McLaren is leaving nothing on the table in its pursuit of this year’s championship, according to managing director Jonathan Neale.
The team, which had a strong run of form over the summer, has recently fallen behind Red Bull and Ferrari in what is already the closest title battle we’ve seen. Accidents for Lewis Hamilton in the last two races, costing a theoretical 24 points for a pair of fourth places, have not helped, but there is a feeling that McLaren needs to find something more technically in order to get the upper hand over its rivals.
“We’re throwing everything and the kitchen sink at it,” said Neale in a Vodafone phone in today. “We will be pushing very hard. If we can pull a modification forwards, even if we’ve only got limited components, I’d rather have the drivers to have that fraction of a second in lap time, than delay until we’ve got a comfortable set of spares. We are running on the very lean edge of what we’ve got.”
This weekend in Suzuka the team will try out a new package of updates during Friday practice including new aerodynamics and new ways of running the engine to make the most of the double diffuser,
“We’re taking a reasonable sized package to Japan, we’ve got front wing upgrades, we’ve got a new rear wing, there are some aerodynamic details and some of the engine modes. What we’ve got is a big test package for Friday. We’ll be in a better position to say what we’re going to run in anger (following Friday running). Certainly we’re taking everything that we took to Singapore, and some more, to Japan.”
The engine modes are interesting and Neale spoke to a few of us about this subject on race day in Singapore. The rise of the exhaust blown diffuser this season has led teams to work closely with engine builders to maximise the pressure of exhaust gases passing across the diffuser to gain extra downforce. This is particularly important when the driver lifts off the throttle for a corner.
To compensate, the ignition is retarded on the over-run, which maintains exhaust gas pressure even when the driver lifts off the throttle. This maintains the performance of the blown diffuser and keeps the downforce up when it’s most needed. It thus avoids the main problem of an exhaust blown diffuser whereby when a driver lifts off the throttle for a corner, the downforce goes missing when you most need it and the rear stability changes.
The challenge for engineers is that this process causes the temperatures to rise. But it seems that as the season has progressed, the clever engineers have found ways to do this for more than just a few laps, without sending temperatures through the roof.
Anyone who stood trackside in Singapore will tell you that the McLaren exhaust note sounded very strange on the over-run, this is another key battleground in the tech race which never sleeps.