McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh expects the ban on refuelling will have a beneficial effect on races in 2010.
Whitmarsh, who recently became the chairman of the F1 teams association, said:
Inevitably, when you make a change, there are pros and cons. Regarding the pros, it arguably makes qualifying purer because the fastest car/driver combination will be setting the fastest times, and the public can understand that. Secondly, in the race itself, overtaking was often being planned and implemented to occur as a consequence of strategy, and therefore happening in the pitlane and not the circuit.
In the absence of that effect, drivers will have a greater incentive to overtake. There have been occasions in the past where a driver hasn?óÔé¼Ôäót had that incentive because he knows he will be running longer and can get past the car ahead strategically through the pitstops.
Additionally, the fact that drivers will qualify on low-fuel, and then the next time they drive the car in anger into the first corner will be after a standing start with cold tyres and cold brakes and 160kg of fuel. That will be very challenging for them, not just in terms of getting round that first corner, but in terms of how they look after their tyres and how the balance of the car will alter as a consequence of that. And there will be drivers who are able to deal with those changes better than others.
Read the full Q&A below.
Martin Whitmarsh Q&A supplied by McLaren
How is progress going with the 2010 car? What are your plans for testing?
?óÔé¼?ôClearly, the absence of testing in January has eased the car-build schedule to a certain degree, but we?óÔé¼Ôäóre still working as hard as ever at the McLaren Technology Centre. We?óÔé¼Ôäóll be launching the car at Vodafone?óÔé¼Ôäós UK headquarters in Newbury on January 29, and we?óÔé¼Ôäóll be running one MP4-25 at the first test at Valencia on February 1.
?óÔé¼?ôObviously, Pedro [de la Rosa]?óÔé¼Ôäós decision to sign with Sauber will have a slight impact on our test programme, but we?óÔé¼Ôäóll overcome it. We?óÔé¼Ôäóre very happy that Pedro has got a race drive for 2010 ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ he?óÔé¼Ôäós been a great asset to our team and, above all, a very dear friend to all of us.
?óÔé¼?ôAs has become customary with most teams, the first tests will be about establishing a baseline of performance, allowing the engineers and mechanics to learn and understand the new car and the impact of the new regulations.
?óÔé¼?ôAnd, as in previous years, we?óÔé¼Ôäóll introduce a series of upgrades at one of the later tests, and that will be the car we take to the opening race.?óÔé¼?Ø
What is the initial feedback from your data and simulation work about the performance of MP4-25?
?óÔé¼?ôDuring the development of MP4-25, we set ourselves some very high targets ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ and I?óÔé¼Ôäóm enormously pleased with the way our designers and engineers have tackled the approach to the new car. The new regulations have obviously had an effect on the car?óÔé¼Ôäós appearance, with the much higher-capacity fuel tank looking more striking than before.
?óÔé¼?ôBut we?óÔé¼Ôäóre pleased with a number of solutions we?óÔé¼Ôäóve been able to bring to the car, and I think we?óÔé¼Ôäóre cautiously optimistic that, after the experience of last year and, in particular, the momentum we gathered in the second half of the season, we?óÔé¼Ôäóll have a competitive car for both Jenson and Lewis.
?óÔé¼?ôIs it a championship contender? It?óÔé¼Ôäós still far too early to say. Will it win races? We certainly hope so. Am I proud of the effort we?óÔé¼Ôäóve currently invested in the car? Most definitely.?óÔé¼?Ø
You have the previous two world champions on board. How easy will it be manage Lewis and Jenson, and ensure that both work for the benefit of the team?
?óÔé¼?ôI?óÔé¼Ôäóm relatively relaxed about the driver partnership. Knowing Lewis as I do, and having got to know more of Jenson during the limited time I?óÔé¼Ôäóve spent with him during his busy visits to MTC, I feel relatively confident that our driver line-up this year will be a very stable and mutually productive one.
?óÔé¼?ôBut neither became world champion simply by driving at the limit on the racetrack; they?óÔé¼Ôäóve each been responsible for moulding and developing an organisation around them, and in exploiting the skills of their respective engineers to the best of their abilities. And it?óÔé¼Ôäós that sort of approach that we?óÔé¼Ôäóll be looking to encourage from both drivers in order to give us a performance advantage.
?óÔé¼?ôWe?óÔé¼Ôäóve also got an extremely experienced and capable race team, and we feel that will play absolutely to our drivers?óÔé¼Ôäó strengths.
?óÔé¼?ôEqually, they know that Formula 1 in 2010 will be more competitive than ever before. Collaboration, understanding and the shared development of the car will be at the forefront of everybody?óÔé¼Ôäós mind. And given the testing limitations and the minimal track time at the weekend, it?óÔé¼Ôäós the only way to get ahead. Both Jenson and Lewis fully understand that.
?óÔé¼?ôThat?óÔé¼Ôäós why I?óÔé¼Ôäóm so thrilled with our driver partnership ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ I really think it will play to the strengths of modern Formula 1. Of course, we wouldn?óÔé¼Ôäót be going racing if we couldn?óÔé¼Ôäót let our drivers ?óÔé¼?£off the leash?óÔé¼Ôäó, but our absolute priority is to develop a frontrunning car.?óÔé¼?Ø
The main regulation change this year is the banning of refuelling. What impact will this have on the racing? Will it be better, or will it result in more processional races?
