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Q & A with Martin Whitmarsh

McLaren has caused quite a stir so far in Bahrain with its ingenious venting system that is believed to manipulate an air flow through the cockpit to stall the rear wing on straights and improve the car's speed.

The MP4-25 passed an FIA inspection and scrutineering at the Sakhir circuit today, after which Martin Whitmarsh spoke to AUTOSPORT about the system, why he believes it will not be protested and how he expects rival teams to copy it.

Martin WhitmarshQ. Your car has now passed scrutineering. Were you always confident of that, or was there any concern the FIA would ask you to change something?

Martin Whitmarsh: No. The concept of all the features on our car has been openly discussed and disclosed to the FIA for some time. They've expressed that they were comfortable and therefore I wouldn't have expected it to be different today.

Q. Is it correct that the diffuser configuration you have on the car here isn't the one that you used for the final Barcelona test?

MW: That is not correct. In Barcelona we fitted this diffuser on Saturday.

Q. That's the one with the wider hole?

MW: Yes.

Q. And that's the one you will use this weekend?

MW: Yes. The aero package that we have here is the one that we introduced Saturday/Sunday in Barcelona. There are a few little bits and pieces new, but the fundamental front wing, nose, floor, diffuser, sidepods and sidepod wings were all changed for the last two days. That's the basic package we have here with just a few little bits and pieces.

Q. With the tub being homologated this season, modifications can't be made. With your innovative vent system have you stolen a march on other teams who can't copy what you are doing immediately?

MW: Most parts of our car can be copied, but we put a bit of effort in there while saving putting effort somewhere else. During the course of the year I'm sure that we'll look for what are clever and inventive parts on other cars and probably people will do the same with ours.

Q. The issue with channelling the airflow through the cockpit - the driver is going to be the movable part in this?

MW: I couldn't possibly say...

Q. If so, that's stolen a march as no-one can copy that idea because of the homologated tubs?

MW: If you are picking up on the inlet system, then I would imagine that for access reasons, firstly your nose box is approved and you'd have to re-test it if you wanted to put ducting through your nose, which you could do. But I'd also imagine that for access even just for pedal changes and various things in the front of the monocoque, ordinarily there are access panels that would give you the facility to put ducts in. I'm guessing, because I haven't looked.

If you look on our car, there are a number of access panels that are in the homologated chassis and also the monocoque is homologated. You can change the nose. If they wanted to increase the cooling to the driver, then they'd have to do that via an access hole that exists in the monocoque or through the nose.

Q. Are you aware of anyone else doing this?

MW: No. I'm pretty sure that there's no-one like it.

Q. Are you quite satisfied and smug that no-one else has done this?

MW: I think I'll be smug - if that's the right expression - in Abu Dhabi if we win the championship. But I'm not going to be smug just yet. It's very difficult. We appear to be competitive but we're not complacent and it's certainly too early to be smug at the moment. We're here to win some races and then win a championship. Until we've done that, no-one in the team is going to feel happy with what has happened.

Q. Red Bull Racing has ruled out a protest and thinks that its job now is to develop it themself...

MW: From what I understand, there are no grounds for a protest. I don't think everyone yet understands the nature of the systems that are on our car. So if they put a protest in, it would potentially be on a wrong set of assumptions as to what we've got. So we will see.

Q. Is it fair to say that it was a real fear for you that people would copy it?

MW: It's not a fear. It's like anything you have on the car. You want to expose it as late as possible and you want it to be as difficult as you can possible make it for people to copy it.

Q. So it's satisfying to have done that?

MW: We'll see. In fairness, at the start of last year there were double diffusers and that took a lot of us a lot of time, depending on how fortuitous you were with rear suspension packaging. Unless you had worked on the idea in the concept of the car, it was quite difficult to do. It was a bit of a race for all of us that didn't have double diffusers to find the way forward. I still think that what happened on double diffusers was wrong.

We were quiet about it last year because we had other things to worry about. But what was commonly understood as impermeable floors to have holes through them was completely against any previous interpretation. I am not criticising the teams. I think it was a mistake to have accepted that as legal. I would have thought that the person who originally put in that punt did not expect to get agreement.

When they got agreement they were probably surprised and delighted. F1 being as it is, it probably permeated to one or two other teams two other teams precisely because it wasn't something that anyone who had been involved in F1 would have assumed was permissible. We certainly wouldn't have assumed and I personally never thought it was. We've all got them now because you're obliged to and we won't have them next year, so the cars will all change again.

Q. No-one is saying this is like the double diffuser in terms of performance advantage. Is this going to kick off a race?

MW: People will look at what we have got on our car and I would imagine that most teams are now looking for how they would implement such a system. I think there was a "what is it?" question initially, then there was "it can't be legal" and now people are starting to understand it there is "how quickly can we implement it?"

Most people are saying that it was something quite ingenious. This was a very creative and ingenious individual in our company who came up with the idea and we've developed it.

Q. Would you like to name him?

MW: Maybe in time. Secrets in F1 have a remarkably short shelf life and we will make sure that, in due course, the individual gets quite a lot of credit.

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