Kovalainen: McLaren learned from 2009

McLaren's current struggles may suggest it has made little progress in getting to the bottom of what has gone wrong this year, but Heikki Kovalainen is convinced that the team will not make the same errors with its 2010 car

Kovalainen: McLaren learned from 2009

Although early season progress with the MP4-24 appears to have stalled, especially with the high-speed track punishing the car's aerodynamic deficiencies, Kovalainen is sure that behind-the-scenes efforts are paying off in ensuring the team bounces back to form next season.

When asked if he felt the team's rate of development with the car had tailed off, Kovalainen said: "No, I don't think so. I think it is easier to see the results and the bigger gains initially when you are so far off the pace.

"We are catching up now but the gaps are quite small - and at every race now we have new parts. I think in Istanbul we had 11 new parts in the car actually, and at Silverstone we had a modified floor and some modified elements on the front wings, plus modified hub cabs on the front wheels.

"But it is not any more the half a second in lap time we find - it is just smaller steps. You are talking about 30 milliseconds being a good step. They are small gaps and it is very difficult to see them.

"When you are optimising your car and fundamentally it is not right, then at some point you are going to hit the limiter aren't you? I think that is what happened initially to us - we were away from the optimisation of this car. We saw big gains, and now it is flattening out.

"But it is still important to keep pushing and trying different concepts and different directions, especially with the aerodynamics - the floor, the wings, to understand and make sure that the philosophy of next year's car is correct. It will be different to this year's car."

So keen is Kovalainen to ensure that McLaren gets things spot on with its 2010 car that he reckons the team must be willing to accept making the odd error this year in trying out development paths.

"I think the team is doing a very systematic job of actually attacking the problem," added the Finn.

"I have spent quite a lot of time in the factory now talking to the designers, both myself and Lewis have been there, to talk to designers, and the people who are in change of next year's car already, and we shared our thoughts and views on what we thought the car was doing, and what we thought it needed. I think that is very crucial and the team is doing very well.

"We might not see the results instantly, and in some cases we might even see a step backwards as we realise that that was not the right way to go, but I think it is more important to find a good direction for next year while still pushing and optimising this year's car as much as we can."

And although McLaren's fortunes this year are a world away from its title charge in 2008, Kovalainen reveals that the attitude within the team is remarkably unchanged.

"When things go well you still don't see the satisfaction in people - you don't see them relaxing and thinking that everything is good," he said. "Everybody is still always criticising everybody, and always you find the area where you can still improve - even last year.

"Now, it is just the same - it is still quite calm, analysing the problems, looking at the telemetry, looking at the data, and saying, 'okay, this is what is happening. What do we need to do now?'

"People are always asking questions, and it is attacking the problem in a similar way. It has surprised me a little bit when I went around the factory, talking to people, how this problem has been dealt with and how this team is attacking this problem.

"I think it is the same as it was last year when there were not such big problems, and I didn't realise it or pay that much attention, but now there are more problems I try to be more involved with the team, and see if I can help more and see how the team works.

"It is more impressive and it just gives me confidence that the team is capable of fixing this problem very quickly and getting back on the game."

shares
comments
Red Bull vs Brawn: The balance of power

Previous article

Red Bull vs Brawn: The balance of power

Next article

Q & A with Heikki Kovalainen

Q & A with Heikki Kovalainen
Load comments
The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest Plus

The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest

Despite appearing to adjust to life as a Ferrari driver with relative ease, it was far from straightforward under the surface for Carlos Sainz Jr. But, having made breakthroughs in rather different routes at the Russian and Turkish races, he’s now targeting even greater feats for the rest of the Formula 1 season

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Plus

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Autosport's technical consultant

Formula 1
Oct 18, 2021
Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Plus

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding 
into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? STUART CODLING talks to the man in charge

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Plus

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Plus

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers Plus

Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory Plus

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021