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Sam Michael Q&A: 'Hard racing' Perez has McLaren support 05 Jun 2013

Sam Michael (AUS) McLaren Sporting Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 26 May 2013 (L to R): Sam Michael (AUS) McLaren Sporting Director, Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren and Mark Temple (GBR) McLaren Performance Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013 McLaren's Sergio Perez and Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen come together at the chicane resulting in the Finn picking up a puncture and the Mexican retiring with damage shortly afterwards McLaren mechanic marks Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 9 May 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 10 June 2012 Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 10 June 2012

It’s been a tough season so far for McLaren. The lacklustre MP4-28 has proved uncompetitive even in the hands of experienced former champion Jenson Button, and the team’s second driver Sergio Perez has come under fire for what some say has been overly-aggressive racing. Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in ahead of this weekend’s Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada 2013, sporting director Sam Michael discussed the current state of play…

Q: Sam, you seemed to have taken a step forward in Monaco - would you agree?
Sam Michael:
Monaco is quite a special case. The car looked good around there and it was good to see both drivers fighting with the Ferraris and Lotuses. The true pace of all the cars up front was controlled quite a lot because of the tyre saving that was going on, so it was difficult to see exactly where you are. Montreal is a track that’s been quite good to McLaren over the years and we’ll go there with some more things to try. We’re developing the car - the car is getting better, though not as fast as we would hope. We’re not returning to form as quickly as we’d like, but we are moving in the right direction. We’ve got some tests to do which we have to fit in around the new tyre test on Friday - the only thing that could throw a curveball for all the teams this weekend is the weather. There’s a lot of rain forecast.

Q: In terms of his consistency, his feedback and his spatial awareness, where do you think Sergio Perez’s strengths lie?
SM:
I think he’s pretty good on all those things, particularly for a 23-year-old whose team mate has at least ten years’ more experience in F1 than him. Jenson is a world champion and a hard guy to match and Sergio is doing pretty well against him. He’s a talented driver and the way that he’s racing at the moment, McLaren support what he’s doing. We’re full behind Checo as long as he keeps developing. He definitely went through a transition in the last two or three races - he’s really been able to mix it on pace with his team mate and that’s good. Technically, he knows what he wants from the car and is quite explicit about that with all the engineers and he’s good for the level of experience he’s got.

Q: Some of his more experienced rivals were irked by Sergio’s driving in Monaco. Have the team not felt the need to sit down with him and talk about some of those moves and perhaps about reining him in?
SM:
It’s an interesting question, but ultimately he’s a racing driver and he’s just racing. All the moves that he did [in Monaco] are all moves that have been done by all of those other drivers at some point in their careers. The overtaking opportunity available at the chicane in Monaco has been used for a long time, even before Checo was born. Ultimately he’s racing for his position and establishing himself and the racing that he’s doing, all those other drivers have done themselves and that’s Formula One. It was obviously hard racing, but that’s what Formula One is meant to be about.

Q: You’re getting the new specification Pirelli tyres on Friday in Canada - how might that affect your programme and the running for the Montreal weekend?
SM:
It’ll fit quite seamlessly to be honest. If you look, on average the first 40-45 minutes of a session teams don’t use very heavily anyway, because you’re saving tyres and waiting for the circuit to clean up. You’d definitely be doing that in Montreal because the circuit isn’t used much - it’s like a street circuit and ramps up quite a lot. So I think we’ll [fit the new tyre testing in] no problem at all. It’ll be interesting to run them. Teams will be checking things such as tyre wear, how the temperature profile across the tread changes, if at all, and obviously if there are any aerodynamic changes, so we’ll be using pressure tappings and rakes and things to look at how the flow changes.

Q: Touching on updates for Canada, how comprehensive is the package?
SM:
The parts we’re putting on the car are to investigate different things rather than a comprehensive update. I would describe them as small steps in the right direction. The last few small steps we’ve put on the car have worked and as long as we keep doing that then we’ll gradually keep moving towards the front.

Q: Would you say that the weather rather than the upgrades are your best chance for an upset then?
SM:
I think that applies to everyone really. Our car has been good in the wet, but it’s the same for other teams too. We’re not bothered if it’s wet or dry from a qualifying or race point of view. Obviously in the wet you can have some random incidents and it can be a bit of a lottery, but that can work both ways - it can go against you as well.

Q: The Canadian Grand Prix is a race McLaren traditionally do well in. How important do you feel your performance in Canada will be in defining your season overall?
SM:
The most important thing when you’re sort of at the bottom of the trough and trying to work your way out of it again - which we definitely are - is to make sure you keep seeing progress. As long as we keep progressing and keep getting faster and keep competing with the teams that are at the front, then that’s what we want to see. That’s what is important. There’s nothing significant about Montreal itself.

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