2010 Hungarian Grand Prix: Friday News Round-up

McLaren out to challenge the legality of the ‘flexi-wing’; Dennis: McLaren’s pace is just fine

Martin Whitmarsh has revealed that McLaren have asked the FIA to clarify the legality of Red Bull’s flexible front wing.

The controversial aerodynamic device has concerned a number of teams, after pictures showed that the endplates of the wing bent towards the ground while the car was at speed.

Movable aerodynamic devices are currently banned in Formula One and, with Ferrari having also introduced a similar concept to its car, Whitmarsh has questioned its validity.

“At the moment if you look at the front wing endplates they have to be 85mm above the bottom of the plank,” McLaren’s team principal told the BBC.

“It’s difficult for us to imagine how with any form of linear deflection you can be in any danger of those [endplates] hitting the ground.

“Obviously there are [cars with] endplates that have skids, which would suggest they are making contact with the ground.

“We are trying to clarify that with the FIA because it seems unusual to us.”

Whitmarsh also confirmed that McLaren would have no choice but to introduce its own version of  the device, if it was ruled legal by the sport’s governing body.

“If, ultimately, devices and systems are allowed [on parts] which in theory are meant to be rigid which allow devices to touch the ground, I guess we’ll have to do it,”

Meanwhile, McLaren’s former team boss has revealed that he has been infuriated by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s criticism of the MP4-25’s qualifying pace.

In an exclusive interview with Autosport, Ron Dennis revealed that the Woking-based outfit had designed its 2010 challenger with the view of maximising its race pace and stated that this had been key to the team’s success, so far this season.

“For some of our competitors, having the edge in qualifying is to the detriment of their reliability, and also, they don’t have great team strategy.” he said.

“There are two ways to develop a car under the current regulations. We knew that the car had to have 200 odd-kilos of fuel in it and then go through the whole race. We’ve got the tyres degrading and the fuel level going down.

“We felt that we put great emphasis on the ability of the car to be gentle on the tyres and for the tyres to be in really good shape throughout the race. If you do that, it’s to the detriment of being able to get the best out of the tyre in a qualifying condition.

“No question, we don’t have an optimised car for qualifying. But we do have a very good race car. And in the end we’ve won races and we’re leading both world championships, and both of our drivers are first and second.

“So I find it slightly infuriating, and I’ve voiced my opinion, when my guys get out of the cars and say, ‘I wish I was on the front row’ and build in the media the perception that we’re giving them cars that are less capable of winning races – I do point out to them, ‘Well, I still think you won four races between the two of you. Aren’t you leading the world championships?’ It’s the nature of drivers.”

Despite Dennis’ comments the McLaren duo have played down their chances of winning in Hungary and will instead aim to score as many points as possible to limit the damaged done by their rivals.

“It’s been an interesting day. We’ve just been focusing on our package and trying to optimise what we have. And the car was the best I’ve ever driven around here – it felt really great through the corners.

“But, even so, we’re losing quite a bit of time in the middle sector, and a couple of tenths in the first and third sectors, too.” Lewis Hamilton said after Friday practice. “And then, as you start to push harder, in order to close the gap to the guys in front, the car begins to feel like it’s a little bit on the ragged edge.”

“I think we’re pretty much getting the best out of the package we have we’re dialing-in the set-up pretty effectively but there’s still maybe a few tenths to come. So we know we’ve got a lot of work to do: this weekend is really about scoring as many points as we can, and hoping the guys ahead run into trouble.

“It’s going to be tough, but we’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and stay focused. And we’ll do that, no doubt about it. As always, of course, I’ll be pushing as hard as I can.”

Team-mate Jenson Button added:

“I’m reasonably happy with the car today. It didn’t feel too great on the Option tyre, but the balance was good on the Prime. However, we’re a little bit behind the Red Bulls and the Ferraris.

“It’s probably therefore going to be a tricky weekend for us. There are still areas where we can improve, which is positive, but we’re unlikely to close the gap completely here in Hungary. Hopefully, though, we’ll see an improvement tomorrow, and that will move us closer.

“Still, we need to be doing the best job we can with the equipment we have, and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing. I know all the guys back at the McLaren Technology Centre are working flat-out to keep improving this car, and I’ve got absolute belief in them.”

Alonso: Red Bull still catchable

Despite behind unable to match the ultimate pace of Red bull in either of Friday’s practice sessions, Fernando Alonso is still gunning for victory in Hungary.

Although the Spaniard managed to split the two RB6’s in practice 2, he still ended the session half a second shy of Sebastian Vettel.

However, the 28-year-old remains upbeat about Ferrari’s chances and is expecting an interesting battle in tomorrow’s qualifying session.

“I hope we can stay close to our main rivals, who seemed very strong today and be able to fight them in Q3 tomorrow afternoon.” Alonso said after practice. “For now, we are still a bit behind by a few tenths, even if we won’t know the truth until qualifying.”

“We certainly need to work on the set-up of the car to improve its performance, especially in the second and third sectors. Compared to Hockenheim, where the car was well balanced, here we are suffering with a bit too much understeer, but all the same it feels pretty good. We did various aerodynamic tests and, in the end, it seems the car is more competitive without the blown rear wing. Overall, we are happy with how things went today, even if we are well aware that one cannot rely much on Friday’s times.

“As for McLaren, whom one should not forget lead both championships, we seem to have the upper hand, but so often we have seen them struggle on a Friday before then being very competitive. Tomorrow afternoon, it will be very important to secure a place in the top three because it would be hard to fight for the win starting further back.”

Force India in second tyre blunder

Finally, Force India has been fined 5000 euros, after test driver Paul di Resta was found to have used a set of tyres which were not allocated for the first practice session.

According to Manipe F1 di Resta, who was driving in place of Tonio Liuzzi, completed his installation lap on a set of prime tyres which had been set aside for third practice tomorrow.

Subsequently, race stewards judged the Silverstone-based team to have broke Article 25.4, which states: “Each nominated driver will be allocated three sets of dry-weather tyres for use during P1 and P2, two of “prime” specification and one of “option” specification. These are the only dry-weather tyres which may be used during these sessions.”

The mix-up cost the Scot almost an hour of running, although he still managed to set the session’s fifteenth fastest time.

Last weekend saw Force India reprimanded for fitting the wrong tyres to both its cars during a pitstop in the opening stages of the German Grand Prix.