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Horner: McLaren's struggle for pace 'hard to understand'

Christian Horner has added his voice to those within the Formula 1 paddock who fear Brawn GP could walk away with this weekend's curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – but he admits that McLaren-Mercedes' contrasting lack of pace in testing has been 'harder to understand'.

With the ex-Honda outfit frequently atop the timesheets and multiple world champions McLaren languishing right down towards the bottom, it would appear as if the top flight's substantial regulation changes for 2009 could just have turned the running order entirely on its head as the action prepares to roar into life Down Under this weekend. Horner hints that there could be more than a few surprises.

“Yes I do,” the Red Bull Racing team principal told Crash.net Radio, when asked if Brawn and McLaren really are respectively as quick and slow as they have looked. “I think their performances are absolutely genuine.

“I think Brawn have come up with a good car; they've obviously worked longer in the wind tunnel, having aborted their 2008 season before anybody else. They seem to have exploited a couple of things within the regulations that perhaps were a little grey, but they've obviously done a very good job.

“They've got a good engine and good driver line-up and they look very strong, whereas the McLaren performance in testing has been harder to understand – but there are no points for testing. It all comes down to the races.”

One of those loopholes in the regulations that some teams suspect Brawn has 'exploited' – and to an unfair degree – is that regarding the diffuser. It is suggested that an innovative design has provided the Brackley-based concern – in company with rivals Williams and Toyota – with an increased level of downforce and therefore grip at the rear of the car, and the issue has provoked a storm in Melbourne with a Red Bull, BMW-Sauber and Renault-initiated protest hanging over the race [see separate story – click here].

“I think that obviously the FIA as the regulator writes the regulations, and it's down to them to police them,” Horner stated. “We trust their judgement, but it's important that any ambiguities obviously are clarified.”

The Englishman spoke finally of the controversial optional budget cap and subsequently delayed new scoring system unveiled by the sport's governing body earlier this month, admitting that whilst he is not against teams having a set spending power per se, he echoes the Formula One Teams' Association's (FOTA) fears over the future direction F1 appears to be taking.

“I think the reality is that whilst budget caps are difficult to police, they're probably the only fair way without penalising somebody for either having too many or too few wind tunnels or simulators or whatever,” the 35-year-old reasoned.

“If you're to say to each team 'this is the amount of budget you have – it's down to you how you apply and spend it' that sounds the fairest thing to do. However, inevitably the dispute will always be about how much, and obviously the devil with these things tends to be within the detail as to how you would actually police it.

“Both parties (the FIA and FOTA) are trying very hard to reduce costs. I think the teams are doing very good work, and it needs all parties to work collectively. The FIA have taken quite a strong stance in the World Council meeting, and hopefully a balance can be achieved between the FOTA work and the FIA initiative.”

by Russell Atkins

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Christian Horner (NED) Red Bull Sporting Director, German F1 Grand Prix, Hockenheim, 18th-20th, July, 2008

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Mark - Unregistered

March 26, 2009 2:03 PM

Gee, it looks like McLaren-Mercedes are struggling just like they did when Kimi used to drive for them, right before the Spygate saga. Makes me wonder how many World championships Kimi could have won if the McLaren's Kimi drove were as good as the last two years?

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