Sam Michael says he has faith that McLaren's designers can pull the team out of its current slump, explaining that they will not have forgotten how to design a winning car.
While it remains unlikely that the current MP4-28 will reach the podium, let alone win a race, in 2013, Michael is confident that the Woking squad will be more of a factor next season, particularly as a major overhaul of the regulations will help to level the playing field. McLaren has not posted a top three finish since Jenson Button won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix last November and, without a significant upturn in performance, faces the very real threat of missing out on silverware completely in 2013.
Michael echoes team principal Martin Whitmarsh's concession that McLaren went too radical with its latest design [ see separate story
], based on decisions taken while the team was struggling for form midway through the 2012 campaign.
“We took too many risks compared to what we had to, particularly as we were winning grands prix at the end of last year,” Michael admitted during a media phone-in ahead of this weekend's race at Monza, “We know we made a mistake - and we've had many discussions about that internally – [but] we know what we're doing going forward.
“The team of guys that designed this car are the same team that designed winning cars previously - they're all the same designers, engineers and technicians so I've got every confidence that they can do the same again next year.”
Like the other ten teams on the grid, McLaren's design process is being hampered by the ongoing delay in deciding a tyre supplier for 2013. Although the teams, and Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management, have agreed terms with current supplier Pirelli, the FIA has yet to follow suit, allowing Michelin the chance to make a play for the 2014 deal. Michael, however, denies that the unresolved issue is a major concern for the design team.
“We're assuming that it's Pirelli and we're just engaging with them technically,” he revealed, "If that changed, like anything in F1, then you'd adapt, because F1 is all about change management.
“[A different supplier] affects your tyre profile, both in CFD and the wind tunnel, [and] it also affects suspension geometry and set-up. But, right now, we're fully down the road of designing our car for Pirelli tyres, assuming that's what it's going to be."
Whilst gradually turning its attention to producing the 2014 car, Michael insists that McLaren will still continue to chase a top three finish this season, as much to continue a streak that has existed since the start of the 1980s. Picking the race where it may happen, however, isn't easy.
“Monza should be good for us, but it will be difficult to score a podium on merit, particularly as we start to concentrate a lot on the 2014 car,” Michael conceded, “Although we're still bringing parts to the 2013 car, they're not the normal developments you'd bring when you're pushing in a performance race against other teams.
“Instead, they're parts that are results of studies we've done for 2014. They can still be quite effective, but they're less known in terms of looking forward three or four races knowing exactly what's coming. As a result, predicting where a podium might come is quite tricky, but we'll keep pushing until the very last race.”