Scott McLaughlin admits that he found deciding on his pursuit of a set-up direction on the opening day of the Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 to be ‘frustrating’.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship leader qualified fourth and fifth respectively for the first two of four races to be held at Albert Park this weekend after two 10-minute sessions which effectively ran as shootouts.
McLaughlin explained that he was not sure what to ask his engineers for from his Shell V-Power Racing Team Mustang, given that there was no obvious area to address.
“I’ve got a very neutral car, so it’s quite frustrating trying to work out how to give Ludo (Lacroix) and Richard (Harris) feedback on what I want,” said the DJR Team Penske driver.
“I don’t know if I want more turn, or more drive and I don’t want to give away one for the other.
“Good qualifying, fourth and fifth, but we’re just trying to chase that little bit more.”
The Albert Park event also shapes as a serious test of the Fords’ 2020 aerodynamic package, after off-season rehomologation which saw approximately 12 percent of downforce taken away from both the Mustang and the Holden ZB Commodore.
While the Adelaide Parklands Circuit which hosted the season-opener features a handful of long corners, the flowing nature of the Australian Grand Prix venue should give a clearer indication of the impact of the changes.
“The aero changes have definitely made a difference, the downforce is lower for sure,” observed McLaughlin.
“The cars feel similar, but they’re slower. The overall balance is the same, there’s just less grip.”
Team-mate Fabian Coulthard, who was 12th and then 10th in the day’s qualifying sessions, held a similar view.
“It’s not easy out there, grip levels are definitely lower than previous years so the aero changes they’ve made have worked,” he stated.
“We struggled a bit in the first sector, but had great pace over the rest of the lap.
“I like this track and have always gone well here, so it’s frustrating but we’ll work on it tonight and aim to be further up the order tomorrow.
“It looks like there’s some rain predicted, so that will make things very interesting.”
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team has picked up both poles so far in Melbourne, again with one apiece for Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup after they did the same in Adelaide.
Qualifying for Races 5 and 6 of the season, which will be run to the same format as for Races 3 and 4, will be held tomorrow morning at 10:10 and 10:30 local time/AEDT.