In order to explore the performance of MP4-24 to a fuller extent, the team has chosen to pursue differing paths for Lewis and Heikki over the course of the Silverstone weekend. Today's practice was the most divergent of the season so far: on a...
In order to explore the performance of MP4-24 to a fuller extent, the team has chosen to pursue differing paths for Lewis and Heikki over the course of the Silverstone weekend. Today's practice was the most divergent of the season so far: on a track where the benefits of using KERS are less pronounced, Heikki's engineers chose to continue running the system while Lewis's team decided to focus on developing the most effective balance without it.
Also evaluated today were further modifications to the floor and front wing, the back-to-backing of tongued and standard static front hubs and the addition of new double-fin sidepod strakes.
Lewis spent the morning understanding the balance of the car and was encouraged by its consistency. He completed two installation laps and three runs, all on the Prime tyre, as he evaluated a series of new aero components. With the track starting off cold and slippery and the tyres requiring several laps to reach their optimum, Lewis spent the morning working down to a fast time. He completed runs of four laps/1m23.722s best; six laps/1m21.026s and seven laps/1m20.650s, ending the morning session eighth fastest.
"It took a while to get used to the car this morning," he said. "It feels a little different from what we've been running in previous races. Generally, I'm very happy with the balance but, with a revised car and on a high-speed circuit like this, it takes a bit longer than usual to find the limit."
Lewis's opening five-lap run (1m21.181s) felt different from the pace shown this morning. Nonetheless, his second run, on Primes, was remarkably consistent, seeing him post the following eight-lap sequence: 1m22.572s, 1m22.736s, 1m21,826s, 1m21.862s, 1m21.768s, 1m24.032s, 1m21.644s and 1m21.688s. Two further runs on Options (10 laps/1m21.475s and four laps/1m20.417s) concluded his session.
"It's no secret that we're lacking speed in the faster sections," Lewis concluded. "But the car wasn't too bad today. The balance was good, we've made some set-up changes and it now appears to be fairly consistent. But this has already turned out to be one of the best weekends of the year for me because I'm at my home grand prix and the fans are incredible here -- I've seen and felt their support from the very first lap I did today."
Heikki completed three runs this morning: five laps/1m22.779s;four laps/1m22.161s and six laps/1m21.029s. MP4-24's lack of high-speed grip and its nervousness in the faster corners meant it was difficult to extract a strong time from the car, but Heikki felt the team made progress with its understanding of the car and its balance at high speed.
"Firstly, it's great to be back at Silverstone because it's a circuit I love," Heikki said. "I got pole position last year and I really enjoy driving here. We know we face a tougher weekend this season because we're lacking grip, but the balance of the car didn't feel too bad this morning. As Lewis is running without KERS this weekend, we now have to analyse the balance of both cars and see what we'll do for the rest of the weekend."
Another busy session. Heikki started off on Primes (five laps/1m21.796s) and Options (three laps/1m20.859s) before starting his long-run programme, completing runs of seven laps (Primes/1m22.682s) and eight laps (Options/1m22.822s).
"We're definitely making progress," he said afterwards. "It's still difficult to say whether it's an advantage to be running KERS, but I felt I was getting a laptime benefit from the system. This weekend will be all about developing our car and seeing what difference the changes make to both Lewis's and my pace. The whole team is pushing like crazy and we're getting a better understanding of our car. Whatever happens, we are definitely going to learn a lot of useful things about the car this weekend."
MARTIN WHITMARSH -- team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"We're fully aware that the characteristics of the Silverstone circuit don't suit our technical package, but we have taken on an aggressive approach for the weekend, splitting our drivers' development programmes to more fully understand the nature of the changes we've made to each car. We'll learn some valuable lessons from this approach and are confident that it will pay dividends and allow us to mount an increasingly stronger challenge throughout Saturday and into Sunday's race."
NORBERT HAUG -- vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Lewis today drove without KERS because Silverstone is a circuit where you do not brake too often: you get less of a benefit from the system here than you would on heavy-braking circuits. By way of comparison, Heikki used the system today and our specialists will analyse today's results and decide whether we choose to continue using the system on his car for the rest of the weekend. Generally, this great circuit with lots of fast corners does not help our cars to be competitive.
"We need further dramatic improvements to come back to the position where we won five of the last 10 British Grands Prix -- the last one in most convincing manner with Lewis last year."