Q & A with Allan McNish
|By Simon Strang||Friday, June 12th 2009, 15:45 GMT|
Q. Your qualifying lap looked like you were trying hard.
Allan McNish: Oh I was. Yesterday was pretty tight for time because we had four hours to do a lot of work. Even though it was semi-dry on Wednesday to be honest it was irrelevant in terms of car set-up and what were able to get out of it. We needed to do our tyre verification, our set-up work and so many other different things because the car is still so new.
We did some long runs on the tyres, which took up the whole night in reality, and I wasn't initially going to have a fast run, it was more Tom [Kristensen] that was going to be in the position for that. But because of the way our scheduling worked we were not going to be out for the first 30 minutes of the second session, and I was just at the right point where I had finished a stint, and there were six minutes to go, so I took the opportunity for a run.
That was quite good because I had just started to get a feel for the car. The delay in the time, meant a lot of cars pulled in early to get their work done in the shorter break between the two sessions. So the track was reasonably clear, and we were within two seconds of the chequered flag when I crossed the line.
So all the way around my out-lap they were telling me; 'Push, Push, Push.' So I had to work the tyres harder than I ideally would liked to have done. It actually wasn't that bad, but I would have preferred not to have given them such an attacking out-lap. I had to get past the flag in time and get a chance of it.
Once I did get the chance the lap was quite clean, there was a couple of cars in front of me but nothing in the wrong point. It was a good clean lap and I was quite happy with it.
Q. Are you worried about the pace of the Peugeots?
AM: The Peugeot has pace in hand. Before my lap Franck Montagny had done two red sectors, and interestingly got held up by his team-mate [Pedro Lamy]. Then he brake-tested him! So life in the Peugeot camp might be very fast in the car, but not necessarily calm out of it. They are fighting their own little battles. That is quite humorous from our point of view when you stand there and watch it.
But the two red sectors, and the fact that he got held up and still did a 3m26s - I calculated they are capable of 21s. Which is one and half – 1.7s quicker than us, which is roughly where I think it probably is. That's further away than I was hoping but it is a still a lot closer than it was last year.
Q. Do you put that gap down to being a new car?
AM: I think the advantages they had in Sebring have been multiplied here. There they had a straightline speed advantage, and that is significant here because there are five or six long, big straights. They definitely do benefit there.
Q. Will that help in the race though, or do you need cornering grip to get past the traffic?
AM: There are two theories here. Some people feel you need corner speed to overtake and some feel you need straightline speed to blast past people on the straights. As long as you have good enough aero in the corners then blat past them on the straights, then that is the best way to do it.
I have to say the Pescarolo Peugeot came past me, and I was on a long run, and he could stay behind okay through Tertre Rouge and he came past me on the straight. So even the old car has a reasonable set-up on it.
Q. Are you where you want to be or are you not very happy?
AM: I would like to be in a position where we had another session tonight to get to where we want to be. We now have a clearer picture with the three cars having done different programmes, so we know better where to go from here and I am quite confident we'll get a car balance that we actually need. The car was significantly better after the break than before it.
Q. So there is still a lot of room for improvement in the car?
AM: There is definitely a bit more to come from the car. We have always been better in race trim than in qualifying. We run very close to our race trim and that has been a strength of Audi for a long period of time. I think as drivers we have got the capability to keep it up there at 99% for 100% of the time in every condition. And the adaptability is still a very big strength.
It's a tough battle there's no question, but we are in the ballpark. We were in the ballpark from a much further distance behind last year and the fact that Peugeot had to put two sets of tyres on at the end of the night to try and grab pole means that they are obviously looking over the shoulder at us. And with all the various stuff that's active in the press means that they're nervous and rightly so. Because you have to take a team and a driver line-up like we have got in all three cars seriously. We take them seriously. But the race is on.