Jonathan Neale, Managing Director of McLaren Racing, discusses the overall development programme of the MP4-21.
Q: What is your specific role within the MP4-21 project?
Jonathan Neale: As Managing Director, I am ultimately responsible for the performance of McLaren Racing; I have to make sure we deliver. My specific role with MP4-21 is to make sure we have a clear set of targets and goals for the car; this doesn't mean that I can write the specification for the car but that I make sure one is created, which we all believe is competitive, within the McLaren Racing chief engineers system.
I'm also in charge of making sure the resource is applied correctly and the programme is in place to achieve the technical specification. We need to be goal driven in terms of timescale, when do the critical decisions have to be made, on what basis we are going to make them and who makes those decisions.
Q: How has on track testing been progressing?
JN: On track testing at this time of year is very important to us. We have been running an interim car, which is the 2005 chassis fitted with a version of the Mercedes-Benz V8 engine. Our key focus has been engine development and cooling systems work, alongside significant tyre evaluation with Michelin, with reference the change back from tyres that run a race distance to tyres that operate for a series of short sprints.
The programme is progressing well, however it is early days, and the specification of the chassis and the engine is changing a lot at the moment as we gather more intelligence.
Looking more specifically at on-track work, the test that began on Tuesday 13th December in Jerez, there were a number of suspension items, body work and R&D concepts that we were working on with the interim car, which are very relevant to the baseline specification for MP4-21.
After the Jerez test, work continued apace at the McLaren Technology Centre, with Manufacturing and Car Assembly teams having just one and a half days off over the Christmas holiday, along with members of the design team and senior management. Track testing will recommence next Wednesday, 11th January in Jerez.
Q: When did the team first start testing components for MP4-21?
JN: The reality is that because we are developing and testing general concepts, and specific components, on a continuous basis it is not possible to state a definitive date. The key milestone in the testing would be in September when we debuted the V8 engine at Silverstone.
Q: When do you expect MP4-21 to debut on track?
JN: Presently, MP4-21 is scheduled to go on track mid-late January, however as always this is subject to change as we finalise the baseline specification.
Q: What is the overall schedule for the testing programme in the build-up to Bahrain?
JN: Following the pre-Christmas tests, we are currently planning to test every available week in the run-up to the Bahrain Grand Prix starting in week two in Jerez. Once the new car has been released, our primary focus will be durability testing, proving the software, the systems and the 11,500 car components, 90% of which have changed from MP4-20.
Then we will start to look at phasing in upgrade packages onto the car. For example the aerodynamic specification was set in late October / early November time and since then the aero team has been working on a series of performance upgrades to bring on line and this will take place before the cars leave for the first Grand Prix in Bahrain and then continue throughout the season.