Sam Michael says that McLaren has a pretty good idea of what need to be changed on the struggling MP4-28 – but the Aussie admits that the team is still exploring every possible avenue.
“To be honest we’re looking at all fronts at the moment,” said Michael after FP1 in Malaysia today. “We have a pretty good understanding of where we think the issues are, and most of those things are things we have to solve in design back at MTC. However we get more and more confidence in knowing what to concentrate on by doing these track tests, because you can set-up certain tests to give you more information about how sensitive a particular area of the car is.
“And that’s what we’re in the middle of. At this point it’s too early to pinpoint externally that’s exactly what it is, even though we’ve got reasonable confidence of what to work on. Also internally you have to stay very open minded, because it normally comes through a sequence of different areas and gains. We’re open-minded at the moment even if we have a good idea of what it is.”
Michael didn’t want to target China or Bahrain as a venue for a step forward.
“As soon as possible really, it’s difficult to set a time frame. With these type of things you’re working through lots of different areas on the car, and you will inevitably uncover things as you go along, to know whether you can fix it for China or Bahrain, I can’t really say yet. We have a lot of people on it, everyone I should say is on it, and the focus is very much to get it sorted asap. There’s some very detailed understanding work going on on the problem.
“The other thing is that when you come out of the other side of this, although you never plan to have an experience like we’ve had now with this car, normally your understanding gets much deeper when you’ve had these problems, because you’re forced to look up every route to look for issues, and that improves your understanding.
“You normally learn a lot more in the face of adversity, as long as you come out the other side. The work that I’ve seen going on in the last weeks in the MTC it’s quite encouraging that we’ll get on top of the problem. I can’t give it a time frame at this moment.”
Asked by this blog how the team could have been surprised by the depth of its problems in Australia – given the simulation tools available – Michael said that the surprise was more the place in the pecking order.
“To be honest going to Melbourne based on the data we had and the pre-season running of the car, it was pretty close to what we thought it would be. The only thing you don’t know is you don’t know what other teams’ programmes are during the winter.
“You can’t really pinpoint the last few tenths. If you look at how close the grid is now, if you look at the pace of our car, in years gone by in the top three teams you could have the problems we’ve got with our car and you’d still qualify fifth and sixth. You’d get beaten by quite a bit but you’d still pick up a lot of points.
“You can’t do that anymore because the grid is so tight. To know exactly where you are for the those last few positions is not possible before you get to Melbourne. To know that we had an issue – of course we knew that before Melbourne, and that’s why a lot of the management and programmes that we put in place for Melbourne and here and future races was already underway.
“We had enough data to know we had an issue and we were not where we wanted to be, and not where we need to be. Melbourne was just final confirmation of suspicions that we already had.”