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Whitmarsh tells McLaren to focus on the opportunity
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 May 2012   |  10:50 pm GMT  |  25 comments

McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh has outlined the reasons why his team should remain very upbeat about its prospects this season, the team principal highlighting several positives amid a succession of missed chances – including what he believes is the advent of a more measured approach to racing from Lewis Hamilton.

The Woking-based outfit arrived at the first race of the season having hit its long-held target of having a car capable of winning the first grand prix but since locking out the front row at the second round in Malaysia its race performances have been compromised by a string of team errors and difficulties fully exploiting Pirelli’s tyres. Despite still arguably having the fastest overall package – particularly in Hamilton’s hands in qualifying – the team still finds itself in the now familiar position of trailing Red Bull in both world championships.

Speaking on the eve of the team’s attempts to get back to winning ways in Monaco – where it has won a record 15 times – Whitmarsh told reporters in a Vodafone phone-in that he was “very frustrated” by the team’s failure to fully capitalise on the MP4-27’s outright pace to date but that “rather than focus on the frustration you’ve got to look forward to the opportunity”.

That opportunity Whitmarsh believes is a first drivers’ championship since 2008, and a first constructors’ title since 1998, and the driver currently best placed in the points to deliver the former, Hamilton has earned the praise of his team boss for his performances in the regular face of adversity so far this season. Like Fernando Alonso, the 2008 champion has scored points in all five races despite suffering from botched pit stops in both Malaysia and Bahrain and then, most embarrassingly of all for the team, relegation to the back of the grid in Spain for a qualifying fuel infringement.  Whitmarsh has clearly been impressed by his driver’s growing on-track maturity.

“In many ways the last race was disappointing for the team, but I think Lewis did come away from that event with a very strong feeling about what he’s achieved this year. Through no fault of his own, I think he had a very severe penalty levelled against him. To then be asked by the team to run a two-stop strategy and ultimately have to complete a race with such controlled and measured tyre conservation, including 31 laps more laps than any other driver on a tyre there, I think he should come away with a feeling that ,one, he has a car that is capable of being on pole, two he has the speed and capabilities to be on pole – he has been on the front row at every race – and he’s driving to I think greater levels of maturity and control and discipline than perhaps we’ve seen before.”

Hamilton’s failure to win a race so far in 2012, particularly at Barcelona, can be attributed to the pit-lane errors by the team. Whitmarsh says the team can’t afford to become complacent going forward, even if he believes measures have been put in place to avoid a repeat of the same slip-ups.

“I’m confident that the issues that we have so far have been dealt with and are in the past,” he said. “I’m mindful that in the pressure of trying to win in Formula 1, there are always new things that can come and bite you. So we have to be vigilant, careful and cautious.”

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25 Comments
  1. Crusty says:

    Anyone else think HAM has already signed for RBR 2013 to replace WEB who has already signed for Ferrari?

    Back to present, I’m sure HAM will win one race this year, but I’ve a hunch the Jens will put together an impressive weekend here in Monaco:
    MAL, BUT, KOB

    1. Simon says:

      The great thing about 2012 is nobody knows!

      I reckon the Lotus’s, Alonso and Hamilton are in with the biggest shout.

    2. Kevin says:

      No way! RBR have invested too much in their driver development program. Webber will be driving a Red Bull next year. Lewis will stick with McLaren, if he was going to go anywhere I would say its a resurgent Williams (and it’s who ayrton drove for too), but he won’t. Algesuari recons he has something solid for next year! Ferrari ?…..

    3. Serrated Edge says:

      Nope, i think Hamilton has a long standing deal to drive for Mercedes next season.

  2. goferet says:

    Uh-huh but Whitmarsh is well known in the paddock for giving lip service all the time.

    He talks on how things are going to change and how the car is going to be better only for the same mistakes to happen all over again.

    I would be sympathetic if Mclaren was a midfield team but no, this is a top team that has seen it all.

    I mean just look at a newbie like Red Bull, which has hardly been in the sport & yet they can have a perfect season strategy wise & in the pits like they did in 2011.

    Also how about this for a 360 turn in the Whitmarsh-Hamilton relations, all over a certain Whitmarsh is singing Lewis’ praises, hmm… Ron Dennis must have pulled the naughty boy’s ears after the Barcelona qualifying muck up and yes it’s never a smart move for one to lose their job during a Eurozone depression.

    1. Hendo says:

      exactly –
      quote “I’m confident that the issues that we have so far have been dealt with and are in the past” – well he would say that wouldn’t he?

      Dont worry about his ears – it’s his neck that’s on the chopping block!

  3. blackmamba says:

    This guy is slowly becoming the most annoying on the grid. Can someone pliz tell him to go away, knuckle down and get the operational side of things working like clockwork to deliver both titles?

