Tyres the key to McLaren woes?

A conservative Michelin tyre choice is the most likely explanation for McLaren's worst qualifying performance of the season, at a track where they could reasonably have been expected to challenge hard

Tyres the key to McLaren woes?

David Coulthard will start the race from 10th position and team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who has never qualified lower than sixth this year, is 11th.

"We don't know," said team boss Ron Dennis when asked to explain the problem.

He added: "Our best estimate at the moment is tyres. That's not an excuse because of the competitiveness of other teams on Michelin tyres, but we know that Michelin was concerned after Hockenheim.

"I think certainly ourselves, and Williams, were surprised at the tyre choice for this event. Normally we see Williams running on the prime (harder) tyre and us on the option (softer) tyre. But here the prime is way out of range and the option is in a range that, maybe, we can't get our car to work in."

One source close to McLaren joked that the team could probably run the entire Indy 500 on its Hungarian tyre, never mind 30 laps of Hungaroring.

If the McLaren can perform on a softer tyre than many of the other Michelin teams, it begs the question why Michelin does not opt for a prime tyre that it knows will hold up, alongside an option tyre that is riskier but which might allow McLaren to challenge Ferrari, as the team did in Monte Carlo.

The political downside of that, however, is that beating Ferrari is a tall order anyway and if other Michelin teams are also tempted to run the soft, which subsequently falls apart, it leaves the company open to negative publicity.

"The Williams is a different animal and is more aggressive on its tyres," Dennis explained. "If you have that dynamic aggression, then it does mean that a harder tyre can work. If the ambient goes up tomorrow we could probably be reasonably competitive but around here it is so difficult to overtake. I think I've got a strong enough character, but tomorrow afternoon could see it strengthened a bit further..."

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