As the three new M16s touched down in Bahrain for the first race of the 2006 season, MF1 Racing's Technical Director James Key gives his thoughts on the progress made so far. Q: The testing is over, and we're heading into the first race this ...
As the three new M16s touched down in Bahrain for the first race of the 2006 season, MF1 Racing's Technical Director James Key gives his thoughts on the progress made so far.
Q: The testing is over, and we're heading into the first race this weekend. Do you feel that you are well prepared?
James Key: "In many respects, I feel confident, because the cars have run and they've been reliable. We are confident about cooling and that sort of thing, which is always a bit of an issue in Bahrain and Malaysia. But then equally, we've still got a lot of work to do. From lap time analysis, we know we've made up ground on the others. But we're still playing catch up, and there's more work to do for sure at the moment."
Q: To what extent can you prepare for the hot weather when you've only tested in Europe?
JK: "Fairly well, really, because we've got a lot of historical data. We learned quite a bit about cooling on last year's car, so we've played it safe with this one. Judging by where we've been in testing, we're hoping that with the ambient temperatures we expect, it's going to be about right. You always have a few things in the bag to help you out if it's not."
Q: Has Toyota provided data that has helped you prepare for the conditions?
JK: "To a certain extent. Obviously, they provided us with the heat rejection data for the engine in the first place, and that's the first port of call for cooling. But we tend to run our own simulations for the general characteristics of the circuit, and we know what to expect. It's based on empirical data and what we've learned, rather than any data from a dyno, for example."
Q: What are your thoughts on the tyre situation?
JK: "It's been a bit difficult to tell in winter testing, because the temperatures have been very cold in Barcelona and Jerez. In Bahrain, we'll have much higher track temperatures. Bridgestone have done a lot of work on a tyre that should work well at hotter tracks, so we're fairly hopeful. With regards to where we are compared to Michelin, it's hard to tell, but the gap is smaller than it was last year."
Q: Have you benefited from Ferrari's recent hot weather testing in Bahrain?
JK: "Yes. Bridgestone have been very open with the information sharing within the teams, so we've got feedback on what Ferrari have done in Bahrain. The compound choices and constructions have largely been confirmed by the testing out there on a hotter track."
Q: The V8 engines are still very new. Will you be conserving miles on, say, Friday, or is it essential for the drivers just to go out and do some laps?
JK: "I think we need to go out and do some laps, but we really need to play it by ear. Toyota haven't given us any pressing constraints with the engine, and it's proved reliable so far. We're not in a situation where we can only afford to do X amount of miles for a race weekend. I think we'll go out and judge track conditions, make sure it's worthwhile running, and go from there."
Q: You will have two different rookie drivers in the third car for both opening races. What can they contribute?
JK: "I think the third car plays an important part. We've obviously run the drivers that we'll be running at the first few races in testing, and they've done a good job. I think we can rely on the information they give back to us, but no doubt their feedback will improve as we go along. There are a number of things we're looking at, such as the basic track information, what is the tyre doing, how the balance shifts from a new set of tyres through five laps and 10 laps. Wear and degradation should be proven by the third car on Friday."
Q: Is there anything new on the cars for Bahrain?
JK: "There are some new parts which are coming out, and we've gone down to the wire on them, because some of them are performance related. We're not going to see any massive jumps compared to testing, but there will be a reasonable step with the new parts we've got."