McLaren To Introduce Major Upgrade At Silverstone

d10cdn1181 McLaren To Introduce Major Upgrade At Silverstone
In Formula One racing, there’s no rest for the technical department. If they’re not making race-specific changes to a car for a particular Grand Prix, they’re carrying out large-scale upgrades after being inspired by rivals or looking ahead to next year’s design. So even though his team’s MP4-25 is already eight races old, McLaren’s engineering director Paddy Lowe is a busy man.

At the top of Lowe’s to-do list for some time has been an upgrade to rival Red Bull’s successful low-blown exhaust solution. Widely believed to cut as much as half a second off lap times, Lowe revealed in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ‘Phone-In’ session that the team will unveil their version for July’s British Grand Prix.

“It won’t have escaped your notice that Red Bull have an interesting use they’ve made of exhaust exit flow,” he explained. “It’s reasonably common knowledge that the rest of the teams are playing catch up in that area. It’s quite a significant performance step. So that’s something we’re aiming to bring to the British Grand Prix and to try to make work from the outset.”

Although introducing such a complex system mid-season is a far from ideal scenario, Lowe believes their planned preparations – and a forthcoming aero test day – will be thorough enough to leave him feeling upbeat about the upgrade’s chance of success at Silverstone.

“There are some technical challenges with it, not least blasting your bodywork directly with exhaust flow,” he explained. “It can generate some very high temperatures. So it’s not without challenges to hit the ground running with a system like that when we don’t have any proper track testing to prove it out. But we’ll be doing trials at an aerodynamic test day before Silverstone, and we hope to have it working on the practice session and then race it on the Sunday.

“We’re reasonably confident we’ll get the performance we predict. We test in the wind tunnel and we’re able to evaluate in the simulator how these things work. I think we’re very well prepared to exploit it. The concern will be more about making sure it’s reliable and fit for racing.”

Long-time rivals Ferrari are expected to debut their own exhaust solution a race earlier – at this weekend’s European Grand Prix. Even though he acknowledged the Italian team could get a major boost from the system, Lowe wouldn’t be drawn on whether Ferrari could dominate the Valencia weekend.

“It is a concern,” he said. “I think we’ll have to see how they get on with it. It’s a shame that some others have been slightly quicker to get it than us, but we are where we are. It all depends, every circuit has different characteristics. They suit some cars and not others. We saw that Ferrari really struggled in Turkey so I can’t predict, as an overall package, where they are going to end up. No more really than I can predict where we’re going to end up.”

McLaren’s other main championship rivals, Red Bull, will once again bring their own version of the British team’s well-documented F-duct system to Spain. Lowe, however, is determined to bide his time before he worries too much about the revised RB6s.

“Well we’ll see what they do with it,” he commented. “They brought it before to Turkey, ran it on the Friday, but then didn’t use for the rest of the weekend. It’s a system that not without challenge – to get it to work. It’s up to them. I don’t know how well they’re going to do but it’s not a huge concern for us. We expected teams to be playing catch up in that area, just as we’re emulating the exhaust. So when Red Bull get it to work, we’re ready to face that.”

If this season’s development race weren’t enough to distract him, Lowe is also already considering McLaren’s 2010 car – and how next year’s regulation changes will affect its design. With KERS, the ban on double diffusers and an adjustable rear wing, designed to boost overtaking, to think about, it’s an exciting time for the Woking team’s technical department.

“We’re taking a very serious look at KERS and we’ll decide in the next month or so if we’ll commit to it for 2011,” he concluded. “I think second time round we’ll have an opportunity to do an even better job than before. The system that Mercedes introduced for 2009 was truly excellent and I think it was easily recognised as the best in class at that time. I think if we can make it work – and integrate it well in the car – then I really am looking forward to that.

“In terms of other rule changes, you’re aware anyway about the removal of double diffusers next year, so that’s a significant aerodynamic change. The other thing that’s been agreed is to ban the F-flap or duct system, but in their place we will have an adjustable rear wing. The flap will be adjustable by the driver.

“He can run it however he likes in qualifying so what we’ll do is raise the flap, so it has low drag down the straights. In qualifying that will allow you to get a better lap time through using it wherever you can. In the race, you can’t use it for the first two laps at all, but after that if you’re within a second off the car in front then you will be able to deploy it. So it will be very interesting.”

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