McLaren is set to run with the higher nose it ran on the MP4-27 right at the end of the Mugello test in Spain this weekend, its team principal Martin Whitmarsh today revealed in a conference call with journalists, with the team also making changes to its pit-stop procedures in wake of the problems of recent races.
Having bucked the trend for stepped noses seen elsewhere on the grid in the design of its latest car owing to its predecessor’s higher chassis profile, pictures from the final day of last week’s Mugello test appeared to show the Woking team’s MP4-27 running with a revised nose cone, with more gradual curve in evidence.
Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in on Wednesday morning, Whitmarsh confirmed the modified nose had been tried – although pointed out that this was only one of several changes to the front of the car ahead of Barcelona. He added that there was a “reasonable chance you will see it on Sunday, yes” following further assessments by the team during Friday practice.
Asked if the change had been influenced by the platypus-style noses on rival cars, he replied: “I think there must be a bit of that, but I think actually if you look at the detail a bit, the height of the front of the nose is one of the more minor pieces of that new front wing assembly. So there is a range of things. We’re consistently developing the car so a lot of what we were doing was gathering information [at Mugello]. It’s unusual these days of course to have a mid-season test, so we felt we would use that to gather lots data and I’m sure, aside from the nose, you would have seen there were all sorts of appendages, sensors and equipment wedded to the car over the course of the three days.”
With the regulations around what designers can do at the rear of the car now more tightly controlled than ever, Whitmarsh says the front of the car naturally comes in for increased attention and is where McLaren has been focusing on with the latest update – trying to improve airflow going over the car. “Nowadays in Formula 1 the incremental improvements are generally modest and typically you are looking at the aerodynamic performance through corners,” he explained. “So you log a lot of data, classically of course you are looking for lower drag, higher downforce. In the case of front wing and the nose, there’s the attachment pylons – which you may have noticed are quite a lot different – and then the wing’s flap and end plates themselves there are all subtle differences. You’re managing the airflow that is enjoyed by the rest of the aerodynamic-generating surfaces and features of the car.
“It’s nowadays quite a critical part of the car – you’re looking to find very small improvements. There’s a lot of restrictions and prescription around the end of the car, so you can often generate more performance by managing the flow that arrives at them than developing them themselves. Clearly it was really a data gathering that’s given our engineers a lot of information and you will see it in Barcelona. For the race engineers and the race drivers it will be the first time they experience it and they’ve got the data to set it up and they can find the performance on the track.”
He also confirmed that changes to both the team’s pit stop personnel, and procedures, were afoot after problems with problematic left-rear wheel nuts in both China and Bahrain. “We’ve looked at what we were doing, we have made some changes to the team and the process and we’ll see them on Sunday in Barcelona.” Whitmarsh also expressed surprise that so many people had put themselves forward for roles in the crew: “I wondered whether we would get volunteers for some of the more critical positions and I was just astounded by just how many guys in the team wanted to put themselves in those challenging positions. It reflects well on the spirit within the team. There’s been a reasonable amount of practice, some changes in process and they’ll be seen at the weekend. I believe we’ll have good pit stops.”
The changes to the front of the MP4-27 and the team’s pit-stop procedures come as it attempts to rediscover the kind of race performance it displayed at the season-opener in Australia. Despite claiming two poles and front-row berths at every race so far in 2012 (although Lewis Hamilton didn’t start from second in China owing to a grid penalty), McLaren returned to Europe once more trailing Red Bull in the championship after problems with race pace – particularly in Bahrain – but Whitmarsh is hopeful the team not have a better handle on how best to use Pirelli’s tricky tyres.
“I think we’ve had a car that’s clearly been able to be on the front row in each of the four grands prix so far and therefore inherently the pace is there,” he said. “We haven’t got all the results that we wanted…but I believe we will be competitive in Spain and going forward. You don’t know what other teams are yet to do, I know we’re working hard to understand the tyres and understand the car and continuously develop it, and we know others are doing the same. “I think within the team at the moment there is a positive feeling. We had a very interesting data-gathering test at Mugello and we’ll see in Barcelona.”
For a complete picture of all the latest news go to http://connect.jamesallenonf1.com/