McLaren is confident in the progress it is making with its 2011 F1 challenger as the team once again hints about innovative design concepts that it hopes will give it an edge.
The team that gained a head start on the opposition at the start of this year by pioneering the F-duct is again trying to push the boundaries with its MP4-26. Tim Goss, chief engineer of the 2010 car, has said that early feedback from its development is promising, as he thinks that there remains plenty of room in the regulations for teams to be radical with ideas.
"It's looking very good," Goss told AUTOSPORT. "We can't say much about it at the moment, but Doug [McKiernan, chief aerodynamicist] and his team have done a great job of creating the aerodynamic platform for the car, and it is looking good."
When asked if there was scope for further innovation in 2011, with the F-duct having been banned, Goss said, "Absolutely. It is good, and it is nice that there are still those niches around. There is always room in the regulations for innovation, and making championship winning cars is about doing that.
"[The F-duct] was a gray area and we had to properly explore the regulations. All credit to Charlie [Whiting, FIA technical delegate] and the FIA that they didn't back away from it. They heard the arguments, believed them and let us get on with it. They were fully up to speed before we raced it."
Goss and McKiernan claimed a Pioneering and Innovation Award at last weekend's AUTOSPORT Awards for their work in bringing the F-duct into F1. Both men said, however, that credit for the F-duct should be shared throughout the whole McLaren operation, because of the leap of faith needed to get it approved for racing.
"It was actually an awful lot of hard work," explained Goss. "We had a pretty crazy idea and to turn that into reality then you have to have people who believe in the aerodynamicists.
"Aerodynamicists will often come up with an idea that seems pretty stupid – and when you say, 'We are going to use the driver to somehow stall the rear wing,' then you will have lots of doubters.
"So you have to put a case together that says it is actually going to be legal, it is going to make the car quicker, we are going to get it to work and it is worth all the time and effort and resources that we sink into it. We had to put together a whole chunk of aerodynamic development and engineering time to turn what was just an idea and a few sketches into reality."
McKiernan added: "It is easy for the aerodynamicists to get an idea to work but you need faith all the way through the organization, because it is hundreds of thousands of pounds to get something actually onto the car."
When asked if the team was surprised that it took rival teams until the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to figure out fully to what McLaren was doing with the F-duct, Goss said: "It surprised me because when we launched the car I thought it was going to be fairly obvious. I think maybe some of the other teams and aerodynamicists could spot what was going on, but certainly the motoring press really did not properly understand what was going on until the first race."