We all know that McLaren need to pull something out of the bag if they expect Lewis Hamilton to successfully defend his world championship this year.
The MP4-24 has the same engine in it as both Brawn GP cars, both running on the Mercedes-Benz FO 108W, yet the difference between the performance of the two constructors is light years apart—surprisingly in Brawn GP's favor.
So, what do we know? We know that Brawn GP have a different style of diffuser to McLaren, but surely this piece of equipment isn't making almost 2 seconds a lap difference between the two.
We also know that McLaren are running the new KERS system giving Lewis and Heikki an extra 80bhp for 6.6seconds every lap—this again should cut the gap between the two cars down, as a statement from McLaren insists that "an optimised KERS package can be expected to deliver a 0.3-0.5s gain per lap."
So both cars have 2.4L, eight cylinder Mercedes engine in them. Both cars have the maximum of 18'000rpm and have a piston bore of 98 degrees with an engine bank angle of 90 degrees and a semi-automatic seven speed gearbox to put this through.
Both cars are running on the same fuel, both are sitting on Bridgestone Potenzas and both weigh the FIA minimum weight of 95kg.
Conclusion? Brawn are better at getting the power from the engine onto the track thus putting their cars over the line before McLaren.
Either this, or Jenson and Rubens are better drivers, or should I say better at dealing with the new aerodynamic regulations, than Lewis and Heikki—I will leave you to draw your own conclusion on that one.
So lets take the cars to pieces and have a look. McLaren are using an inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pushrod and bell crank with a double wishbone arrangement for both front and rear suspension whereas Brawn are using a torsion spring instead of a bar and damper system.
Could this be allowing the new slick tyres more movement on bumpy parts of the track? Could it be allowing quicker spring back to allow the tyres more time on the track?
McLaren have stuck with Koni as their suspension damper supplier and Brawn GP have taken on Sachs to supply their dampers but the FIA are very strict when it comes to dampers and therefore both dampers should be very close in performance to each other - thus making very little difference.
Electronics are a big part of an F1 car, maybe less-so that the last couple of years, but nonetheless. The MP4-24 uses in-house electronics from "McLaren Electronic Systems" which controls electronics for chassis, engine and data acquisition.
McLaren Electronic Systems also supplies the electronic dashboard, alternator voltage control, sensors, data analysis and telemetry systems. Brawn GP on the other hand after only having days to register their BGP01 stuck to the FIA standard ECU and FIA homologated electronic and electrical system.
Surely the FIA standard system shouldn't work anywhere near aswell as a customized system produced by one of the best automobile electrical manufacturers in the world? Could the electrical systems be be having a bearing on the success' of Brawn? Have McLaren just not managed to make the electrical system work with the new regulations?
The similarities between the cars out-weight the differences and it's because of this that the Woking-based team have a massive headache.
With the development of the MP4-24 and with the new "no on-track testing" regulation bought in by the FIA for 2009 it seems that the majority of the work is going to have to be done in a wind tunnel—which, although highly technical, is never going to be the same as on-track.
Maybe it's something as simple as Lewis, Heikki and the team not having adjusted their favoured setup correctly to incorporate the new aerodynamic regulations, maybe it's the driving style of Lewis and Heikki that doesn't suit the new car—they might have to adjust their style.
All I know is that McLaren have some serious work to do and they need to have it done soon. Hamilton is already predicting that they will fall further behind Brawn GP in Malaysia and that the car won't pick up again until Spain, by which point McLaren could be a speck in Button's wing mirror.
If anyone has any suggestions for McLaren, I think they could use all the help they can get.