McLaren Mercedes has dispelled media rumblings that the Woking-based team would be dusting off the 2012 MP4-27s for the 2013 season after the disappointing performance of the team's two MP4-28s during last week’s opening round in Melbourne.
Sam Michael, McLaren Mercedes’ sporting director said in a phone conference reported on Formula1.com that, “All of our energies are on the 28A. That’s what we think will offer us the best chance over the course of the season and at this point in time that’s where all our efforts are going.”
McLaren redesigned their suspension for the MP4-28, now using pull rods on all four corners instead of a push rod suspension, which certainly created changes in the handling characteristics of the new chassis. The new redesign is intended to enhance aerodynamic efficiency around suspension arm components and around the car’s bodywork. It also slightly lowers the center of gravity of suspension components.
Scuderia Ferrari attempted this redesign on last year’s F2012 and struggled mightily through testing and the first rounds of 2012. We may be seeing a repeat of Ferrari’s plight as McLaren works out the kinks in these next rounds. The redesign may also be a development that McLaren is evaluating for 2014 when major changes to the sport’s technical regulations will be implemented.
It is unknown if Michael specifically mentioned suspension redesign woes in the phone conference but he did say McLaren will be looking for increased performance from every component. “When you are looking for performance as we are at the moment, you look everywhere, so we have programmes on everything. We have a good idea of what we need to concentrate on, but until we’ve got on top of that then we’ll keep our minds open to everything.”
Michael is slightly optimistic but remains realistic heading into the Malaysia Grand Prix race weekend.
“When you go to this [Malaysia] race you have the benefit of the knowledge of Melbourne. We obviously have more understanding of the car and that actually allows you to manage the race weekend better…In terms of where it puts us I don’t know. I suspect it won’t change the order too much. It’ll be a similar order to what we saw in Melbourne and in testing.”
The team’s times during the first day of free practice at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit had both Button and Perez sitting outside the top 10. However, according to Michael, Friday practice was devoted to testing new and experimental parts. “We have two lines of new parts. One is normal development that was going to come anyway to the car, and then we’ve got some experimental stuff to work through on Friday, some of which is just background test items to help us further understand [the car].”