F1 car and that could be worth about a second a lap. I dont agree that we have that deficit to Red Bull. I think that weve been quicker than them in the last few races - in race trim. Our cars actually outperforming them at that point of the weekend. Clearly in qualifying weve got quite a gap to make up. What exactly it is and how that advantage is gained by Red Bull we dont know, but were working hard to find the performance, particularly in race conditions. I think we can play to our strengths and win races by being quicker on Sunday and having a good strategy.
Q: Do you think the gap in qualifying will take six or seven races to make up?
PL: I dont know - I would hope not.
Q: What are your thoughts on the 2013 engine regulations and on the ERS and fuel efficiency? Should Formula One racing be taking this direction?
PL: McLaren are fully committed to our partnership with Mercedes Benz and whatever engine theyre making for 2013. At the moment, we believe that the regulations are confirmed to be for the new turbo engines. Well be using the Mercedes Benz engine. If the regulations arent carried through - and there is still some question marks over that - then whichever way theyll go then well go with them. Were committed to that partnership. I think the new technologies that weve used, with the KERS hybrid, is very good for the automotive industry and the message it takes around the world. We should take care that we are developing appropriate technologies. So its not something to just jump into without thought. But I believe that all the manufacturers have put collective thinking into the new regulations and the nature of the ERS, which is a more complex type of hybrid system, without the K. They have put a lot of thought into it and I support them in their thinking that it's relevant to the automotive industry.
Q: Which of the cars strengths do you think will pay particular dividends in Montreal?
PL: I think our car performs well in slow-speed corners. I think weve seen good performance in Monaco, particularly in the race. Cars that go well at Monaco also go well in Canada. We were also quick in Spain in race trim so I think the car is still performing well in all types of corner and I think were therefore in a good position to take the race straight to Red Bull and win it if we can.
Q: Ferrari are talking about Silverstone being a key race for them in terms of updates. Do you think theres still time this year - with Red Bull so far ahead - to overhaul them?
PL: I would say we have been thinking a lot about that. There are another 12 or 13 races to come. The championship is still there for the taking, despite Sebastian Vettels lead in the drivers and Red Bulls lead in the constructors. We are very buoyed up by the race pace at both a close circuit like Monaco and at a circuit such as Spain, which at first looked very tough for us and very strong for Red Bull. To have the pace there in the race was very encouraging for us. If we can close the gap in qualifying and put us more on a front foot on a Sunday, with our strong race pace, I think were in a very good position to win a lot of races and to bring ourselves back into championship contention. So were feeling very bullish about our current position event though the points standings may look a little depressing in isolation.
Q: Weve heard about the resettling of the 2011 calendar and the teams saying that theyre not sure about Bahrain and extending it into December because of how it will affect next years development. Is that your perspective? Would it affect your 2012 programme?
PL: I dont think it affects the 2012 programme so much. I think the reason teams get quite upset about the December factor is for the guys that go racing. Its a massive commitment to support the race programme throughout the year and December is typically when they have their holidays. So its more about the race teams themselves, rather than the staff as a whole at the factory who are working on the following years car.
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