  4. Gareth says:

    So in other words, stop pit lane incidents, fuel the car the right way, make sure people know what they are doing, make sure the gearbox is okay and fire sam michael

    1. Martin says:

      I find the anti-Sam Michael movement interesting. The stated view of people such as Rubens was that Michael had too much to do. Williams has replaced him with two or three people. Management style, as technical director is one thing, in encouraging the technical team to do its best, and there Nico Rosberga has praised Ross Brawn in obvious reference to Michael. But considering that since 2006 to 2011 Williams has generally had the worst engine on the grid in terms of packaging, power and/or driveability with the Cosworth and Toyota engines, this compromises what the team can do. Exhaust blown diffusers were a limited concept for any Cosworth car for example.

      if we look at McLaren and Michael’s role in track side operations, is he responsible for the actual performance of the pit crew or just how they are trained? He can’t monitor every technical process to a car in qualifying and arguably the fuel level would be the responsibility of the race engineer. Still I wouldn’t expect the the race engineer to supervise the fuel loading or the tyre pressures or front wing setting. That level of micromanagement will just piss people off.

      Still lets get Donald Trump in and fire everyone. It will fix everything.

      1. Guy says:

        Good thinking, you do have to wonder, technically every thing seems sound but what about the people management. How do you get everybody confident and giving their best.

        Maybe the need to get in Harry Redknapp !

  5. Sebee says:

    I think I would enjoy Lewis winning the championship without winning a single race this season.

    1. Jonathan Kelk says:

      Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!

      We’ll have Bernie going on about the medals system again if it happens! Please save us from that!

      1. Sebee says:

        Why not? I think it would be an interesting way to win a championship. We haven’t seen it done this way. And let’s face it, it’s probably the hardest way to win one.

        I’d really like to see it personally. In fact, it would be funny if in Brazil, Lewis had it wrapped up on points and was finally leading the GP for a win, with Button second, and Lewis gave Button the win just to win the championship without winning a GP.

        Would Lewis ever do this just to get that No-GP-Win Championship? I wonder.

        This concludes Thursday’s morning’s silly thoughts.

      2. Martin says:

        Keke came close in 82, he only won one race but took the championship.

  6. Prateek says:

    Enough of the talking from Mclaren really. Its time for them and Whitmarsh to ‘Walk the Talk’. For an elite team, botched pit stops are of course just unacceptable, but even their fastest ones during races are frequently very average.

  7. Andrew Kirk says:

    You can only fumble the ball so many times until the other teams pick it up and punish you.

  8. Bobby says:

    As a Hamilton fan I feel nervous every time he comes into the pits this season.

    Let’s not forget that in his run to eighth in Barca he clattered a tyre that was left in the path of the car when exiting the pits.

    Just imagine if that had broken something on the car and he’d had to retire, McLaren would be in meltdown. They NEED a flawless weekend.

    1. Nathan Jones says:

      I think the McLaren screw ups are beyond ridiculous, but I almost feel a little sorry for the crew. They must be jumping at their own shadows by now.

      Any pressure they would have felt under normal circumstances, must be ten times worse now with every F1 viewer on the planet holding their breath when HAM comes into the pits. (Some Lewis fans, like myself, can’t even watch – I turn my face away in the hope it will hurt less if I don’t see it)

      The pit crew themselves must all let a huge collective groan when the engineer says the fateful words: “Lewis, box, box box!”.

  9. S. Butts says:

    Red Bull are making McLaren look like complete amateurs and have been for quite some time.

  10. Jorge says:

    With the car they have, Lewis Hamilton should be leading the champ, yes they have not blown away the competition but the first 3 races were very decent and Hamilton has the most poles so far this season! Go McLaren Go!

  11. David B says:

    There are times when logical and thought reasons turn out to be just excuses!!
    Time to deliver!

  12. Guy says:

    Reminds me of one of Kimi”s year at Mclaren, car had great potential but…….

    A comment Ronspeak made later after Kimi left.

    Something like “..good luck to Ferrari they will have to build a bullet proof car” We’ll they did!

    Wonder if we would hear the same sort of thing if Hamilton left in frustration?

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      That alone would have cut like a knife.
      Ron Dennis has never made a secret of his contempt of Ferrari. Be it their racing team or the road cars.

      I well remember him being interviewed before the 2001 Spanish GP, where they were re-introducing Traction Control again.
      Without naming Ferrari, but speaking of scarlet cars, he said we would see who had been running illegal TC before it’s return, as we would see these cars effectively move backwards as they didn’t have that advantage anymore.

      I waited throughout 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 for his apology, as Ferrari moved further and further ahead.

      P.S. the car you speak of is the MP4/20 from 2005, but it wasn’t just Kimi’s car that broke down, it was Montoya’s too.

  13. Richard says:

    I think Lewis Hamilton has been forced into taking a more measured approach to racing because the tyres leave him no option. As things are the whole race has to be carefully thought out initially, but teams have to be able tpo respond quickly without error to changing circumstances. Whitmarsh has realised that he has to court Hamilton to stay at McLaren because clearly Lewis is leaving all his options open. Whitmarsh runs things much slacker than Denis, and it shows in individual team members concentration, and the rather elementary mistakes that have been occuring. The jury is still out on Sam Michael indeed he needs to demonstrate that his team can operate faultlessly for the rest of the year. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like the fastest lap from Hamilton yet, and given improved set up there’s every chance he will put it on pole. If he does that he should win the race providing his pit crew can change his tyres effectively. It will be a close run thing though with Lotus and Ferrari looking competitive.

  14. tt says:

    It seems that a season, which started so well for McLaren gradually gets dismal. I would agree with a thought that this ” non platypus” design approach actually gives less room for upgrades and the engineering department is really struggling. And Jenson also needs to get his act together. This is turning out Godawful for him as well.

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