Formula One 2010: Could technical glitch hit McLaren?
McLaren's season could hinge on today's investigation
"Charlie Whiting, the head of the FIA’s technical department, is visiting Woking today to inspect the McLaren cars that Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will be driving this season to make sure their latest technical development meets the rules."
The FIA are to inspect the McLaren car after Red Bull made an enquiry as to its legality, Ralph Ellis explains
With hindsight, betting is pretty simple. When you're counting your losses it's always pretty easy to see what the clues should have been. A star player with an injury, a muddy pitch, whatever. The reason your bet went down the pan will normally become all too clear and you think to yourself: "I should have realised that."
This time last year, for instance, I was hailing the courageous decision of Ross Brawn to rescue what had been the Honda motor racing team, but purely because it would keep Jenson Button on the track. I even wrote that you couldn't expect the new Brawn GP outfit to win anything with so little time to prepare, but in a recession-hit world it was encouraging that they were staying in the sport.
I should have read the clues. Why else would Brawn have worked so hard to risk his own fortunes if he hadn't known he had developed the "double diffuser" that was going to make it the fastest car?
It put me in mind that at the start of this season it would be essential to try to keep up with any other new technical developments. And here's the latest, buried in a little corner of some of today's newspapers.
Charlie Whiting, the head of the FIA's technical department, is visiting Woking today to inspect the McLaren cars that Lewis Hamilton and Button will be driving this season to make sure their latest technical development meets the rules. Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner has asked for a clarification over a modification to the car's rear wing.
It is, apparently, a "nostril-like hole above the driver's head which funnels air in such a way as to reduce drag on the rear wing."
No, I didn't really understand that either, but the bit I did understand is that Horner is claiming the design will give McLaren an advantage of around 6mph in straight line speed. And in a sport where fractions of a second in each lap time make the difference between winning and finishing 20th, that sounds like a major advantage.
McLaren's spokesman insisted: "We're very confident that our car is entirely legal - and we're not aware of any protest. In fact we've spoken to Ferrari and they are not aware of one either." But the very fact Whiting has added a few extra miles to his round the world schedule to go to Woking confirms that something is going on.
Ferrari are going into the season at [2.88] favourites to win the Constructors' Championship, with Red Bull [3.6] and McLaren spread between [3.9] and [6.0]. If the Woking outfit really have come up with a dashing bit of design to get a speed advantage, especially with two world champions in their cars, it suddenly makes them sensational value. Just like Brawn did last year they could establish a big early lead in the title standings before the other designers get a chance to catch up.
Five things you might not know about Charlie Whiting...
1. Born in 1952 in Kent, he grew up a few miles down the road from Brands Hatch and fell in love with motor sport when as a 12-year-old he sneaked under the fence to watch the British Grand Prix
2. His brother Nick was a successful rally cross driver and Charlie became his mechanic when he later stepped up to circuit racing
3. He got a job with Brabham, and had been promoted to chief mechanic by the time Nelson Piquet won the 1981 World Championship. When Bernie Ecclestone, who had been his boss at Brabham, took over the running of Formula One he persuaded Whiting to follow him and take on his current role.
4. As well as his work for the Formula One circuit he's also a consultant for the American Motor racing body the ACCUS and visits six tracks a year in the States to check safety standard
5. His brother was murdered in 1990 when a gang stole five cars from the garage he ran. The cars were found within a day, but it was a month before Nick's body was found in a ditch. He had been shot in the head. The killers have never been brought to justice.
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