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We’ve talked about the speed of in-season development and how the teams really put it in high gear once they get back to Europe. We’ve also talked about how expensive that development war is and how teams that are less funded really struggle to keep up with the pace of development. We have also mentioned how hard it is to gain big chunks of time on the competition but and interesting story from AUTOSPORT’s Mr. Noble today sheds some light on how aggressive McLaren are about their Malaysian Grand Prix upgrade scheme.

In the past, the regulations have been relatively static and to find .500 or even .100 of a second on the competition was very difficult to do. In Malaysia, McLaren CEO Ron Dennis reckons they will find just that:

“These intercontinental races limit how fast you can develop the car but nevertheless we will give it our best shot.

“We are confident that we will be half a second quicker at the next grand prix, for a variety of reasons.

“That will not be enough to achieve our goal but it will keep the pressure on those teams that are chasing us.”

That’s interesting in that the regulations are radically new for 2014 and a team feels that they have .500’s of a second to gain even on a fly-away race like Malaysia. That won’t be any easy task and it will be intriguing to see if they do gain that much time. A half-second in Formula 1 is a lot!

The stakes are high and I wonder what McLaren learned about their chassis that gives them the confidence that they left a one half second on the table in Australia? Either way, if they do gain that much, it will place them amongst the leaders which is currently said to be Mercedes and given their dominant pace in Australia, that will be a tall order.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • JasonI

    Since most pre-season testing (what little there was) was devoted to getting the cars to run a race distance, I can see some big gains being made now that the teams are free(er) to start focusing on going fast.

  • Tom

    The question is: Assuming McLaren can find 0.5s per lap, which other teams will be able to match that?

    My guess would be: Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus and possibly Sauber. Usually I would also add Red Bull, but I think that part of their performance came from the illegal fuel flow, so assuming they have to turn that down by the next race, they’d probably need 0.5s to compensate for that alone. We also haven’t seen the full potential of the Williams, but there I’d think that it would be a case of getting the most out of the car and not so much of finding additional potential, at least not as much as 0.5s.

  • JasonI

    Yeah, it’s one thing to go .5sec/lap faster, it’s something entirely different to gain .5sec/lap on your competition.

    • It also depends on how that .5 second is gained and where. If it is achieved with clean air due to higher top speed or better traction out of the corners will determine if it is going to be fully realized in a race or qualy.

  • jeff

    As Jasoni mentions, there’s a large distinction between half a second improvement in the car and over that of the competition. Any updates will have been on the drawing board long before this 2 week gap; as the Mercedes-powered teams seem less concerned encumbered with drivability and power delivery issues, I’d think they would have had more time the last month or 2 fine tuning mechanical setup and evolving aero, so yes, I think .5 sec improvement possible for Mayasia. Aside; I still want to see how that distinct rear wishbone setup affects slow speed rear grip and Vmax… Mclaren seemed to have no troubles w/ top end in Aus, for example.

    Now, .5 sec vs the competition… Mr. Dennis specifically mentions keeping “pressure on those…chasing us.” Do you think he means Red Bull/Williams, the guys we think are around Mclaren’s pace, or those in the midfield like FI/Torro Rosso? If the former, I’ve no opinion, could be true, or not. Of the latter, I’d say, yes; it’s possible Mclaren will gain time relative to them, simply due to Mclaren’s vast resources.

    Tom, I would still bet Red Bull’s gains will be at least as impressive as its competitors. Unlike the Mercedes guys, Red Bull will be concentrating hard on the drivability of it’s PU package and, if reports/team radio from Ricciardo/Vettel ring true, there’s still improvement available in how the MGU-H assists spool-up, torque-curve broadening via ES/MGU-K, and so on. That, along w/ Newey’s usual aero tweaks, have me thinking RBR looks damned scary as Best of the Rest, for now.

    Grain of salt: IF one takes the energy potential of petrol gasoline (assuming again it’s not much different to F1 fuel) AND assumes the engine manufacturers are meeting their stated VE efficiency goals, 1 Kg/hr of gas is capable of something like 9hp. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s somewhere between 5-15 hp. Nothing to sneeze at in a racing car, remember that’s peak, not averaged throughout the rev range they’re using (9-13k rpm?) IF those large assumptions are carried, and IF we assume RBR/Renault are still having problems integrating ERS/engine, I’d bet the average is less, and the actual lap time improvement for RBR’s indiscretions was minor. Not saying they were right or should be absolved, of course ;)

    The joker for me is Ferrari. They’re still having problems w/ engine/ERS integration and rear MGU-braking, according to some are beyond the front runners aero-wise, and still look to me to have problems w/ rear stability and traction (although Paul Charsely refutes that when stating Bottas couldn’t keep up w/ Kimi accelerating). Lots of big problems compared to the other frontrunners, it seems, but then it’s also Ferrari, w/ Scrooge McDuck levels of money to throw at the problem, and James Allen fully on board to dictate design philosophy. How do others forecast Ferrari’s development curve?

    • PM

      I think Ferrari’s biggest problem in terms of development could be the fact that the engines are now frozen. They can do all they want in terms of aero development but if their engine is overweight and fuel thirsty, as rumored, it will be hard for the team to overcome these issues. Maybe they can make use of the reliability clause and sneak in some performance gains alongside reliability fixes, but I don’t think they will be large enough to overcome the power deficit to mercedes.

      The only thing that the ferrari engine has going for it is that it seems to be cooler than the renault or the mercedes, which allows them to package the rear end of the car much more tightly.

      • They will allow reliability upgrades, which all the team will be doing throughout the year, and at the end of the year, they are allowed a significant percentage of parts for a performance upgrade. They are homologated but there are upgrades that will happen. :)

  • jeff

    I missed Todd’s point about resource limitations, and think it deserves further thought in the argument It’s historically the case, smaller guys limit updates for the European season, so as inadvertently pointed out in the earlier response, I think Mclaren can make gains vs those chasing. Williams seems on a charge, so they’ll be developing the car, but the Saubers/FI/Torro Rossos will stay still, comparatively.

    Mercedes still have a big cushion.

  • Steve W

    They probably can, but then they will then only match Mercedes’ “cruise mode”…

  • eggo_man

    Why would anyone state they are 0.5 sec a lap quicker publicly for the competition to hear? I read some other folks on the interwebs argue this is a strategy to boost their McLaren brand value and snag a title sponsor 3-4 races into the season. I guess given last year’s performance, their value dropped significantly hence why they don’t have a title sponsor yet.

  • peterriva

    I heard from the UK that engineers near Didcot were talking about the fuel flow restriction – they seem to feel it was put in to prevent stop/start race/cruise conditions (much like DRS, on tap extra power when you need it, blocking/cruising when you get in front).
    If you think about it, that makes sense. On some circuits, where it is tough to pass, being able to bring on the full potential of the engine for a brief (more than 100kg.hour) acceleration would act much like DRS, but anywhere on he circuit.