McLaren plan to race new wing in Korea

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

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.
Phil Prew

2010 Korean Grand Prix

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21 comments on McLaren plan to race new wing in Korea

  1. whatsup said on 20th October 2010, 13:10

    Mclaren should just go quick, kiss the curbs (they’re quite low), dont look back and finish on the podium

    Nothing to lose, they’ve had an inferior car all year yet created a lot of excitement for the fans (Vettel could’ve been miles ahead of the pack but he isn’t)

    Hoping for an exciting race, as Red Bull’s “it’s all in the car” dominance is getting boring

  2. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 20th October 2010, 13:10

    Well let’s hope it works then. Whether you want them to or not, a McLaren victory here would be very significant for the championship; it would either get them right back in and improve everyone’s chances, or remove a chance for Vettel and Alonso to catch up big-time on Webber.

    Of course, Alonso or Vettel might win/1-2 and truly make it a 3-way fight going into the last two races.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 20th October 2010, 14:17

      I am truly frightened by Alonso’s unpredictable performances at circuits where everyone expected either Red Bull or McLaren to dominate, so I think an Alonso – Vettel 1-2 is highly likely. Not great for the championship, but something to consider.

    • BasCB said on 21st October 2010, 12:05

      I certaily hope those updates do the trick and we get a hard fought McLaren victory in Korea to keep the Championship close.

  3. Jeffrey Powell said on 20th October 2010, 13:20

    The most important modification might be to tell both drivers not to impede in anyway their teamate at any time during the race.If you cannot pull away from your teamate who is sitting 1.5 seconds behind you, has qualified faster than you,has made up two places at the start to get on your tail, and is on faster tyres, with the competition vanishing into the distance you are obviously not a team player.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 20th October 2010, 14:00

      Yeh to be honest I think Button and McLaren were in a way lucky that Hamilton’s gears went. Imagine if they hadn’t and Hamilton had finished the race right on Alonso’s tail – the time lost might have been crucial.

      If you compare their rhetoric in interviews, Button talks up his team-mate far less than Hamilton does.

      • DaveW said on 20th October 2010, 15:33

        Agree about the rhetoric from Hamilton. But it’s easy to be magnanimous when you are leading the other guy in points and drubbing him in qualifying.

        At this stage, the McLaren drivers may want to focus on beating the other in points. At this stage it would be rather embarassing for Hamilton to lose to Button in points after dominating him for much of the year. Conversely, it would be a massive coup for Button to edge Hamilton after hearing from Bahrain to now that he hasn’t got the pace. Button must also know that Massa or Kubica may come looking for a drive and that Hamilton is not going anywhere.

        • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 20th October 2010, 17:37

          If he wants to try and beat Hamilton for his own personal ambition, good luck to him. But if we’re talking about a “team player”…

        • Todfod (@todfod) said on 20th October 2010, 18:37

          Massa definitely will not get a Mclaren drive, and honestly, there is no way Hamilton would want Kubica as a partner. I think Button has his seat at Mclaren secured, as Hamilton knows that Jenson is not fast enough to beat him, and yet Jenson consistently finishes in the points, which keeps Mclaren management happy.

  4. Jeffrey Powell said on 20th October 2010, 16:48

    I never really expected Jenson to get out of the way but as he sat there on non competitive tyres it dawned on me that Lewis would not try a ‘Lewis’ take over on his teamate and Jenson knew it.After all the Holier than though platitudes when Alonso was handed a win by Massa he also knew that holding up his teamate would not get him slatted, I think it also reinforced in his mind some of the opinions that he is a match for Lewis .Scrap the team orders rule now.

  5. “Our target this weekend is to get on the podium and we need to be in front of Mark Webber”

    What??? He better be kidding, what’s the use of finishing in front of Webber, when Vettel and Alonso are 14 point in front of their best place driver.

    This is not 2 weeks ago any more, targeting podium or just finish in front of Webber will not be sufficient. What the heck, podiums are not even sufficient targets for Webber himself anymore.

    • Jason said on 21st October 2010, 11:54

      2 driver on the podium in front of webber – then they would be in front of all the other drivers too.

      • In that case, “aiming for a 1-2 victory” not “targeting podiums” would have been easier for me to understand.

    • BasCB said on 21st October 2010, 12:09

      It does give them the opportunity to gain on the WDC leader, so that’s a must if they want to have any chance. If they reach their target of doing both the podium and getting there in front of Webber it will bring them right back into the pack.

      • Yes, Webber is the current WDC leader. But the McLaren drivers can finish a 100 miles ahead of Webber in Korea, but still lose ground to the WDC leader.

        I believe at this stage they should forget about Webber, they have to target win or wins. Podium or whatever, that’s the least they must do to stay alive. But if I want a head shot of the enemy I don’t aim at the stomach…

  6. kenneth Ntulume said on 21st October 2010, 6:51

    Oh yeah Lewis is being a better politician and driver than Button, i wish Kubica joined McLaren, or Vettel for that matter, as Lewis Hamilton team-mate then we would once and for all find out out if a team can harmoniously accommodate two competitive, racers, this will let us benchmark the Ferrari model of a two tier driver system, and if team orders are inevitable, BTW is F1 a team sport , if i may ask?
    What if Lewis Joined Ferrari….? in 2014…..

  7. Rob Wilson said on 21st October 2010, 10:52

    2012 Top 4 Teams?

    Red Bull – Hamilton, Vettel.
    Ferrari – Alonso, Kubica.
    McLaren – Button, Paffet
    Mercedes – Rosberg, Sutil

    What do ya reckon ppl?

    • kenneth Ntulume said on 22nd October 2010, 8:33

      I think its more of 2013
      and Hamilton will be driving a Ferrari with J Bianchi as team mate
      Mclaren will have Vettel and Kubica

  8. MinusTwo said on 21st October 2010, 22:31

    I love these long articles, Keith. They make excellent coffee-break reading at the office.

  9. MinusTwo said on 21st October 2010, 22:47

    PS Rob I think that would be an AWESOME line-up. Except that I would substitute Hulkenburg for Sutil at Mercedes.

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