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McLaren expects development race to step up a gear

ESPN Staff
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McLaren is expected to bring a big upgrade package to the British Grand Prix © Sutton Images
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McLaren sporting director Sam Michael expects this year's development battle to step up a gear over the coming races as teams push harder and harder to find small gains in performance.

The 2012 season has been one of the most competitive in recent years with seven different winners in the first eight races and the top ten cars on the grid often split by less than a second in qualifying. At the European Grand Prix, Red Bull brought a substantial upgrade to the rear of its car and Michael thinks it could spark a fierce development race over the coming grands prix.

"There's a lot of development still to come and that's going to be the story of the rest of the year really," he said. "Every team is going to be bringing it, including us, and there will be more and more over the next few races.

"I think the development rate this year is going to be really fierce because in the past there were things that maybe for half a tenth you would have lumped into something else, but it's not like that now. 50 milliseconds is one place this year, sometimes two places, so you're going to be bringing gains that are tinier and tinier. It would be interesting to see what the gap between the top 10-15 is like from the start of the year, because it feels like it's getting tighter and tighter."

Michael said the closeness of the field is also forcing teams to look beyond the usual aerodynamic upgrades to try to gain every advantage possible.

"It probably puts more onus on mechanical items because the aero stuff comes no matter what, everyone's aero programmes are massive and they're developing the car aerodynamically and normally the things that are compromised short-term are mechanical items. Usually you're saying that's only worth a tenth when you can get two-and-a-half or three tenths from aero. It won't be like that now, it puts the onus on mechanical items. Aero is still key and first order, but it just means you've got to find time to do the rest of the stuff that perhaps you wouldn't have done earlier."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the teams are likely to continue to spend big money on upgrades despite ongoing talks about cutting costs for future seasons.

"It's always aggressive and it's always expensive. We're pushing hard on a variety of things and every race we have something - some races it's a big package and some races less so. That's the nature of this season and it's so tight that we as a team have to give a quicker car to our drivers every race. That's something that we enjoy doing and we're pretty hard on ourselves if we don't think we've delivered enough and we'll keep pushing to make sure that this race goes on. It is expensive, it is aggressive but we kind of enjoy it."

He added: "Those of us that are involved in the business obviously like winning. In the heat of the moment if you see an opportunity to spend money to find competitiveness you do it and then you find out how you are going to pay for it afterwards. That's what gets some of the teams in trouble occasionally."

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