Bahrain was a good weekend for the McLaren team. Although fourth place will not feel like win for them after the slow start to the season, the team is heading in the right direction and was only a few tenths off the pace here.
The circuit somewhat flattered their car, with its long straights and lack of high speed corners, but all teams agree that McLaren have clearly made a big step forward. As team principal Martin Whitmarsh explains below they have done this by making constant small steps at every race, whereas teams like Ferrari and BMW have put all their effort into one massive upgrade for Spain.
McLaren has another step for Spain, including the double diffuser, so it will be interesting to see if that takes them a step close to the pace of Brawn, Toyota and Red Bull. The gap is now only around 4/10ths of a second per lap, having been over two seconds before the season started…
How satisfied are you with the progress which led to this fourth place in Sakhir?
“If you had asked me in Barcelona (test) would I have accepted a strong fourth place here, competitive with all the cars and fourth in the constructors then I would have snatched your hand off, but being McLaren we want to win. It’s not good enough for us. We’ve made steps in the right direction but we need to keep pushing.”
Looking at the progress you have made and Lewis’ position in the points table, you must be thinking that Lewis has a pretty good chance of winning the world championship?
“We have to be a little bit wary about this circuit. Maybe we were a little bit flattered here anyway, Barcelona is going to be tough. I know that we have a decent step forward for Barcelona but I’m sure the others have too,
“We’ve made good progress and if we can continue that progress I think we have to be in a strong position. Certainly I’m not one of those people who was saying after two races that the championship was over.
But we’ve got to be frank about it, as a race team we have thrown everything we could at it. There are 12 performance modifications on this car from last weekend and that takes a huge amount of effort. We’ve certainly thrown a lot of effort at it compared to some of our competitors. If you do that, sometimes it can be to the detriment of longer term development, where you stand back and make bigger incremental steps.
You mean you have gone for a small gain everywhere, while the opposition is focussing on one big step for Barcelona? Why did you do it that way?
“As a race team it is not in our character not to come to a race and throw everything we can at it. I think what it does is whilst it is not the most efficient development process, it creates an environment which I think you can sense here, you don’t sense it’s a losing team, people in our garage sense that we are heading in the right direction. It gives momentum to the drivers, the team to think, ‘Right we can do this. We can overhaul these people and we can win some races this year.’ Once we’ve done that we’ll see where we are in the championship.”
Are you worried about Wednesday’s disciplinary hearing?
“To be honest I’ve been concentrating on going racing and I haven’t been worrying about that and I’m going to concentrate on things that are under my control and that hopefully we can improve.”
There have have been a lot of meetings this weekend with FIA. Is this all part of a process that has been going on in the build up to Wednesday?
“ I think it’s safe to assume that, yes. We are trying to build a relationship with the FIA and beyond that we already have. On KERS and a lot of regulation issues we have always had that relationship and I think we have to build in some other areas to that relationship to make sure that we steer this team in the right direction.
Will the relationship with the FIA improve
“I’ve been working with the FIA recently and I’m grateful for the support they have given me and this team. I think that hopefully that is the start of building a better relationship for the future.”