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Mat Coch writes:
Although its hopes of a drivers' title look to have vanished, McLaren remains focussed on securing its first Constructors' Championship since 1998.
With four races remaining, the Woking squad lies third in the standings, eighty-three points adrift of championship leaders Red Bull. But while the Milton Keynes squad has won the last three races and enjoys an intimidating advantage in the standings, McLaren remains determined to continue developing its car in order to maximise its chances.
"The rule changes for next year are quite small compared to what they would be in normal years," Sporting Director Sam Michael explained in the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In. "Most of the development work that we do this year we can carry over to 2013 anyway.
"Although there are different aerodynamic programmes within McLaren there's quite a lot of transfer of that development so it's not that big a decision to decide to continue developing the 2012 car."
Michael wouldn't be drawn on just what the squad has in the pipeline but did confess that the team has kept a close watch on its rivals.
"You would be ignorant not to look at anyone else's designs," he admitted. "There's many other wind tunnel programmes out there, and CFD programmes that are completely separate from yours, that are coming up with different ideas. We do keep a close eye on what everyone does from one race to another, and that's not just the cars we're racing with, we keep equal attention all the way down the grid. Sometimes the most interesting things are on cars that don't necessarily stand out.
"In the development race it is key to in-season performance," he continued. "You need to be bringing 0.1 to 0.2 of a second on average to every Grand Prix in order to stay competitive, and anything you bring above there on average you should start pulling away or making ground on your main competitors."
The team invests considerable effort examining its rivals in a bid not just to emulate but understand each development so it can be assessed against its own development programme.
"Red Bull took a good step between Singapore and Suzuka in performance so they will be tough competitors," Michael responded when asked if McLaren could catch the championship leaders.
"The thing is though that the gaps are very small there. It only takes one or two tenths to swing it one way to the other and that can be driven off the development of upgrades working, or another team not bringing enough (upgrades).
"Our target is still to beat them and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to go and finish the remaining races with that of our target," he added. "We're turning up and trying to finish first and second in the last four races."
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