Neale: More must be done to improve overtaking

By Ewan Marshall

McLaren’s Jonathan Neale admits that this year’s regulations have not produced the level of overtaking that was hoped for, but still believes that Formula One has all the ingredients to produce on-track drama.

With a significant reduction of aerodynamic downforce, this year’s regulations were expected to allow the cars to follow each other more closely and allow for more overtaking. However so far the regulations have not delivered and have come into criticism from a whole host of figures, including Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali.

McLaren’s Managing Director, Jonathan Neale says that the teams’ were surprised by the results of this year’s cars and had expected a larger field-spread.

“It is really important that Formula One remains attractive and a show.” Neale told reporters during the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes ‘phone-in’, “It has to have great drama in it and overtaking remains a key part of it.”

“As you know we probably saw the largest aerodynamic change in 20 years, designed in part by the overtaking working group, part by the FIA…We saw different tyre regulations as well which has caused certainly plenty of drama with year, with the super-softs, the softs and the medium tyres.

“But I think what none of us expected to see at that time was that the grid would be so close. People talk quite fondly… about motor racing during the 1970s and sometimes even earlier. And they forget that in those days that the difference between first and second could be up to a second. And some of the grid never qualified.

“If you look at… recent races (the gap between the front and back of the grid was) only a second a half. And when you’ve got that level of closeness between the cars, it is more difficult, more challenging.”

Despite this, Neale claimed that McLaren remained committed to improving overtaking within the sport and expressed his desire for more to done within the regulations and at the various circuits throughout the Formula One calendar.

“Yes it (improving overtaking) does remain something which we are committed to do.” said Neale, “I wouldn’t say that the races are without overtaking, it is very circuit dependent of course.”

“The circuit that we’ve just come from in Valencia, is pretty tricky… The circuit grip is changing all over the weekend and there are very few run off areas. So if you try an ambitious move then all hell can break loose.”

“But we shouldn’t get downhearted about it,” Neale added, “I think Spa is a really good example of where a great circuit can give you some great races.”

“During the course of this week I was watching the re-run of last year’s race, reminding myself of that gigantic battle between Kimi and Lewis in the rain… and it was fantastic drama.”

“The short answer is that the regulation change created some new front runners, and of course we underperformed in the beginning of the season so that produced some changes and some drama. But I think there are much more we can do with circuits and I still think there is more we can do with the regulations.”