?óÔé¼?ôInevitably, when you make a change, there are pros and cons. Regarding the pros, it arguably makes qualifying purer because the fastest car/driver combination will be setting the fastest times, and the public can understand that. Secondly, in the race itself, overtaking was often being planned and implemented to occur as a consequence of strategy, and therefore happening in the pitlane and not the circuit.
?óÔé¼?ôIn the absence of that effect, drivers will have a greater incentive to overtake. There have been occasions in the past where a driver hasn?óÔé¼Ôäót had that incentive because he knows he will be running longer and can get past the car ahead strategically through the pitstops.
?óÔé¼?ôAdditionally, the fact that drivers will qualify on low-fuel, and then the next time they drive the car in anger into the first corner will be after a standing start with cold tyres and cold brakes and 160kg of fuel. That will be very challenging for them, not just in terms of getting round that first corner, but in terms of how they look after their tyres and how the balance of the car will alter as a consequence of that. And there will be drivers who are able to deal with those changes better than others.
?óÔé¼?ôThose are all the positives. On the negative side, it?óÔé¼Ôäós possible that if all of the above is managed equally well by every driver, then we?óÔé¼Ôäóll have lost one of the strategic campaign interests that the more avid fans enjoyed in the sport. Hopefully the former points will outweigh the latter.?óÔé¼?Ø
You have been elected as chairman of FOTA – what will the organisation be doing this year to improve Formula 1 and make it better for the fans?
?óÔé¼?ôFOTA has put a lot of effort into reducing costs in Formula 1, and that will increase the likelihood of teams surviving and hopefully thriving. We?óÔé¼Ôäóve had a number of interesting initiatives, but there is no magic wand.
?óÔé¼?ôFOTA will continue to develop ideas and changes, but we mustn?óÔé¼Ôäót tear the sport inside out overnight. We?óÔé¼Ôäóre conscious of the need to cultivate the sport?óÔé¼Ôäós reputation while also enhancing the spectacle. FOTA needs to continue working with the FIA, CVC and FOM to achieve that, and that?óÔé¼Ôäós a continuous process.
?óÔé¼?ôWe have a range of ideas, so has Bernie, so we have to work together, rather than have FOTA say what it?óÔé¼Ôäós going to do. We want to continue doing our bit and to contribute in the best possible way to improve our sport.?óÔé¼?Ø
Are there any plans to do more fan research this year?
?óÔé¼?ôYes. We?óÔé¼Ôäóve commissioned what is, in my view, the only broad-based fan survey that will take into account the opinions of those who aren?óÔé¼Ôäót hardcore Formula 1 fans. It?óÔé¼Ôäós those fans with a mild or passing interest in Formula 1 that we need to concentrate on, because we can convert them into more avid fans.
?óÔé¼?ôThe survey we conducted last year enabled us to learn some very useful and interesting things, we are now looking at canvassing an even broader range of opinion-holders in order to bring in a far more detailed series of responses. It?óÔé¼Ôäós an ongoing project, and we still have more work to do before releasing any findings.?óÔé¼?Ø
What happened to this year?óÔé¼Ôäós common launch proposal and what will happen to the idea for 2011?
?óÔé¼?ôWe haven?óÔé¼Ôäót yet discussed it for 2011. It was initially recognised that two or three of the teams would not have their cars available for the event, but it was agreed that they?óÔé¼Ôäód have old cars or show cars featuring the 2010 livery, which seemed to be an acceptable compromise.
?óÔé¼?ôBut as the event got closer, it became apparent that there would only be three teams in a position to display their new car. And it was felt that there would be disappointment if we couldn?óÔé¼Ôäót display a suitable number of 2010 cars.
?óÔé¼?ôFor the season ahead, we have new regulations, and it would have been extremely tight for some of the smaller teams to have met the common launch deadlines. As a result, it became understandable that we had to pull away from it. We still think it?óÔé¼Ôäós a good idea; it?óÔé¼Ôäós now a question of whether we can co-ordinate the availability of sufficient new cars to make a joint launch an interesting spectacle for next year.?óÔé¼?Ø
What?óÔé¼Ôäós FOTA doing for the environment?
?óÔé¼?ôWe want to find ways in which we can contribute. There?óÔé¼Ôäós already a commitment to push forward with the introduction of new technologies for 2013, and that?óÔé¼Ôäós going to take a lot of investment and isn?óÔé¼Ôäót something that?óÔé¼Ôäós easy to do overnight.
?óÔé¼?ôFor the future, Formula 1 needs to be about efficiency, so we have to ensure we develop regulations that encourage the development of technologies that aren?óÔé¼Ôäót just a benefit to the automotive sector, but to society in general. We want to be seen as making our contribution, just as every business has to.
?óÔé¼?ôBut it?óÔé¼Ôäós a balance at the moment: we have a lot of new teams entering the sport, and they?óÔé¼Ôäóll have a number of significant challenges ahead of them. If we start to load a number of new environmental challenges onto them, it will make their lives more difficult. But we?óÔé¼Ôäóre confident we can make progress over the next few years.?óÔé¼?Ø