Q & A with McLaren's Phil Prew

Q. Jenson and Lewis both emphasised the need for fast one-lap times in qualifying. Now that McLaren has been forced to close up the diffuser at the FIA's insistence, how much of a change will this have on their one-lap performance at Albert Park?

Q & A with McLaren's Phil Prew

Phil Prew - McLaren's principal race engineer: The modifications to the diffuser, for us, were quite small, and we don't anticipate it to have any real effect on performance. It certainly won't be better, but we're not anticipating any real loss of performance with that.

We're hoping in terms on one-lap performance in qualifying that we're able to find a slightly better balance than we had in Bahrain, and we're hopeful that we can have a better showing in qualifying which, as was clear to see, one of our weaknesses last week.

Q. In terms of the diffuser, how much of a difference does the change make per lap?

PP: Really, the changes that we've had to put in for the diffuser are very minor, and we don't anticipate it to be any change, to be honest, in terms of the downforce that it produces. It was a clarification of the regulations which hasn't affected us at all, to be honest.

Q. There was a lot of fuss about the impact that the refueling ban had upon strategy in Bahrain, but do you think it was naive for people to expect any different?

PP: No, not really. The first race I think was always going to be very different as the teams and the drivers got used to the different format, and I think there was some trepidation from everybody about how the tyres would hang in with the heavy fuel loads and stuff. I think as the drivers and teams get more used to racing in these conditions it will get more exciting, to be honest. Albert Park is always a race that has lots of twists and turns in terms of safety cars and so on. I think it's early days to be making massive sweeping statements about the new regulations, but I'm optimistic that the races will get more exciting.

Q. What was your take on the initial performance of the new teams at the first race, given the timeframe in which they went from zero to being on the grid?

PP: Whilst it was good to see them finish, I think it does clearly show the difficulty in making competitive Formula 1 cars, in that they are a long way off. The five, ten seconds that they showed in qualifying is a massive amount of lap time to find. But equally, when they are that far back there are a lot of very quick gains that they can make, and I am sure that they'll make very quick progress.

It's always a big incentive when you being to see where you are in respect to the competition and I'm sure that they'll be able to make very rapid improvements from this point provided that they have the resources and the budget to back that up.

Q. Are you worried about the prospect of a wet race on Sunday, or do you think you could benefit from it?

PP: We have two drivers that have both excelled in the wet in the past. It will be an opportunity for everybody, and hopefully we'll make the most of it. It will be a challenge, but it should be quite exciting. Speaking to the guys, we talked about the prospect of rain and both of them were relishing it. So we're up for rain.

Q. It seems that Sauber, Force India and Red Bull have developed something similar to the f-duct system. How does McLaren feel about other teams copying something that you have devoted quite a lot of time innovating?

PP: Now we've led the way with the innovation, I think it is a system that is possible to copy and reasonably straightforward. The press have covered it very thoroughly, and it is a system that they can well adopt. Hopefully they don't see quite as much laptime performance we believe we get from it. It was inevitable, but hopefully we'll be able to continue developing it and keep exploiting it one step ahead of the rest.

Q. When did you first come up with the concept?

PP: We're constantly looking at new ideas, and this is one that was developed for the MP4/25 and that's what we see here, through the winter test programme which was four weeks.

Q. Regarding Lewis's comments about the Red Bull being ridiculously fast - do you agree with what he said?

PP: They had a strong performance in Bahrain, for sure, but I wouldn't call it ridiculous. Lewis himself has had some ridiculous qualifying performances at certain circuits. I remember in 2008 in Canada he was 0.7s quicker than everyone else in qualifying. That was only a one-off event.

Certainly Sebastian Vettel hooked it up in qualifying and did a great job, but remember that Lewis did outqualify Mark Webber. So it's too early to say just yet about outright performance, and I think by the time we come back into Europe we'll have a better idea.

McLaren downplays diffuser changes
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