Martin Whitmarsh Q&A McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh looks ahead of the forthcoming Hungarian Grand Prix, a very different challenge for the team following its success at the British and German Grand Prix.
The drivers have described the MP4-23 as being particularly well-balanced in high-speed corners, how do you expect it to cope with the low-speed twists and turns of the Hungaroring?
"The two circuits on the calendar that most resemble the characteristics of the Hungaroring are, bizarrely, Montreal, which is dusty and low-grip, and Monte Carlo, which requires a high-downforce set-up to cope with the minimal straights and numerous low-speed corners. And the reality is that we were reasonably competitive at both those circuits."
"While it has been true to say that one of the key strengths of our car is its pace in high-speed corners, we’ve done a lot of work to the package to strengthen its weak spots. At Silverstone, we were comfortable with our pace through the last sector, and at Hockenheim, we were comfortably quickest through the stadium section of the track, which is tight and reliant on good mechanical grip."
"We won in Hungary last season and travel to Budapest confident that we have strengthened the weaknesses of our package. Nonetheless, we are fully prepared for a battle with our rivals, whom we can never under-estimate."
Heikki (Kovalainen) proved rapid in practice and qualifying in Great Britain and Germany but didn’t seem able to exploit the car under him to the same extent during the race. Is the team working to alleviate some of the handling problems he has encountered?
"Firstly, let’s not forget that Heikki is a brilliant racing driver. His pass of Robert Kubica at Hockenheim reminded anybody who needed reminding that he has all the speed and skill to be battling at the front. But there’s no magic in Formula One and we still need to work with Heikki to extract his full potential. At Hockenheim, he didn’t get the best out of himself or the package and we need to work on how we fine-tune the car’s set-up and how Heikki is involved in that process."
"He was at MTC on Tuesday to carry out his pre-race program and is working hard with his engineers to find a set-up that allows him to maintain his speed throughout a race stint without suffering from some of the rear-end nervousness he has encountered in recent races."
With the traditional F1 testing ban coming into effect immediately after the Hungarian Grand Prix, how has the team structured its development program for the rest of the summer?
The whole team has been incredibly busy and productive this year. Throughout the summer, we’ve been working hard to evaluate several substantial developments at each test and were able to sample major new aerodynamic steps at both the Silverstone and Hockenheim tests. This week’s Jerez test was no different: as well as evaluating the latest iteration of Bridgestone slick, we also tried out antler wings on the nosecone to improve the front-end flow as well as a number of more detailed aero solutions."
"Over the three-week break, we have also scheduled two 50km shakedowns and will be working hard back at Woking and Brixworth to enable us to keep the development program on schedule before we resume the season in Valencia."