McLaren’s MP4-27 retains the underlying pace that it showed right at the start of the season, according to the team’s managing director Jonathan Neale, who believes both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will be contention to win this weekend if the team cracks the Pirelli tyre conundrum around the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve.
From suggestions that the Woking outfit could dominate the opening phase of the year following a one-three at the Australia season-opener, the team heads into this weekend’s Montreal race looking to bounce back from a series of races when a combination of operational mistakes and disappointing race pace have meant neither of their drivers have finished on the podium since China in April.
But speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in with journalists on Thursday morning, Neale remained convinced that race-winning performance was still very much in the car, particularly with updates coming on stream, and it was all about rediscovering some consistency.
“The car definitely has the pace and the upgrades are coming through thick and fast,” he said. “But it is very tight. You’re only looking at a tenth or two and you can move a lot of places during qualifying. And we’ve seen Jenson being very unlucky, or not quite getting the car into the right spot with his engineering team during the last two races. On the one hand that makes it very exciting for everyone who’s a fan of the sport watching the races. If you’re a managing director of a Formula 1 team it’s a different game altogether!
“We’ve got to be much more consistent and I’m confident the pace is there in the car and we continue to push hard with our upgrade packages.” He went on to add: “Both drivers have got a car underneath them that can win this race if we can get the tyres consistently into the sweet spot.”
Button’s form has been particularly affected by difficulties in getting the best out of Pirelli’s tyres but Neale insisted “we’re not that far away and I’m confident that he can” rediscover a more consistently stable car throughout a race weekend. He also pointed out that the team’s much-maligned pit-stop record this season, which has coast Hamilton plenty points in particular, was improving race-by-race.
“Of course any operational mistake is costly in Formula 1,” he acknowledged. “When you make an operational mistake at the front of the grid having put the car on pole position that’s incredibly painful, and our Bahrain pit stop wasn’t spectacular. But if anybody is actually doing the math and charting where are the quickest stop times coming from on pit stops you’ll see that ours are consistently improving and will improve again during the course of this weekend if our plans to fruition. Also on our launches, we’ve been consistently one of the best cars off the grid.”