McLaren has joined the group of teams pushing for the return of KERS to Formula 1, as the sport aims for a greener future.
The British squad's engineer, Tim Goss, spoke about KERS, a greener F1, and much more with reporters on Wednesday.
Q. It's been suggested that the 2013 engine regulations will be based on 1.5-liter turbos with KERS. Is that a concept McLaren would support?
Tim Goss: As far as 2013 is concerned, I think Formula 1 does need to move on, and show it is aligned with the fuel efficiency age. We fully support all that the Engine Working Group and FOTA are doing in that direction. The concept of a normally aspirated 2.4-liter V8 is getting a bit dated. Moving to turbocharging and KERS is the right thing to do.
Formula 1 does need to maintain itself as the pinnacle of motorsport and engine performance, so it needs an engine formula that is associated with high performance, but also fuel efficiency. Overall it's moving in the right direction and we fully support it.
Q. How urgent is it to know what's happening with tires for 2011?
TG: Obviously we're well into designing next year's car and, as always, as an engineer, you want to know what the regulations are before you design the car. It makes it a little bit more difficult but in some ways makes it a little bit more exciting and challenging. As far as the tire is concerned, we need to know what the performance of the front and rear tires will be so that we can get the fundamental balance right. The profile of the tires also provides a reference in terms of front and rear wings.
The tire shape both loaded and unloaded is important aerodynamically. You optimize your front wing to the efficiency of the tire. So, the shape and size of the tire, and the wheel, are important aerodynamically.
As engineers we'd love to have all that information. But we understand it's a difficult process.
Q. How far are you from a critical time in terms of needing to know those details?
TG: At the moment I'd say it's not critical, but clearly the sooner we know the better. Even if we do know the size, it will take some time to start working with it and understand how we're going to ascertain the relative performance of the tires, the characteristics and the degradation.
Q. Can you explain why in some recent races Lewis Hamilton has gone well in practice, Q1 and Q2, then it's gone away from him in Q3?
TG: Both China and Australia were slightly different situations. In Australia, we were obviously all a bit shocked and surprised by our qualifying performance. When we looked at it afterward and did a lot of analysis, in the end we believe it came down to tire preparation – we didn't get the tires into the requisite for performance in qualifying, we just got that slightly out, and Lewis never really hooked it up.
In China, we were particularly competitive through practice, Q1 and Q2, then coming into Q3 the wind changed and picked up a little bit, and that caught Lewis out into Turn 11. He made just a very small mistake and missed his line, but actually the repercussions of that were pretty big. Consequently he underperformed to his expectations.
In terms of Australia, it was our own advice to Lewis, and in China he just made a very slight mistake.
Q. What will be the most interesting aspect of the updates for Spain?
TG: You'll notice the front wing and the rear wing, both of which are having changes. On top of that, there will be fairly small and subtle changes elsewhere to the car. At the rear of the car, there will be some changes to the floor at the back. But if you want to look out for anything, then look out for the front wing and the rear wing.
Q. How much improvement in qualifying pace do you feel you've made since Bahrain, and do you feel you can get among the Red Bulls at Barcelona?
TG: We certainly have closed the gap. After the Barcelona test at the end of February, we were quite confident that we were there or thereabouts. We were a little bit taken aback in Bahrain. We were some way off, especially off the Red Bulls. But we brought some significant changes to the car for Malaysia and we really expected to be quite competitive in qualifying in Malaysia. Obviously as things transpired, we made a few mistakes with our weather predictions, so we never actually got to demonstrate that.
In China, bar the slip-up Lewis had in qualifying, we proved that we had closed the gap in qualifying. We were probably only 0.2-0.3sec off Red Bull in qualifying trim in China. Barcelona depends very much on the technical changes and the results of the upgrades.
We've made a big step forward, but the other teams like Red Bull, Mercedes is making some significant changes, Ferrari has announced that they are going to bring their own drag reduction rear wing, so I think it's very difficult to make predictions for Barcelona. Although I'd like to think that we can put a car on the front row in Barcelona.
Q. Jean Todt says he is serious about the return of KERS. Would you like to see it back, and if so can it wait until 2013 or should it return as early as 2011?
TG: We fully support what FOTA and the FIA are trying to do in terms of KERS. Clearly to introduce it for next season, it's starting to get a little bit late in the day. But there are lots of people working on this. We understand the need for KERS for the association with road car technology, and we think it's the right thing to bring it back. Really we'll just go along with whatever FOTA and the FIA decide.
Q. How possible is Ferrari and Renault's suggestion that KERS can be both cheaper and more powerful in 2011?
TG: We've learned an awful lot since we were designing the system for 2011. It's realistic to keep the costs down and put the power up. But probably the knock-on effect of that is that it's going to be a little bit bigger and a little bit heavier. A lot of the improvements we made to our KERS last year were in the ability to downsize it and make it easier to package in the car and get the weight distribution correct. It's possible.