McLaren principal race engineer Phil Prew says the team are “optimistic” they will be able to use their new rear wing at the Korean Grand Prix this weekend.
The part was tested at Suzuka but not raced as Lewis Hamilton’s crash on Friday and rain on Saturday reduced the amount of available practice time available to them.
Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in Prew said:
We will certainly be running [the new rear wing] on Friday. We also have a modified front wing. Those are the two big updates that will be visible on the car. In addition to that are some smaller mechanical updates which will be on the car as well, all aiming to add performance.
We will continue the investigations with the rear wing on Friday that were kind of cut short in Suzuka. Our understanding has improved and we’re optimistic that we can make it work here.
He said the team are aiming for a podium finish at Korea:
Our target this weekend is to get on the podium and we need to be in front of [Mark] Webber. So we need two cars at the front competing for the front row of the grid in qualifying and then delivering a result on the podium.
Prew expects the amount of grip the track offers to increase rapidly over the weekend, making life difficult for the teams in practice and qualifying:
I walked the circuit this morning with the other engineers and I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw. The track itself, the kerbs, run-off and all those sorts of things all looked pretty good.
The track surface itself has been recently laid and it is a bit of an unknown but I don’t think it looked too bad. It wasn’t particularly gritty underfoot. From what you could tell it looked smooth, well-laid and consistent all around the circuit. In terms of how it develops and how the tars interact with it, it’s going to be guesswork.
I expect it’s going to evolve very quickly throughout the first session and will continue to improve all the way through qualifying and then the race. That, for ourselves, means we have to be careful with what set-up work we do because the result could be influence more by track evolution than a change we make to the car.
Equally in qualifying you need to be prepared that the track could be improving quickly and therefore a lap time set at the beginning of Q1 may not necessarily be sufficient by the time you get to the end of Q1. And in Q3 I think the desire to do your lap right at the end will be there.
So I think track evolution will be the big player and we just have to do what we always do which is adapt the car to the conditions that we find.
Prew believes the “neutral” track configuration will not favour any one of the top three teams’ cars more than the others:
It’s a very good combination of quite a few different sorts of circuit.
Obviously it has some long straights with big stops which is not dissimilar to Canada which I think will favour our car. Sector two is a bit more like Turkey where we performed quite well. And then we come to the last sector which is a very high-downforce sector, a bit more like Hungary, perhaps.
So I’d say it’s actually quite a neutral circuit and there’s aspects of the track which will favour every one of the top teams. It just depends whether we can gain enough on the long straights at high speeds to compensate for the strengths of the Red Bull in the long corners we see towards the end of the circuit.
I think there’s some areas where we will excel and some areas where I think Red Bull will be very strong but I don’t think either car, or any of the top three cars, will have it all their own way.
Speaking of Jenson Button’s recent strategy and set-up decisions in Monza and Suzuka, Prew said they were attempts to get the best performance out of the car rather than Button gambling on a different approach in order to improve his championship chances:
All of the decisions are based on the performance that he feels is in the car and how he can best exploit the performance.
His driving style is slightly different from Lewis’s and his decisions are consistent with those differences. I don’t think it’s deliberately going out of the way, he’s quite prepared to take some risks if that’s necessary but it’s ultimately about going for the best lap time and if that’s different to other people than we’re prepared to take that.
But he added the unpredictable conditions at this weekend’s race could offer opportunities for drivers to take risks with their set-ups:
Potentially. I think some of that will come as we see the track evolve.
An example may be if the track grip is poor then the higher downforce solution may work. But somebody who’s brave may choose to take a lower downforce level, expecting the track grip to improve during the race, putting them in a strong position to have overtaking opportunities.
So there could be some opportunities to take slightly different routes but we need to gauge the conditions and what opportunities there are.
2010 Korean Grand Prix
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- Korea say 168,000 attended first F1 race
- Alonso not considering Brazil title win
- Hamilton: Alonso would have passed me
- Button: “I will fight until it’s impossible”
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- 2010 Korean Grand Prix: the complete F1 Fanatic race weekend review
- Who was the best driver of the Korean Grand Prix weekend? (Poll)