Prior to the resumption of racing next weekend in Spain, Martin Whitmarsh and Norbert Haug discuss the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team’s preparations for the Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya.
MARTIN WHITMARSH, CEO FORMULA 1, VODAFONE McLAREN MERCEDES
What has the atmosphere been like within the team during the four week break leading up to the Spanish Grand Prix?
"The atmosphere has been positive and incredibly busy. We’ve had both Fernando and Lewis visit the team, and that is something that is always appreciated. But we are very aware that this is a break in racing at which we need to make the largest incremental improvement in car performance during the course of the season.
So we have all been working very hard to make sure that we can realise the technical upgrades that we are seeking to achieve on the car. This process has been going very well and consequentially there is an extremely positive feeling within the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team and we are looking forward to the resumption of the racing season in Spain next week."
What are the key technical challenges for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team at the Circuit de Catalunya?
"Although the circuit has changed, and the last corner is no longer the high speed challenge it once was, it is a very technically demanding circuit. It is a circuit where if you have a strong aero package with good balance and good high speed corner performance, you can be fast there.
We expect to be in Barcelona with an incredibly competitive package, but we are also aware that none of our competitors will have stood still, and we have to make sure that we can improve more than them."
The MP4-22 ran with new aero devices at the Barcelona test this week, will these be raced in Spain?
"There is a continuous programme of aerodynamic development on the MP4-22, and during the Barcelona test this week, we had a more obvious one with a high mounted flap on the front wing assembly. It is something that has been developed over the last few months within the team.
We were pleased with the results of that test and consequentially it will be one of the options available to our drivers during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend."
With two Spanish drivers and Partner support from Spain, is the Barcelona race of greater importance to the team than in previous years?
"The Spanish Grand Prix is important personally to Fernando and Pedro and therefore the team wants to do well for them. In reality, as a Formula 1 team, we want to achieve success at every race, and Barcelona is an important Grand Prix for the whole team, and it will be a special focus for our Partners based in Spain, Santander and Mutua Madrileña.
It is the start of the European season and we will be trying to come away with race drivers that are happy with their results and Partners who are pleased with our performance."
What work has taken place at the McLaren Technology Centre with the race chassis in the break from Grands Prix?
"During the race season, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 cars return to the McLaren Technology Centre between most Grands Prix. The cars that returned from Bahrain will have been completely stripped down to the very last component.
Those parts that will be reused at subsequent events will have been fully inspected and serviced, and in the case of a chassis for example, completely repainted. Other components will have consumed their usable life and then as a matter of routine parts will be replaced with parts to the same specification.
The third category of parts would be those that have been replaced because the vehicle has been developed."
NORBERT HAUG, VICE PRESIDENT, MERCEDES-BENZ MOTORSPORT
How are the engines checked and maintained in between two Grands Prix?
"According to the rules, the engines are sealed by the FIA. For an external inspection, all peripheral components such as airbox, hydraulic set, and electrical harnesses are removed and checked between the races. In addition, we examine the engine for leakage and analyze the oil.
The combustion chambers are checked by a so-called borescope, a kind of endoscope, which is inserted through the sparkplug hole to examine valves, pistons and traces at the cylinder liners. Afterwards the engines are stored in their boxes until the next Grand Prix."
What are the challenges for the engines at Barcelona?
"Barcelona is a very demanding circuit not only for drivers and cars, but also tough for the engines. This is due to the very fast corners with a lot of full throttle sections and also to the 1,000-metre long front straight where the cars run at full throttle for 13 seconds. In total, 70 percent of a lap will be driven under full throttle."
How many Mercedes-Benz engine technicians work at a Grand Prix venue and what are their tasks?
"There are 12 Mercedes-Benz technicians at site; six mechanics, two race engineers, one engineer for operating conditions, one truck driver who is also responsible for logistics, one electronic/IT specialist and the head of the technical team at the race track."
What are the possibilities to improve the engine during the season?
"After the specifications of the engine and the parts used have been fixed, there are possibilities for improvements to the ancillaries outside, for example the airbox, the fuel injection and intake system, the water and oil pumps as well as the development of fuels and lubricants".
How do the Mobil 1 lubricants contribute to the engine development?
"Following the restrictions by the new engine rules, the importance of fuels and lubricants has increased further. Developing more competitive lubricants and fuels in co-operation with our Partner ExxonMobil, we focus on further reducing friction and optimising combustion.
As everywhere in Formula 1, this is pushing the technical frontiers. These continuous enhancements of fuels and lubricants resulted in a significant increase of engine performance.
In the medium term, also the production engine development and the cars will benefit from these results."
- Ellen Kolby, Wolfgang Schattling -