It’s obvious to even a casual observer that the McLaren team has been closing the gap on Red Bull Racing since the beginning of the 2010 season. While Red Bull has certainly been the class of the field over all, at Istanbul weekend before last McLaren showed that they could run at more or less the same pace. While Red Bull drivers proved to be their own worst enemies, throwing away a one-two finish in favor of a third and a DNF, the McLarens would have given them a run for their money even without Red Bull’s self-inflicted wounds.
Formula 1 seems to be about momentum as much as anything else. McLaren have shown time and time again that they’ve have recuperative anbd development powers. Last year was a case in point: at the beginning of the year, their car was a dog, but in the latter half of the season they began scoring podiums and wins. Even McLaren newbie Jenson Button has admitted that he’s been pleasantly astonished by the pace at which the McLaren outfit continues to develop the car.
This is bad news for Ferrari and Mercedes, the other two teams who are charter members in the current Big Four club, along with Red Bull. Red Bull, too, has shown that they can continue development at a rapid pace under the direction of tech wiz Adrian Newey. But after McLaren’s performance in Istanbul, Newey will be looking over his shoulder.
And McLaren have made no bones about the fact that they have a new package in the development stream which will be ready in time for the Canadian GP next weekend. “We’ve got a few more development items on the car for this weekend and this is where we ought to be quickest,” McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh recently told Autosport. “It’s undoubtedly the case at the moment that the Red Bull is very strong in long, high-speed corners. Fortunately the next two grands prix don’t feature a lot of those. But of course while we’re developing our car we never know what Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari are going to turn up with, maybe they’ll turn up with a larger step forward than us.”
Clearly, even though the fundamental flaw in the design of the MP4-25 is lack of downforce, the designers have clawed back some of their lost speed on the straights by using their signature F-duct device. Canada is a high speed track with long straights which should favor the McLaren. Bad news for Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, but good news for defending world champ Jenson Button and his team mate, former world champ Lewis Hamilton.