17 June 2014
McLaren to evaluate F1 ‘performance steps’ at Red Bull Ring
Eric Boullier confirms that McLaren will be trialling further F1 developments at this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix, as the team continues to chase downforce.
Despite taking fourth and ninth places last time out at the Canadian Grand Prix, McLaren admits that it is still not where it wants to be in terms of performance from its MP4-29 and will be trialling further developments at this weekend's Austrian round.
Jenson Button's fourth position in Montreal was, the team admits, in no small part due to Lewis Hamilton's retirement and the late collision between Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez, but provided sufficient encouragement for the Woking squad as it returns to Europe and the first Austrian Grand Prix since 2003.
McLaren accepts, however, that it is still some way from challenging at the front of the field, and still struggling to be a constant match for Red Bull, Ferrari and, on Montreal form, both the Mercedes-powered Force India and Williams teams which sandwich it in the latest constructors' series standings.
“Jenson's fine fourth place in Canada was more the result of some great team strategy calls and a hungry and opportunistic drive from Jenson himself than an improvement in the overall pace of our car,” racing director Eric Boullier confirmed, “Kevin drove very well in Montreal too, although his race was thwarted by traffic and ill luck. Still, it's a mark of the strength of the organisation that we can achieve results like these at a track where it's often easy to falter.
“Nonetheless, we're still not where we need to be. Since the beginning of the season, we've stated that we need to bring more downforce to the car. Of course, that's a constantly moving target – for this weekend, however, we'll be evaluating a number of short- and long-term performance steps. It's still too early to feel confident about calling them 'raceable' options – it's more about evaluating their applicability at the circuit than simply hoping they'll improve lap-time. Nonetheless, we hope the steps will pave the way for an improvement.”
Through its various iterations – from the former Zeltweg airfield via magnificent Osterreichring and safety-conscious A1-Ring – the home of the Austrian grand prix has been kind to McLaren, whose six race wins remain the benchmark in F1. From a technical point of view, the Red Bull Ring layout is similar to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, albeit slightly less extreme. Fuel consumption is expected to be hard, but manageable; brake wear will be high, but the four long straights will aid cooling, and high top speeds will once again be crucial to success. The track surface is also very smooth, which allows Pirelli to bring the two softest tyre compounds in its range, and Boullier hopes that history will remain on his squad's side through the 71-lap encounter.
“I'm looking forward to a challenging - but successful - weekend in Austria,” the Frenchman noted, “It's good news to see a new, albeit historic, European venue added to the calendar, and everybody will be hoping that this weekend's event is a successful one.”
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