McLaren sporting director Sam Michael is confident that the car upgrades McLaren ran for the first time in Friday morning practice at Hockenheim today are a major step forward.
The new package includes modified sidepods and exhaust, as well as tweaks to the diffuser and other aerodynamic modifications. There are also some mechanical changes. Michael described the first morning of running as "positive" and believes that the new parts will allow McLaren to fight at the front.
"Obviously with the session that we had, it was quite difficult to analyze everything, but we had probably the best session we could have in terms of a wet session," he said. "We still got through all of the program on the cars and the engineers are busy going through the data to find out what's what. So far, it looks positive.
"We expect to be fighting for pole position here and winning the grand prix. We would come here with that approach whether we had this upgrade or not. But the upgrade obviously gives you more incentive."
Michael is confident that if the upgraded car performs as expected, McLaren will be able to climb back into strong title contention.
"We are only halfway through the season and it's not that far a gap to the guys in front," he said. "If you win a race and the teams we are up against have a DNF, then that can put you right back in the frame. It's going to be like that this year, going up and down for everybody. It's a result of the grid being tight, which means it is putting much more emphasis on development rates through the season. So every time you bring an upgrade to the track, it doesn't matter how big or small it is, you look for correlation to the wind tunnel to make sure that it works properly – and so far the signs are good from today."
He added that he is hopeful that the upgrade will improve the way that the team is using the Pirelli tires. This is after Jenson Button said yesterday that more downforce is always an advantage in masking tire problems.
"It's something you are always working to improve," he said. "You are always working to improve degradation and often the lap time. All these parts should help that as well.
"Every time you improve the general grip of the car you will improve that. But there is also the understanding of how you are working the tire. That's an important factor."