A1 Team Malaysia chief executive Jack Cunningham has said that the squad will not be making any excuses for its performance last time out at Taupo, although things could certainly have been better for Fairuz Fauzy on raceday.
The team picked up two points on a highly-competitive weekend of racing and, while the New Zealand trip wasn't without its problems, Malaysia currently holds seventh in the standings as the series heads to its mid-point and, with six top ten finishes from eight races, is enjoying its best start to a season so far.
"When you are able to calmly and thoroughly review each session, it's clear that we still have further improvements to make and, like all the teams, we strive for this at every opportunity," Cunningham said on his return from 'down under', "One of the challenges we face that impacts on this is budget. We're not the team with the biggest budget and this is not ideal, but it is a priority for us to achieve the financial investment we need to help us to keep improving.
“I also think we need to put our performance in perspective. Last season, we were struggling to score any points or finish in the top ten, but this season we're not willing to accept that level of results, adding to the pressure we put on ourselves and the need to be on top of our game in every session. As we have improved, so have other teams, with the gaps between us and our rival nations becoming tighter and tighter, which also makes it so much harder.”
On the opening day of the Taupo event, there were braking issues for both rookie driver Aaron Lim and main driver Fauzy during Friday practice. A1GP anticipated that the new carbon brake discs would have the necessary performance level for five race weekends, but Malaysia, as with many other teams, found that this wasn't the case. The team believes that a competitive advantage can be gained from regular replacements, following the experience in the practice sessions, and were able to address this later in the weekend.
“The first day on track was overshadowed by our braking problems, but we were also experimenting with different styles of set-up and not fine-tuning for outright speed," chief engineer Alan Mugglestone explained, having seen lap times affected by the brake problems, "In addition, we didn't have the speed in the first sector, but were able to work on this once data from the quickest lap was available to us.”
Taupo's limited overtaking opportunities came to the fore in both races, and Fauzy did not make the best of starts in either the sprint or feature. However, having recovered and settled into the race, pit-stops also cost the team places. Wheel nut problems cost valuable time in one stop, but more expensive was the slow Australian car ahead in the pit-lane as Fauzy exited. Conservative estimates put the loss at two places, although this could have been as many as four.
“There's no need for excuses," Cunningham concluded, "The facts we've analysed show that, to be at the top, you need everything working perfectly and, in Taupo, it didn't quite come together for us - some of this was of our own making and, at other times, it was outside of our control."