- Korean Grand Prix
First impressions of track surface positive - McLaren
McLaren has no major concerns about the track surface in Korea ahead of this weekend's grand prix, but is expecting grip levels to change as the weekend progresses.
The Korean International Circuit passed its final FIA inspection less than two weeks ago after work on the final layer of the surface was delayed. There are concerns that the tarmac has not had enough time to cure and that that could result in oils coming to the surface or the track or it breaking up altogether.
However, after walking the circuit on Wednesday, McLaren's principal race engineer Phil Prew said it looked up to spec.
"I actually walked the circuit this morning with the other engineers, and I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw," he told the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. "The track itself and the kerbs and run-off all looked pretty good. The track surface itself - although it has been recently laid and it is a bit of an unknown - I don't think looked too bad and it wasn't particularly greasy underfoot. It looked, from what you can tell, smooth, well laid and consistent all the way around the circuit."
Prew believes it could still present a challenge for the teams, but not one that is unmanageable.
"In terms of how it develops and how the cars interact with it, it is going to be guess work," he said. "It's going to evolve very quickly through the first session and then we can expect it to continue to improve all the way through qualifying and the race. For ourselves that means we have to be careful about what set-up work we do and when we do it as a result could be influenced more by track evolution than the changes you make to the car.
"Equally in qualifying, you need to be prepared that the track could be improving quickly and therefore a lap set at the beginning of Q1 might not necessarily be sufficient by the time you get to the end of Q1. Even in Q3, the desire to do your lap right at the end of the session will be there. I think track evolution will be the big player and we just have to do what we always do and adapt the car to the conditions that we might find, but we might just have to adapt more quickly here."
He said there was also an opportunity to take some risks with set-up, by predicting how the grip levels will change.
"If the track grip is poor then a higher downforce solution may work, but somebody who is a little bit braver may choose to take a lower downforce level, expecting the track grip to improve throughout the race, putting them in a strong position to overtake," he added. "There will definitely be some opportunities to take some slightly different routes, but we just need to gauge exactly what the conditions are and what opportunities there are and do the best thing. "