Sam Michael Q&A
Sporting Director talks testing, Sergio Perez and Paddy Lowe
By William Esler
Last Updated: 01/03/13 2:09pm
Q: How has testing gone?
Sam Michael: "We have had a good couple of tests, this is the last one so we only have two and a half days before Melbourne. Obviously it is wet and windy day in Barcelona today, so we are looking forward to putting the new pieces on the car and heading off to some sunnier weather."
Q: There has been a lot of talk about the weather. Has that been disruptive or has it allowed you to test out some things you hadn't planned?
SM: "To be honest at this time of the year you are doing system checks and making sure the car is mechanically bolted together ok and we don't have any reliability issues - so we can work through those processes anyway.
"It just means that the performance aspect of getting the tyres working is not representative so you have a massive disparity in the times as one minute someone is quick and the next they are not as the tyres are not in the right operating window. But that will change as soon as we go racing."
Q: You have a new driver with Sergio Perez. How is he settling in?
SM: "Really well. Checo has worked very hard to get himself up to race fitness, he has spent a lot of time in the simulator at the factory and getting to know the engineers and as soon as he has been in the car he has adapted to the McLaren way of working very quickly, which has been a pleasure to see. But obviously the real test for him is going to be out on the race track."
Q: He has found it difficult with the new car. Is that just him or is he struggling to settle into the team?
SM: "I think he has settled into the team pretty well. I just think because of the conditions you get during winter it is very hard to pick where your benchmark is - particularly with the teams being as close as they are, which is great for the business.
"Having the top 15 cars within eight tenths of each other just makes our job harder because it means it is hard for us to identify when we are quick or not. The days have gone when someone is two and half or three seconds quicker than everyone else."
Q: Are there any quirky things that happen when a new driver arrives? Do they have to sing a song or anything like that?
SM: "Of course, their singing skills are very important - that is how we select them (laughs). In reality with a team like McLaren, everything is about getting the job done professionally before Melbourne, because if things go wrong during the driver's season, you want to make sure you have covered all the basis so you can focus on putting them right again.
"So that is what pre-season is about, Checo has a really good sense of humour and is settling into the team and that will only increase as the season develops."
Q: Is it tough for him to step into Lewis Hamilton's shoes after the length of time he was at the team? Does he feel the pressure of that or does the team as a whole think it is a clean slate and a new era?
SM: "I think the pressure comes from McLaren's heritage rather than Lewis. Lewis is a fantastic driver and did a lot for the team, but the heritage of McLaren is much bigger than any driver in the short term. So I think if there is any pressure on Checo, it is the same sort of pressure that is on Jenson (Button) to deliver, assuming we can produce the car for him."
Q: With Paddy Lowe leaving McLaren for Mercedes, is it difficult him being there, knowing he is going?
SM: "I think first of all, Paddy has been with the team for almost 20 years and is a fantastic guy and a great asset to McLaren, but he has taken his choice to move to Mercedes and we wish him all the best.
"We have looked at things internally and restructured and now Tim Goss is Technical Director and he is the one that has been responsible for a lot of the technical design and development of the previous McLarens over the last two years and then four years ago and six years ago - so Tim is extremely experienced. One of the great things about McLaren is that strength in depth is something we have a lot of."