Got your pass? Check. McLaren kit? Check. Okay good, now switch off your phone and follow us through the glass doors and into the Paddock Performance Centre. Grab a coffee on your way in and we’ll get started with our engineering briefing for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Jose Manuel López is in charge of this weekend’s briefing and there’s plenty on the agenda. Most teams have brought upgrades to Barcelona and we need to work out exactly where we stand. It’s Spain, so we know Qualifying will be key, but we need your help as Jose’s right hand to finalise our setup.
Take notes if you need them, but please keep them to yourself.
Engineer: Jose Manuel López
Event: Spanish Grand Prix
Circuit: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
The work we did here during winter testing is a good benchmark and starting point – but the track this weekend is a very different proposition to what we saw in February.
The obvious difference is the weather. During winter testing, it was pretty cold in the morning, with the temperature creeping up towards 20°C in the middle of the afternoon. Now, we have beautiful Spanish weather: closer to 30°C, with the track temperature above 40°C. This has a noticeable effect – particularly on the behaviour of the tyres.
We also know a lot more about our car. Over the last five race weekends we’ve learned a lot, and are now running the car a little bit differently, and in a way that is much more optimised than it was in February. This would be very significant if we weren’t bringing a big upgrade here – but of course we are.
There is always a strong qualifying-bias in Barcelona because overtaking is very difficult and therefore grid position is paramount – but in the race it’ll be close as always between one and two stops. We’ll need to get a good read on the tyres in practice to inform the strategy.
In the modern era, with the shorter, hour-long Friday sessions, we can’t gather all the information we used to get from the long runs. It’s going to be interesting seeing how these new cars behave. For fans, Sunday’s race might see some quite different strategies in play – but the preparation for that starts here!
1 | Upgrades
Barcelona is traditionally the race to which all the teams bring their first round of upgrades. We are no different, and this year is no different. We’ve got a sizeable upgrade this weekend. Some of the changes are obvious, others are hidden. We’ll be testing all of it to see if it works as expected, as predicted in simulation.
Testing the new package is the focus for Friday. We’ll approach it in a systematic and diligent way, with the new package on one car, and the other car in the previous specification as a reference point. Between them, we’ll collect as much information as we possibly can.
Realistically, the two cars will stay in their separate specs throughout Friday. We’ll most likely bring them together on Saturday for FP3, depending on how the programme goes. There won’t be any rush to get both cars onto the new package in time for FP2. Better to be methodical and be sure of our data.
2 | Key objectives
On the new package, we are keen to understand where to put ride heights, how to control porpoising etc. We’ll be doing set-up changes, and optimising the car between the sessions. Key goals will be scanning different rear ride heights, different front ride heights, different stiffnesses, and try to understand the aero balance we need to run.
While we’re doing that with one car, the other car will be focused on trying to optimise the current package for this circuit, also doing set-up work, trying to maximise our learning, with a view to having all the data we need on Friday night to have the best configuration for FP3.
3 | Set-up
In terms of set-up, our Fridays so far this year have concentrated on finding out how low and how stiff we can afford to run the car – and Barcelona is not going to be any different. The best way to make the ground effect work is to run the car as low to the ground as possible.
Obviously there are limits to that: you need to avoid smashing the front of the floor into the ground, so you need to have the suspension stiff. This, in turn, helps keep the rear suspension as low as possible in the low-speed corners when the downforce is not there. It’s a compromise between the ride height, and what the drivers can tolerate.
4 | Tyres
We’re also very interested in the tyres. Obviously, this year’s 18-inch tyres are visually very different to what we’ve had before – but in performance terms they’re quite similar, and as usual, we have the three hardest compounds in Barcelona.
The track is tough on tyres, particularly on the front-left, through the long T3 and T4. That puts a lot of stress on that tyre, while the final section demands good traction, and the hot track temperature will also raise a few issues. So, we’ve got to have a good look at tyre management – both for a single-lap in qualifying and a full race stint.
Briefing complete. Time for Lando and Daniel to head out onto the track so that we can collect some data and put our hard work to the test.
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